Q: I’m going to tackle rebuilding my deck soon and have seen lots of photos of low-voltage deck lighting. I’m afraid of electricity and don’t feel I have the skills to do this part of the project. Can you impart any wisdom that will instill the courage in me to try to do this wiring? Have you worked with an easy DIY system? — Becky, Riverside, Calif.
A: Not a week goes by that I don’t get a question about electricity. Many fear lots of things and having respect for invisible electricity is quite understandable.
You may be like Becky. You may want to try to work with electricity but need someone like me to tell you to be brave. The good news is all the wiring needed for a typical low-voltage deck project can be done with no power connected to the circuit.
That’s how I wired up my enormous outdoor deck last year. I’ve got soft LED lights on all four sides of each post cap along my 100-plus feet of my deck railing, and I’ve got down-facing safety lights at each stair riser. All the lights and wiring were installed with no electricity in the thin low-voltage wires.
I happened to use the low-voltage lighting system manufactured by Trex. The engineers who devised the system made it cave man simple. It’s all plug-n-play. It’s impossible to make an incorrect connection.
All you have to do is connect the lights in a series. There are tiny splice-block connectors that the wires plug into as you daisy-chain all the lights together. Trex provides a handy illustrated manual that helps you make all the right connections.
A transformer converts the normal household 120-volt AC current to low-voltage DC current. After you have all the low-voltage wires connected to the lights, you plug in this transformer into a photovoltaic timer just as you’d plug a toaster into a wall outlet. It’s completely safe. The timer plugs into a regular GFCI exterior outlet that you might hire an electrician to install for you under the deck.
Be sure you use special rustproof tiny cable staples to attach the low-voltage wires to the underside of your decking. Becky can do it, you can do it, and I can’t wait for you to reach out to me with your success story!
To help you visualize how simple it is to install the low-voltage lights, browse the installation photos at the Ask the Builder website.
Tim Carter can call you on the phone to solve your problem. Go to his website and fill out the form on this page: askthebuilder.com/ask-tim/.