Low Voltage Lighting in Landscape questions

I'm redoing the the front lawn. Would like to add limited low voltage lighting beside the walkways. What brands do you suggest? What brands do you NOT suggest? Have you installed it yourself? What would you do differently? What should I watch out for during design or installation? Thanks for the guidance.
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I've installed both plastic and metal low-voltage lights at various times. The plastic were the standard Malibu "tier" lights that come in a set and the metal were a "Twilight" brand set, I believe (at Lowe's). They were both equally easy to install and anyone can do it without any special knowledge. The instructions will take you through the installation step by step. My personal preference is the metal lights -- I just think they look a little bit nicer.
Some things to consider:
1) Most "kits" come with some lights, wire, and the transformer. In many kits, the transformer is sized to handle only the total wattage of the lights that come in the kit (maybe one more). If you are buying an all-in-one kit, make sure you decide whether you'll be adding any additional lights. If so, you may need to upsize the transformer. You can only add lights to the transformer as long as the total wattage of the lights is less than the wattage capacity of the transformer. If you know you'll add additional lights soon after (or during) installation, it may be more cost-effective to piece out the parts individually, especially if you'll need to buy a larger transformer to support the additional lights soon after the initial installation.
2) Some kits come with 15 or 20 of the tier (pathway) lights. You don't have to install *every* single light just because it was included in the kit. I've seen houses where people have 8 linear feet of walkway and they line both sides of it using *every* light in a 20-light kit, ending up with a lamp about every 12 inches on both sides of a 3-foot walkway. This design tends to look like a runway at night <g>. Space the lamps out and design it on paper first. The tier walkway lights will cast a decent arc of light on the walkway so you won't need them that close together. Remeber, you're not trying to allow people to read a book out there <g>, just illuminate the walkway for so its visible underfoot. Landscape lighting is one place where "less is more" can really hold true. Better to have a few well-positioned lights that a boat-load of lights all over the place.
3) The lamp-to-wire connectors that came in both kits I used were kind of flaky in design and didn't really guarantee a good connection. In a number of cases, they needed to be removed and reclamped or repositioned on the wire to get a good, stable connection - YMMV. Make sure your connectors are tight when adding the lamps to the main wire run. You may want to trench and bury the wire as you install the lamps, but I'd recommend leaving the lamp connections for each fixture above ground until you finish testing everything with power applied. Then go back and bury the connectors next to their respective lamps. Leave the system on while you bury each connector so you can see if the light flickers while moving the connector to bury it. If it does, the connector is probably not on just right and should be repositioned.
4) One thing I did when I designed our layout was I took a picture of the front of our house at night with our digital camera. Then I loaded it on the PC and brought it up in Photoshop. I used the paintbrush tool to drop small fuzzy "drops" of light yellow onto the photo where I thought the lamps should go. This allowed me to "see" about how it would look overall and mostly helped me decide on the spacing within the context of the entire landscape.
5) Designing your entire layout first will also allow you to determine whether or not you'll buy a "kit" or piece it out individually. If you're only going to use 6 out of 10 walkway lights from the kit, and you won't use the flood lights at all, buying a kit may not be cost-effective. Decide what you *need* first, then look and see if any kits closely match your plan's needs. It may turn out the kit that most closely matches your plan costs more than if you bought *exactly* what you needed as individual parts.
Hope this helps...
Good Luck, -- Vinnie
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I recently did a project like this and bought the stuff at Expo Center - the high end division of Home Depot. A motion sensor switches the lights on so they are not on all night. My electrician did the job, no big deal.
The one thing to do differently would be to get sturdier units. After a fall of kids running around them, then a New England winter, a couple of the units got a little bent up. Buy a STURDY set, not the cheap white metal kind.

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