DIY kits are always available at Home Depot or similar big-box retailers. How hard can it be, right? But there are several issues with landscape lighting kits that cause a lot of grief. Here are the pros and cons of landscape lighting kits to help you determine whether they’re the appropriate solution for your needs.
The Advantages of Landscape Lighting Kits
Most people enjoy accomplishing a DIY job. But bragging rights aside, the most obvious appeal to lighting kits is that they’re cheaper than professional-grade installation & products. A Landscape Lighting Kit will also likely come with instructions. However, not everyone uses or teaches the best technique, and unless one is an accomplished DIY expert with at least some knowledge of electricity, the job will probably prove more complicated than you would expect.
Disadvantages of Landscape Lighting Kits
Here are a few of the many issues homeowners tend to encounter after buying and attempting to install do-it-yourself lighting kits.
That DIY landscape lighting kit probably comes with a limited 1-year warranty. There’s a reason for this, and chances are you’d want your outdoor lighting system to last a little longer than a year.
On the other hand, most professional landscape lighting designers that we talk to carry fixtures warrantied for 3 to 7 years, and transformers with 10 to 15-year warranties. Small side note – our fixtures and transformers are warrantied for life. Yep, for life. You will never, ever find reassurances like that with landscape lighting kits, and here’s why:
What are the fixtures in that box made of? Most likely plastic, or at best, cheap aluminum. If they are aluminum, they won’t be treated and coated in a way that ensures longevity. Over the first 12 to 24 months, the metal oxidizes, the paint flakes and fades. After that, salt, dirt and sand do what they do. Before long, water seeps past the cheap gaskets into the fixtures, wreaking havoc on internal electronics, i.e., the socket, the driver, wiring, and bulb. If the fixtures are plastic, well, start the clock. Ultimately, plastic and aluminum fixtures are indeed cheap, but have very limited warranties and life spans to suit.
What does the wiring in the box look like? Is it flimsy? The wire has to carry the energy safely, often over long distances. If the line is not up to the task, your lights probably won’t work at full capacity, and may even pose a fire hazard. Most landscape lighting kit wiring only pushes 12 volts to the fixtures from the transformer. In many cases the fixtures will be 100 feet or more from that transformer. That means that as the distance from the transformer increases, the fixtures are less and less likely to receive the voltage they require to function properly.
Cheap, DIY transformers usually don’t provide the power that professional units do, and the result is often uneven voltage and dim or burnt-out lights.
One Size Doesn’t Fit All
Does the landscape lighting kit include a variety of different bulbs, wattages, hues, and beam spreads, in the exact combination you happen to need? Kits are one-size-fits-all, whereas good landscape lighting design by nature requires a careful tailoring all of the variables to suit the unique landscape and architecture of your home.
Do You Have the Know How You’ll Need?
Even if the DIY kit comes with instructions, no pamphlet can provide the knowledge and experience needed to accommodate the unexpected factors and nuances of an installation. How do you get the wiring to the other side of your driveway? How do you figure out if you’re about to overload your transformer or breaker? Some projects are easier than others, but most turn out to be more complicated than one might expect.
DIY Transformers & Uneven Voltage