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Garden Path Lights

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 •
Step 2: Layout •
Step 3: RGB LED Modules •
Step 4: Prepare Control Wire • 
Step 5
:
Wire Connections •
Step 6: Arrange in Garden •
Step 7:
Connect to Controller •
Step 8: Appreciate their Beauty! •


Old Garden Path Lights refurbished with color changing RGB LED Modules. Old Garden Path Lights refurbished with color changing RGB LED Modules.
Old Garden Path Lights refurbished with color changing RGB LED Modules. Old Garden Path Lights refurbished with color changing RGB LED Modules.

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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).**

Old Garden Path Lights disassembled and ready for their LED upgrade. Old Garden Path Lights disassembled and ready for their LED upgrade.

22-4 control cable was used in this project.

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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!

Look at your garden and decide where you would like to put your garden path lights. Set out your lights where you would like them to go, so that you can estimate how much wire you will need.
Set out your lights where you would like them to go, so that you can estimate how much wire you will need. Measure how far apart each light will be, to determine how much control cable you will need.
Measure how far apart each light will be, to determine how much control cable you will need. Measure how far apart each light will be, to determine how much control cable you will need.

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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).

RGB LED module, garden path light cap, hot glue stick, lighter. Garden path light cap and RGB LED module.
RGB LED Module Attach the RGB LED module to the light cap with hot glue or some other type of adhesive.
RGB LED module attached to the light cap with hot glue. RGB LED module attached to the light cap with hot glue.
RGB LED module attached to the light cap with hot glue. My cat always follow me around, but was not very helpful considering she slept the whole time!

Cats love LEDs too!

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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.

Lay out control cable before each light before you cut it. Put the control wires through the tube/light post.
Get ready to put them through the bottom connector. You may need to make the holes in the bottom connector bigger if the cables do not fit.
Put the control wires through the bottom connector. Snap the bottom connector into place.
Before putting wires through the bottom of this clear shade, make sure that the bottom trim is on! Clear garden light shade with bottom trim put on.
The bottom shade on the garden light. Push on the bottom shade.
You are now ready to connect these control wires to your LED module, good job! (It is also starting to look like a light now) You are now ready to connect these control wires to your LED module, good job! (It is also starting to look like a light now)

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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 2”. 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!

 

Wiring up the RGB LED modules in the garden path lights. Matching up all the black wires to make the first connection.
Make sure that the wires are fully inserted into the butt connector before crimping. A fully crimped butt connector.
All four 3-wire connections are now complete: black-black-black red-red-red green-green-green white-white-blue Now you will simply pull the excess control wire through the bottom and snap the lid in place.

The new RGB LED garden light fully assembled.


 

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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.

 

Start putting the light stake into the ground.

You might need to hammer it into the ground to get it in all the way.

 Stake in the ground completely.  Slide the light poll over the stake top, making sure that the wires are in the appropriate channel.

RGB LED garden light in the ground.

Bury the control cable with your hands or a shovel if the ground is hard. Bury the control cable with your hands or a shovel if the ground is hard.

RGB LED Garden Path Light

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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!

RF 20 key RGB LED remote.

Strip each smaller wire approximately 1/4 Put wires into correct terminal as indicated on the outside of the controller.
Tighten the screws on the terminal block. Put this in a waterproof container so that it will not get wet.

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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.

 

Old Garden Path Lights refurbished with color changing RGB LED Modules. Old Garden Path Lights refurbished with color changing RGB LED Modules.
Old Garden Path Lights refurbished with color changing RGB LED Modules. Old Garden Path Lights refurbished with color changing RGB LED Modules.
Old Garden Path Lights refurbished with color changing RGB LED Modules. Old Garden Path Lights refurbished with color changing RGB LED Modules.
Old Garden Path Lights refurbished with color changing RGB LED Modules. Old Garden Path Lights refurbished with color changing RGB LED Modules.
Old Garden Path Lights refurbished with color changing RGB LED Modules. Old Garden Path Lights refurbished with color changing RGB LED Modules.
Old Garden Path Lights refurbished with color changing RGB LED Modules. Old Garden Path Lights refurbished with color changing RGB LED Modules.
Old Garden Path Lights refurbished with color changing RGB LED Modules. Old Garden Path Lights refurbished with color changing RGB LED Modules.
Old Garden Path Lights refurbished with color changing RGB LED Modules. Old Garden Path Lights refurbished with color changing RGB LED Modules.
Old Garden Path Lights refurbished with color changing RGB LED Modules. Old Garden Path Lights refurbished with color changing RGB LED Modules.
Old Garden Path Lights refurbished with color changing RGB LED Modules. Old Garden Path Lights refurbished with color changing RGB LED Modules.
Old Garden Path Lights refurbished with color changing RGB LED Modules. Old Garden Path Lights refurbished with color changing RGB LED Modules.

 

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