Introduction: LED Garden Path Lights

About: Greetings from everyone at usLEDsupply! Like many of you, we have realized that LEDs are awesome and we try to incorporate them into even the most unlikely situations. We have been working on a lot of neat ā€¦
We found 5 old path lights which had quit working and decided to use them to light the path leading up to our house, which is bordered by a beautiful garden.  These soft, color changing LED path lights create an other-worldly type feel, and if they weren't shaped like lanterns they could be something straight out of Pandora!


Step 1: Materials

We used 5 old path lights which had quit working a few years ago (and were thus in a box in our garage).  Other neat ideas might be:
  • Old canning jars
  • Old bottles (wine, beer, oil, vinegar, etc.)
  • Old insulators
I'm sure there are many more as well...just look around and think about what might look neat!

Other materials which we used:
  • 5 RGB LED modules $3 ea (they can change color or be set on a solid color like white)**
  • 22-4 Security/Control Cable $.25/ft to run between each light and to the power source.**
  • 3M Scotchlok Waterproof Butt Connectors $.25 ea (4 for each light)
  • 12V 12 Watt Power Supply $15 (Could also be Solar or a transformer)
  • RGB LED Controller $20-$35  or none if you are just going to use white or single color modules/LEDs.**
Tools needed:
  • Wire strippers/cutters
  • Pliers
  • Hot Glue Stick + Lighter (or hot glue gun)
  • Paper/Pen to Draw Schematics
  • Tape Measure
  • Drill (if you need to make a bigger hole for cable to go through light fixture)

**For this project, I chose to use color changing RGB LED modules because I wanted to create a fairytale like aura along the path. However, you could also do this project and use white or single color LED modules (which you could hook up to solar/battery instead of running wire between each light. However, for the RGB LEDs, running wire is necessary in order to control the changing colors through the use of one controller).**

Step 2: Layout

Decide how you would like to arrange the lights in your garden.  I spread mine out evenly and put them close to the edge of the garden (right by the path).  To help you visualize, put something on the ground to mark where your final light will be (I used the light shades). 

If you are a planning-type person (as I am):
Draw a little map.  Then, measure the distance between each light, and mark it down on your map.  This will help to figure out how much 22-4 wire you need!

Step 3: RGB LED Modules

Since I am using old path lights, I decided to put my RGB LED modules (i just used 1x module in each light but you could use as many as you need to get the effect you are going for) on the underside of the top cover, facing down.  If you are using jars, bottles, or some other type of material, experiment to see where you will get the best lighting effect. 

Use hot glue to adhere the module onto your lighting fixture (the modules do have a self-stick backing, but this only works if the surface is flat, not concave or convex).

Step 4: Prepare Control Wire

Cut enough wire to go between each light (use your layout diagram from earlier, and add 1 foot to either side of each measurement). For example, the first two lights were separated by a distance of 6 feet, so I cut a wire which was 8 feet long.

Make sure you get all of the ingoing/outgoing control wires in place (i.e. through your the base of your lighting fixture) BEFORE you make the connections).  Of course, this will be completely different if you have decided to use some other type of lighting fixture like an old glass jar or bottle.  However, I will go through my steps if you happen to use old path lights.  For me, I needed to put the wires through in this order (follow numbered diagram for visual):
1. Tube/light post
2. Bottom connector (You may need to drill the holes out bigger if the cables do not fit).
3. Bottom of clear shade- Make sure to put the bottom trim shade on BEFORE making connections as well- this must go on from the bottom!!
4. Now you can connect everything with the butt connectors.

Step 5: Wire Connections

At each light (except the end light), there will be 2 wires (1x in 1x out and the LED module(s)).  I made these using 3M Scotchlok Waterproof Butt connectors.  The 3 wires in each of the four connections will include:
  1. Wire coming from LED Module.
  2. Incoming Control Cable (I used 22-4).  This will either be coming from the power source/controller to the first light, or from the previous light.
  3. Outgoing control cable.  This will go on to power/control the next light (And obviously is not needed for the last light).
Set these wires on the ground between each connection (to help you visualize).

Now, make the connections using waterproof Butt Connectors or solder:
  1. Strip the control cable sheath back approximately 2ā€. You will have four smaller wires.
  2. Cut off the stripped ends of the wire on the LED module (if there are any). Peel apart the wires an inch back.
  3. Insert 3 wires the entire way into the butt connector (two from control cables, one from module).  Colors go together as follows:
    1. Blue-White-White
    2. Black-Black-Black
    3. Red-Red-Red
    4. Green-Green-Green
  4. With wires fully inserted, crimp the butt connector with Channel-Lock or Robo-Grip pliers.
  5. Snap the top in place, pulling excess cable through the bottom.
  6. Repeat for all of the other lights!

Step 6: Arrange in Garden

Now, you will need to hammer in the light stakes, and bury the control wires so that they are not visible.  You can choose to bury the wire deeply (if you will be working in the garden a lot), or shallow (if it is a more established garden).  My garden is fairly established (thus I do not dig into it very deeply), so I buried the wire about 2 inches below the surface.

Step 7: Connect to Controller

You can use any number of RGB LED controllers.  However, I would choose a radio frequency (RF) controller over an infrared (IR) controller, because you can then operate your lights from inside your home. 

I used the "RGB Remote Control RF 4A (20x Button Remote)" for this project, with a "Power Supply 12v 48W"  which I plugged into an 24hr timer/outlet under our deck (I needed about 14 feet of control cable to go from this outlet to the first light).

To connect to this controller, you must:
  • Strip outer control cable sheath ~2"
  • Strip each smaller wire ~1/4"
  • Put wires into the correct terminals as indicated on the outside of the controller.
  • Tighten the screws on the terminal block. 
  • Put this in a waterproof container if you think it will get wet.
Now all you need to do is wait until dusk/night to test out your new lights!

Step 8: Appreciate Their Beauty!

After all of your hard work, you can now appreciate the glowing colors of your new LED garden path lights!  Hopefully they will create an aura of peace and other-worldliness in your small garden.