Monday, July 20, 2009

What is a Transformer and Do You Need One?

A transformer is simply a device that steps down the 120 volt electricity coming from your house to a lower voltage suitable for running landscape lights. Unless you are using solar lights, you will want to purchase a transformer. It’s best to buy one that is rated to handle more wattage than you will use with your outdoor lights. That way, you’ll have the option to add more lighting in the future without having to buy a brand new transformer.

Add together the wattage from each individual light you’ll install around your property, and get a transformer that can handle 20 or 30 percent more than that if possible. (Don’t, however, use a transformer that is rated for more than twice the wattage you’re currently running.) Shop around a bit to find a good price, as there are ample makes and models on the market.

When it comes to installation, the unit can be mounted directly on to the house or garage, or can be housed in an above ground box. It is strongly recommended that you hire an electrician to perform the installation! To be fair, it is perfectly legal to install your own transformer as long as you strictly follow legal electrical code for your state. For those who are not highly knowledgeable in this area, it is usually much better to hire someone who is. There are a lot of little things that can go wrong with electrical work, and it is very dangerous to attempt for someone with little or no experience.

Find someone locally by word of mouth, if possible. Talk to neighbors or friends to find someone who’ll cut you a break on the going rate. It’s a fairly easy job for a professional, and it will save you a big headache – and possibly much worse. You may want to dig trenches and lay cable at this time if you will be lighting your entire property (even if you won’t be installing the fixtures themselves until a later date) to save the trouble of digging around later in established planting areas.

Again, if you’re going all solar or your home is already equipped for outdoor electricity use appropriate for landscaping lights then you won’t have to worry about this step of the process. Another tip: if you search the internet for information on the topic, enter the term “transformer” as opposed to “transformers.” With the popular movie still in theaters, searching the plural form of the word is likely to turn up a lot of hits that don’t reflect what your looking for.

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