How To Troubleshoot Landscape Lighting’s 7 Most Common Problems

Find Ways You Can Fix Your Landscape Lights For Your Home In Colorado Springs
Landscape lighting for an outdoor living room

How to troubleshoot landscape lighting involves looking for shorts, checking the transformer, resetting the timer, and other methods.

Find all 7 below-

Be Prepared

“Is this level of preparation really necessary?” asks Melissa.

Josh nods firmly. “For our new landscape lighting, I think it is. Looking up how to troubleshoot landscape lighting now can save us headaches in the future. What if we didn’t get the right amount of lumens for the bulbs? It’s an avoidable problem if we learn now instead of later.”

Melissa smiles. “Yeah, you’re right. Why don’t we look together? Then we can both know how to look after our investment. We can even work together if a problem does come up!”

Now it’s Josh’s turn to smile. “I like the sound of that. Here, come sit next to me and we can look it up on my phone.” He pulls out his phone as Melissa comes to sit next to him. Together they start searching Google for answers.

After a bit of searching, here is what the couple finds:

How To Troubleshoot Landscape Lighting

Troubleshooting landscape lighting can involve looking for shorts, checking the bulbs, resetting timers, checking the transformer, and sometimes recalculating wattage and voltage. If those still don’t fix your problem it’s time to call in a professional landscape lighting technician.

Front landscape lighting

1. Landscape Lights Won’t Come On

This is either the easiest or hardest problem you can have.

Unfortunately, there are many reasons your lights might not be working. This means a lot of ways to troubleshoot your landscape lights. Here are 7 ways to try and solve your problem:

  1. Confirm that the transformer is set to ON
  2. See if the transformer is getting power by checking the voltage and amperage
  3. Check the power outlet by plugging a device like a phone into it
  4. Make sure the wires going to the transformer are tight and fully inside the terminal lugs
  5. You might just have to reset your timer’s clock or bypass the photocell. It also might need replacing
  6. Look for your ground fault circuit interrupter and hit the RESET button
    • It’s a little button on an outlet. You mostly find them in bathrooms and garages
  7. Open the breaker box and look to see if the switches are between ON and OFF
    • Switch it OFF and then ON. If it goes back to the middle turn it OFF
      • This means there’s a short somewhere, which means whatever it connects to is using too much power. It shuts off like this to keep the wires from overheating and burning. If disconnecting some of the appliances doesn’t work you should call an electrician or look for a short (see #7)

2. A Section Of Landscape Lights Isn’t Working

Almost as bad as none of the lights coming on is a section of them not working.

You’ll want to check out the transformer again. See if any of the switches are OFF or tripped. If turning it back on doesn’t work there may be a short. Turn off your transformer and start looking (see #7 for how to look for one).

3. Some Landscape Lights Won’t Turn On

Here is how to troubleshoot this landscape lighting problem:

  • For incandescent bulbs, check for breaks in the wires in the bulb part
  • Make sure the lights fit the sockets
  • See if the socket’s giving power
  • You can also check the cable connector to see if the pins went through the insulation and into the copper strand
Incandescent light bulb

4. One Or More Lights Aren’t Bright

This is another one that’s either easy or hard.

The easiest problem is the bulb is loose. Screwing it in might be all you need to do. There might also be too many lights. You can solve this by upping the voltage or taking some lights down. This voltage drop calculator might be useful. Also, check the wattage to make sure the lights aren’t using too much. 

Using halogen bulbs? Check the volts for the light fixture at the end of the grouping. If it’s over 10 volts you’re fine, but if it’s under that it needs more power or fewer lights.

5. Troubleshooting The Landscape Lighting Transformer

There are 3 ways to troubleshoot your lighting transformer.

  1. Recalculate the wattage to make sure the lights aren’t going over the transformer’s wattage (watts = amps x volts)
  2. Make sure the copper strands at the end of the cable aren’t touching
  3. Check the fixture connection points for shorts (see #7)

6. The Timer Isn’t Working

Timers are great except for when they aren’t working.

To see if this is the problem, go to your transformer. Reset the timer by pressing the Reset/Restart/R button. You’ll need to set it up again. If this isn’t the problem you’ll need a new timer.

7. How To Look For A Short

In lighting, a short is when electricity is going where it shouldn’t and nothing is slowing it down.

This is one of the hardest problems to troubleshoot with landscape lighting. It’s because it could be happening anywhere!

You can only find shorts by walking around and looking. The first places to look are exposed areas. Check for cut, broken, stretched, and improperly connected wires. Any sockets may also be damaged.

You May Also Like To Read

“Now I feel just about ready for anything!” says Melissa. “Hey, is that a dark spot in our yard?!” says Josh as he looks out the window. “What?!” Melissa jumps up and turns around in surprise. “Got ya,” Josh smiles. Melissa smiles and rolls her eyes. “Whatever. Here, let’s see what else we might need to know about landscape lights.”