Get An Amazing Deck Lighting Setup Easily With These Four Lighting Hacks
Great lighting is the cherry on top of an amazing deck. What most deck owners don't realize, though, is that installing a lighting setup is much easier than they imagine.
These tips from our experienced deck planning team will help you plan a smooth and easy deck lighting upgrade. Read on for expert tips, or give us a call at 1-888-824-5316 for free personalized project planning.
Table of Contents
- #1: Connection Order Goes Timer (Optional), Then Transformer, Then Dimmer (Optional)
- #2: Stick With One Brand For Easier Wiring
- #3: Know The Differences Between AC vs DC Transformers
- #4: Hide Your Wiring Like A Pro
#1: Connection Order Goes Timer (Optional), Then Transformer, Then Dimmer (Optional)
All you really need to power your outdoor lighting is a transformer. This device plugs into any standard wall outlet and converts your home's 120-volt electricity down to a 12-volt current that's safe for outdoor lighting.Shop Transformers
That said, you can add some optional upgrades to make your deck a little nicer - and your life a little easier. With a dimmer, you can dim or brighten your lights for just the right ambiance. A timer will turn your lights on or off automatically, with no work on your end.Shop Timers Shop Dimmers
Timers and dimmers are totally optional additions. Without them, you can use the simple lighting setup above: just plug your transformer into the outlet and plug your lights into the transformer.
A more advanced lighting setup is still quite simple: Timer→Transformer→Dimmer→Lights
Bonus Tip: Use An All-In-One Timer, Transformer, And Dimmer
You can make things even easier if you choose a transformer that has a timer and/or dimmer built right in. That gives you all the benefits of timers and dimmers, but the ease of the simple lighting setup above.
For help picking out the right transformer, give us a call at 1-888-824-5316. We'll get to know your deck's size and layout, plus your budget and priorities and help you plan a lighting setup to match.Shop All-In-One Transformers
#2: Stick With One Brand For Easier Wiring
Here's the most important tip we can give you: stick with one brand for your deck lighting and you'll save yourself lots of time at install.
That's because most of the top deck lighting brands like Trex, Dekor, or Aurora make all their lighting with compatible plug-and-play fittings. If you stay within one brand, connecting everything together is as easy as plugging two fittings together. If you cross over with light fixtures from multiple brands, you'll probably have to cut off the plug-and-play ends and do some hardwiring with a wire nut.
For example, you can start with this Trex transformer…
... and easily plug it right into this Trex dimmer:
Then you can use Trex's extension wire…
... and this 6-way splitter…
... to wire up everything from these post caps…
... to these recessed stair lights, all using the same plug and play fittings.
Or you can use Dekor's system, pictured below. The plug and play ends are slightly different:
Dekor also offers great outdoor light fixtures to go with their system, including post caps…
... and these cool, versatile puck lights for landscape lighting, among many other options
For help picking the right brand and making sure all your lights are compatible, give our team a call at 1-888-824-5316. We help thousands of deck owners plan lighting projects every year, and we'll make sure your project is smooth and easy - and that you get all the necessary parts in one order.Shop Lighting By Brand
#3: Know The Differences Between AC vs DC Transformers
Your outdoor lighting transformer (and your deck lights) will either use AC (alternating current) or DC (direct current) power.
The technical difference: With DC power, electricity flows consistently in one direction. AC power, meanwhile, periodically changes from positive to negative and back, making the electricity alternate which direction it flows through your wiring.
The functional difference: A DC transformer will power both AC and DC light fixtures. But an AC transformer will only power AC lights.
Make sure you get the right transformer to match your lights, or you'll run into issues when you try to get everything working. As always, you can call our team at 1-888-824-5316 to make sure you've got a fully compatible system of lights and accessories.Shop Transformers
Bonus Tip: For An AC Transformer, Loop Your Wiring Back To The Start For More Consistent Illumination
The further electricity travels through your wiring, the more the electrical current will decrease - this is called voltage drop. Any span of wiring longer than 200 feet may see some voltage drop, and AC power tends to see more voltage drop than DC power.
Because of that, it's a good idea to loop your lighting back to the transformer if you're using AC power. This will reduce your voltage drop and keep your lights more consistently bright.
If you're using a DC transformer, voltage drop will be less of an issue, and you don't have to loop your wiring back to the start.
For more help making a lighting plan, check out our DecksDirect Lighting Guide, with resources to help you create a deck lighting plan, choose the right transformer, and make sure your transformer has the wattage to power the lights you want to include.
Or, you can give us a call at 1-888-824-5316 and we'll help you plan your project.Call For Planning Help
#4: Hide Your Wiring Like A Pro
The diagrams above hint at pro tip #4: hide your lighting wires for a polished look and finished feel.
Decks offer a bunch of cool ways to disguise or hide your lighting wires, whether you've got an old-school wood setup or a more modern-looking deck with metal or composite railing.
We'll look at a couple good ways to hide your wiring below. For more pro tips, give us a call at 1-888-824-5316 and we'll help you plan your entire setup, start to finish!
For Metal Or Composite Railing, Hide Wiring In Hollow Posts & Rails
Metal and composite railing systems are great for deck lighting because they come with hollow pieces where you can easily run wire throughout your deck.
Here's a look at a typical metal railing post. This one is from Key-Link's American Series - you can tell because of the stylish recessed panels on each side of the post. As you can see, the post itself is hollow, meaning you can run lighting wires up the post to power a post cap light. You can also run the wires through the hollow top rail to continue your lighting current on to the rest of your deck.
The result is a gorgeous modern deck lighting setup like the one below - without a stray wire in sight!
Composite railing systems also use hollow posts. These are typically composite post sleeves that fit over the top of existing wood posts or metal structural posts. It's easy to run your wiring up the post, like the TimberTech Classic Composite Post Sleeve shown below:
With this built-in opportunity to hide wires, you can add pizzazz to your space in all sorts of locations. Check out the TimberTech deck below, with stylish post cap lighting but also classy post-mount lighting to better illuminate the deck surface for safe footpaths:
For Wood Railings, Use Wire Concealing Trim
If you've got a wood deck railing, a composite system can be a great upgrade - it's lower-maintenance and more durable, plus you can keep your existing posts in place inside the post sleeves.
But a full railing replacement isn't always possible. If that's the case, we've got a cool way you can hide your wiring even in a traditional wood railing setup.
You can drill holes into your wood posts and rails and run the wiring through them. You can see a more detailed walkthrough in our Lighting Guide, but you can see an example below, where a lighting wire runs into a post to power the post cap, then out into a groove in the wood top rail.
To hide the exposed wire, use an Acorn Wire Concealing Wood Trim piece, available in multiple colors to match your existing wood:
The result is a clean, polished look with no visible wires. Your DIY deck lighting plan will look like it was professionally installed:
Add Hours To Your Deck
Great deck lighting is amazing because it effectively gives you the gift everyone craves: more time. With a well-lit deck, you'll gain more hours every single night that you can enjoy your deck - think dinner by deck light, or late-night wine by the glow of sparkling post caps.
To get started on your deck lighting plan, call the pros at DecksDirect today at 1-888-824-5316. We are here to help!