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Landscape Lighting

Discussion in 'General Electronics Discussion' started by jmw_electronics, Nov 12, 2019.

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  1. jmw_electronics


    Nov 12, 2019
    I have been using a landscape lighting kit made by Better Homes and Gardens from Walmart.
    Its a lower level system, but has worked nicely.
    Features were inexpensive lights, plug connections, and a simple transformer.
    The original was a 35W but the next season they added a 45W (~2.3A) transformer.
    Cons, LOL, they didn't use a voltage that is common in the landscape lighting world.
    Their system is 18VDC.
    Getting hard to find the transformers, they may even be discontinued.
    So was looking around for possible solutions for transformer replacement and obsolete avoidance?

    I currently have four transformers (2 35W, and 2 45W) Currently 4 separate runs. Some getting fairly long ~100ft.
    Was thinking of getting a larger transformer 200-300W to replace. But most are 12VDC or 24VDC.
    I saw where someone used a off the shelf 12VDC landscape transformer and it worked for him.
    I guess under/over voltage might change the life span of the LEDs? Any other issues?
    If I went with a common landscape transformer would you go 12VDC or 24VDC?
    Ive also looked at common (small electronics) power supplies with 18VDC Outputs. Mine are located in a outdoor closet so not outdoors. Do you think I could just find one with a similar load like ~2A and same output18VDC?

    Any ideas from you gurus on pros/cons or ideas for replacements.
  2. Bluejets


    Oct 5, 2014
    Series up 2 outputs from 2 X 9v 2a supplies.
    jmw_electronics likes this.
  3. jmw_electronics


    Nov 12, 2019
    Thanks for the idea Bluejets. Ill look into that.
  4. dave9


    Mar 5, 2017
    I don't understand the issue. Bare 18V, 2A transformers are easy to find, as are switchmode PSU with adjustable output that can be set to 18V.
  5. jmw_electronics


    Nov 12, 2019
    I was just having trouble finding anything at 18V. And getting frustrated. Then jealous of other landscape light transformers with a higher wattage so I could run more lights, LOL. Still haven't found any adjustable ones.

    I finally found a 20V 60 Watt one this week. An old laptop power adapter. Ive cut the old plug off and going to solder up to a plug from the light set and start testing How many lights and distances I can go. After finding that old one lying around, looked down at my previous laptop which I still use from time to time, a huge mega PSU brick! Boom it was 19V 190 Watts. Found a knock off online for $32 with free shipping, so probably get one of those to try also. Currently I have four separate transformers and runs. Would love to combine two or three of them so the runs are easier. Toshiba (The laptop brand) seems to use 19V PSUs with varying Watts so I should be able to find smaller sizes and/or larger ones to combine runs.

    Was looking for some ideas and/or push like your email confirming that I should be able to find something. So your email makes me feel better.

    Also wondering what your thoughts are on using higher Wattage PSUs thus higher amps and more lights. Not quite sure how these landscape LEDs work. In other words would the load go thru each one or do they just each pull their own small amount that adds up to a bigger load. Or does the full load of all the lights run thru each LED and/or maybe reach their limit.

    Thanks for the reply.

    Ill post as I progress with testing.
  6. dave9


    Mar 5, 2017
    All I did was a google search for 18V 2A transformer and up popped several hits. I mean literally transformer, not an entire integrated PSU. I would not run a switching PSU like used on laptops, outdoors because of the temperature variations unless you live in a very mild climate.

    You need to figure out the design of the LED drive to determine what voltage is safe. If they just have a resistor you are overdriving them with higher voltage. You did not tell us enough by stating it's a lighting kit. You should reverse engineer it at least enough to answer your own questions about things like series or parallel LEDs and how the current is limited to them, since white LEDs are typically about 3.2Vf each, not 18V.

    Regardless it is not at all likely to run all these LEDs in series, rather in parallel, but even so, the longer the wire runs and more lights added, the more voltage drop you'll have if you don't increase the size, reduce the wire gauge #.

    Yes you can use a higher wattage PSU with the same voltage but higher amps and thus higher wattage rating. That is what I would do up to the point where extra current margin has excessive cost to do so.

