Simple Solution for Landscape Lighting Timers

The purpose of your landscape lighting investment is to provide light, but only when it is needed. My first installation, many years ago, was a simple time-based timer where I would set the lights to come “on” at a specific time and then turn off when no longer necessary. This approach worked fine for several months, but as time went on and the length of the daylight hours changed I found my lights were either on when it was still bright out or off when dusk had already arrived.

Timers for your landscape lighting can provide a solution, but the timer option you choose has an impact on how well it will function.

Sensor-Based Timers

The next thing I experimented with after my frustrations with a time-based timer system was a sensor. The sensor’s purpose is to detect the amount of available light and activate the landscape lighting system when it is dark.

Sensors can work great but they have several drawbacks:

They must be located in an area with clear access to the sun, i.e. if your timer is under your deck or obscured by a tree your lights will turn on before the desired time.

The sensor is an imperfect device, it is going to activate when it senses that it is dark enough to warrant the lights and you have little control over these adjustments.

On most devices your lights will stay on until the sun rises again the next morning which may waste electricity. In my own installations it is often unnecessary to illuminate an outdoor space at 2am when most people are asleep.

Smart-Home Solutions Provide the Answer

The era of “smart home” devices is upon us and we have a myriad of choices to connect common home devices to the Internet. Everything from cameras to doorbells can be controlled from your phone, but what about landscape lights?

The solution I have found works the best is to leverage wifi enabled plugs to control your landscape lighting system. This setup allows you to turn the plug (and in turn your landscape lights) on and off using an app on your phone. The real power comes when you setup a schedule to toggle the lights on and off based on variable times like “sunset” or “dusk”.

The variable scheduling feature solves the original problem I mentioned of the lights coming on at the wrong time based on the time of year. These smart home apps know your location and then know precisely when the sun will set in your part of the world on any given day. As an example, I have one of my landscape lighting transformers set to turn on 30 minutes after sunset and then to turn off precisely at midnight.

I have used the Lutron Casetta Smart-Home Plug in conjunction with several landscape lighting installations.

The photo above is a transformer from Volt. You place the Casetta plug-in control where the plug goes in the top left of the transformer. This allos the Casetta device to control when the transformer is on and off just like a time or photocell device would.

The Casetta-based solution also requires a hub (see above). This is how the device is able to access the Internet and be controlled through your phone. You only need one hub to control multiple Casetta devices. You may start with just the plug to control your landscape lights and then find that you enjoy the ability to control lights with your phone so much that you start replacing your traditional switches in your house with Casetta Lutron switches (like I did).

10 Best Landscape Lighting Transformers

All landscape lighting installations start with the transformer; this is the device that converts standard 120V current to low-voltage current for your lighting system. You need to choose a transformer that is capable of delivering enough power for your current plans, and if possible, to provide capacity for future expansion when you decide to add more lights.

More details on specific features and choices to be aware of when choosing a transformer are available in my book, Low-Voltage Landscape Lighting Guide on Amazon.

Below are reviews of some of the best transformers for your next landscape lighting project. Each has different pro’s and con’s, keep reading to find a transformer that is right for your installation objectives.

Volt 300W Multi-Tap Transformer

The 300W multi-tap transformer from Volt Lighting is an excellent choice if you want a high-quality transformer that will serve your needs long into the future. It comes with a high performers toroidal core that is more efficient and cooler than lower-priced options. It comes with a massive 300W power output that is enough to power dozens of LED lights and includes multiple power taps at different voltage outputs. This is a professional grade transformer that is built to last.

Volt 150W Multi-Tap Transformer with Timer/Photocell

Our second recommendation also comes from Volt, but this time in a 150W multi-tap version that is still plenty of power to supply most low-voltage landscape lighting installations. This comes with a timer/photocell option to control when your lights are on and is also easily compatible with a smart-home option to control the lights with your phone as we discussed in another blog post. This 150W transformer features the same quality workmanship as other Volt products and is an excellent choice for your next project.

Benefits of Landscape Lighting

We have all driven through neighborhoods at night and seen homes with glowing, scenic walkways and illuminated landscape features. These homes stand out from the pack and have a more welcoming feel.

A little-known secret about landscape lighting is that it does not need to cost a fortune and it is a project that can be tackled by the average homeowner with little to no experience.

People embark on landscape lighting projects for many different reasons and understanding which of these reasons appeal to you can help you shape your landscape lighting plan. It could be that all of them will appeal to you. Make note of the concepts and categories which capture your attention as you read this book because it will help you address these goals when selecting fixtures and quantities later on.

Curb Appeal

“Curb appeal” is a phrase often used when buying or selling a home. How attractive is your home from the street? Homes with landscape lighting distinguish themselves from their darkened neighbors and feel more valuable, attractive and interesting. Improving your home’s appearance is not just for your neighbors; the finishing touch of landscape lighting is something you can enjoy each time you pull into your driveway or step out into your yard.

Outdoor Enjoyment

Landscape lighting extends the time when you can enjoy your outdoor spaces. Few people want to sit outside, even on a temperate evening, in total darkness. Porch or patio lights can provide illumination, but they are attached to your house and only light up a small area near your home. Choosing the right types of lights for your property and landscaping can create an outdoor space that is inviting and enjoyable at any time.

Safety

Any outdoor space without lighting is difficult—and sometimes dangerous—to walk through at night. Landscape lighting can illuminate the proper path and expose obstacles. It can also draw attention to steps or changes in surfaces which can be treacherous at night.

Security

Homes with adequate illumination are less tempting targets for would-be burglars. Proper lighting can reveal an intruder to a passerby by not letting them hide in dark areas next to your home. Lights can also make your security signage visible, causing thieves to move along and choose easier prey. From inside your home, landscape lighting makes it possible to see what is happening outside instead of looking into a dark void when you hear a noise.

Cost Savings

Homes with adequate illumination are less tempting targets for would-be burglars. Proper lighting can reveal an intruder to a passerby by not letting them hide in dark areas next to your home. Lights can also make your security signage visible, causing thieves to move along and choose easier prey. From inside your home, landscape lighting makes it possible to see what is happening outside instead of looking into a dark void when you hear a noise.

Home Value

A traditional rule of thumb is to invest ten percent of your home’s value in landscaping. For most of America, this equates to tens of thousands of dollars; an expenditure that you can only enjoy during the daylight hours without landscape lighting.