Recently – as little as 25 years ago – I was warm. I can distinctly remember being warm on at least 3 occasions. 2 of those incidents coincided with bouts of a violent stomach flu, the third lasted for about 2 years during an acrylic chenille sweater phase in the 1980’s. At all other times in my life I’ve been cold. My body temperature is naturally a degree warmer than the standard 98.6 degrees which makes me more susceptible to cold and also probably a Vampire. I can tell you right now it would be preferable to be a Vampire because if that were the case I’d have been far more careful in the sun over the years. More than once I’ve taken a look at my chickens and wondered why one of them was wearing my neck on their foot.
Because of how incredibly delicate I am, I’m always careful to make sure I’m properly dressed for all occasions. Obviously I’ve also learned how to fashion any nearby animal into a mitten by stuffing my hand into its bum. All of this means that I LOVE summer. (And so do my cats.)
So when it’s June 12th and there have been a total of 2 really warm days since last October … I get less likeable. I’m irritable and moody and generally kind of a stinkbomb. I need the heat and sun. I’ve spent a total of 4 hours in my beautiful backyard, 3 of which were devoted to chopping firewood. But it finally looks like we’re going to see summer here with temperatures getting closer to that 65 degree celsius mark that I always hope for.
That of course means I’ll get to spend some quality time relaxing in the backyard I spent years building.
It wasn’t until the end of last summer when I installed some LED spotlights that I truly realized the impact backyard lighting can have. I’ve always been a proponent of lighting your backyard the same way you would any other “room” in your house. You need mood and task lighting to make the space useable and beautiful at night. My backyard already had my DIY Glowing Outdoor Orb lights, some hanging globe lights and an overhead pendant. At one point I even made hanging wall lights out of pots and baskets from the Dollar Store. But the spotlights have more impact than ANY of those.
I bought 4 spotlights in a kit from my local hardware store last year when they were on clearance and I wanted to add more to them this year. But they don’t carry the kits anymore so I was forced to learn all about LED landscape lighting and how to create a kit myself.
LED lighting can be intimidating because you usually can’t just plug them into the wall. They require transformers and connections and the kind of things that usually scare people. So I’ve broken it all down for you and made it (hopefully) easy to understand. So you can create your own LED backyard lighting.
You need 4 things to create LED lighting in your backyard. The lights, low voltage wiring, wire connectors and a transformer.
Once you have all of those things it’s just a matter of placing the lights where you want them and then wiring them together.
Your LED lights will have a bare wire coming off of the back of them. That’s what usually scares the shit out of people. Where’s the PLUG?? What the hell am I supposed to do with that? Then they go out for a hamburger and get drunk.
The wires that come out of the lights just need to be attached to low voltage landscape wire. You buy it in a bundle. You just twist the wires together and cover them with an outdoor marette. A marette is the orange, yellow or blue plastic thing that covers attached wires inside your house. It looks kind of like a toothpaste cap.
I’ve drawn up a very complicated and accurate depiction below of what wiring together your lights, low voltage wire and transformer would look like like (if done by a 5 year old.) Who is constantly chilly.
Lights – The lights you use will be between 3 and 6 watts each but they create a lot of light. I will be buying 6 of these spotlights off of Amazon to finish my backyard lighting. They’re around $20 for a pair so that’ll be $60 for the lights.
Low Voltage Wire – The higher gauge wire you get the less “voltage drop” you’ll experience over a long run of lights. With LED lighting the longer the run the dimmer the lights gets near the end of the run if you don’t have heavy duty enough wire running them. It’s heavier and bulker but 16 gauge low voltage wire will keep your all of your lights an even brightness even if you add more lights to it later. It’ll cost around $20 for 50 feet. If you have to cover a bigger area, remember that and get a longer length (100ft) of wire.
Connectors – You need a way to connect your low voltage wire to the wire coming out of your spot light. Twist the wires together and then cover them with these outdoor grade marettes. Do NOT use ones you have in your basement from the inside of your house. Outdoor marettes are sealed and gel filled making them safe for use in the rain/snow etc. About $12.
Transformer – Here’s where most people head for the booze. Don’t be scared. Don’t be. Transformers come in different watts. To figure out what size transformer you need add up the amount of watts your lights use. Your total should not exceed the watts allowed on the transformer. Example: If you have 10, 5 watt spot lights, you’d need a 50 watt transformer. If you think you might add more lights in the future, buy a bigger transformer that can handle more watts and therefore more lights. It’s basically just a box. The more watts it can handle, the bigger it is and the more expensive it is. With my 6 lights at 6 watts each I can get away with a 50 watt transformer BUT I might want to add more lights to it later so I’m going to get a 120 watt transformer. It’s only $27 in the States but $60 in Canada so before ordering it I’ll search for a cheaper source locally. Estimated price $40?
If you can find a kit that includes everything and you only want a string of 4 lights (that’s what most of them are) then go for it! But if you want to customize a mix of spot lights, deck lights or bollard type lighting it makes more sense to DIY a set yourself. And now that you know how to do it and have CONFIDENCE, there’s no reason not to.
ONE trick to using LED spotlights is to put the inside something shining out. Like I’ve done with my metal orb.
It lights up the object and casts its shadow onto a wall or fence. It’s a magical effect.
And of course you can use spotlights to create focus on something in particular like a tree trunk or use it as task lighting like I’ve done here with my pizza oven so I can see everything going in and everything coming out.
Here’s hoping the heat sticks around for the next few months and this warn weather isn’t just a tease because I’m sick of wearing hoodies and hats. Yes. Even my earlobes are cold because of my elevated body temperature. It’s Lobel Warming. And it’s real.