    If you're going to be redoing everything anyway, I would sooner switch to a 12VDC setup because then you can get very inexpensive 12V LED bulbs used in automotive applications. Granted some are not very bright, we don't know your exact setup or needs. Mine using T10 wedge automotive lights are just pathway markers, at roughly 1W each they are not meant to illuminate much of the surroundings, but are about as bright as the original Malibu system incandescent bulbs which were also T10 wedge type so they just dropped in.

    That may not be the best route for you to take if you don't need more bulbs or their sockets aren't used in other applications to make them less expensive. It just happens that T10 LED bulbs flooded ebay and amazon so they are dirt cheap.
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2019
  7. jmw_electronics


    Nov 12, 2019
    Thanks for the tips!

    As your last line mentions, yes would like to move towards some standard setups, but I have bought a lot of these lights because I had other projects coming up in the future so tried to future proof myself, unfortunately with this set LOL.
    Actually very happy with it for a couple of factors.
    1. Price ($7-20)
    2. Looks (Wife approved of them compared to others I have seen at HD/Lowes, etc) The Malibus look like they have the same features but I didn't see them at the time a few years ago.
    3. Styles. Lots of options (Spotlight, Well light, Wall Wash, Telescoping, and a couple of path styles)
    4. They had a prebuilt plug system which made them very easy for install.

    The set is Better Homes & Gardens QuickFIT. Hoping they continue to offer, but was getting scared since I didn't see any transformers available. I had an electrical storm knock out a few of the lights this summer, (not to mention my pool board and sprinkler boards) So I was searching a little as I prepared to finally get them back up.

    Ive since discovered (Wife hides all my supplies) that I have 2 of the transformers spare, so with the four I have in service I am still pretty much setup but was wanting to get extra information over the next few years to prepare and decide if I will switch kits.
    We just had a new part of the yard fenced in, so also started to think about some lights on that side.

    The transformers I am running right now are in an outdoor closet, so no HVAC but pretty modified environment. I feed the lighting system wires out from there they the wall. The side yard I am currently trying to figure out how/where to put the power. I am using Lutron Caseta Switch feeding the outlet running the current setup. So I can run my own schedules, etc and also use a Lutron Pico Remote to turn the lights on/off when I want. Wife often gets up to let dogs out and can use remote to pop them on. Going to use the same setup for the new section, so probably have it all on the inside of house and even try to put the PSUs inside.

    Once I start digging in, ill send some more data.

    I found a guy online who actually bought a Malibu 12V transformer at Lowes and hooked up and it worked. So apparently the lights can be driven with quite a large VDC range. As mentioned im going to keep near the spec they sold (18V) but since I do have some longer runs and number of the lights pushing the limits, I was thinking just a little above on the V could help with a small drop. I noticed a lot of high end landscape transformers had the ability to land on diff terminals from 12V, 13V, 14V. Basically I think you started with 12 and then as you added length and numbers you could bump up to keep V up at the end.
    The set originally started with a 35W and then the next year went to a 45W so you could add a few more lights. So I am hoping I can go with even higher VDC to drive my various runs. Because I only have one place of power feed currently, the runs it drives get pretty lengthy (~100-200ft). Plus because I only have the maxed out smaller 35 and 45W, I have to have runs for four going a good but of that distance each time. Hoping to combine, so at least I simplify the runs and dont have a duplication of the distance.

    The old PSU I found is 20VDC 60 Watt, so if it seems to work well with increasing distance and number I will then try a higher Wattage one to address both above issues. As mentioned ive found the PSU for my last laptop was a BRICK(LOL) but close to the same VDV. Its 19VDC and I think 180Ws. SO in theory would love to use it as replacement for the four I have now. Basically one initially run that splits out close to the lighter areas instead of four separate runs. As you have mentioned price isn't bad for any of them, I have found the PSU for $32 and free shipping. If that works, I am good with getting 2 or 3 of these for backups and current setups.

    Thanks again for giving advice. Im a chemical engineer, so when I got to questions on the EIT, once they went passed V=IR I went BBBBBBBB for all answers, LOL. But my schooling was in 87 so quite awhile back. I just started playing round with Arduinos (Sprinker/Misting projects) so have been brushing back up into the electronics world the last few months.
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