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The Bright Ideas Blog

Design inspiration and outdoor lighting tips and advice for homeowners

Troubleshooting Tips For Your Landscape Lighting System

The frustration of not knowing why your landscape lights have stopped turning on is understandable. However, sometimes the solution to restoring power is simpler than you might think. Today, we are going to delve into the reason why your landscape lighting system has more than likely lost power. 

Before you begin getting frustrated trying to figure out why your lights aren't working, ask yourself, did a rain or snow storm blow through shortly before your lighting system lost power? If the answer is yes, then you may want to consider checking all your GFCIs.

What is a GFCI?


GFCI stands for Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter. It's basically a kind of circuit breaker.

They are designed to prevent the risk of electric shock. It is designed to shut off an electric power circuit when it detects current flowing along an unintended path.

Electric current flowing through water or a person would both be examples of this. 

This is why you can almost always find them where electricity and water are in close proximity to one another. If you're wondering what they look like, you can find them in your bathroom; the GFCI is on the outlet next to the sink.

You know the little red reset button you have to press sometimes when this outlet isn't working? That's your GFCI! 

Restoring power to your lights

Now that you know what a GFCI is, what it looks like and how it functions, let's talk about how you can use this knowledge to restore power to your landscape lights. 

As we've just learned, water will trip a GFCI. This also includes moisture. We often see GFCIs trip after heavy rains or snow storms because there is a lot more opportunities for water and moisture to trip them. Even a misdirected sprinkler head can be the culprit. Another thing to consider is the bubble cover over the outlet to the transformer. If this is not sealed well, or if it isn't closed all the way, it isn't doing it's job to keep moisture out. If your lights stop working shortly after a lot of precipitation has occurred, you know why. 

Before you do anything else, check to see if your lights are getting power to them. Start by grabbing a phone charger and heading outside. Locate your transformer. Your transformer is the big metal box mounted next to an exterior outlet. Your transformer reduces your 120v power down to 12v for your lighting system. Once you've located your transformer, unplug the transformer and plug in your phone charger. 

If your phone charger is able to charge your phone, then you know that the issue isn't with your power. If this is the case, then it may be best to contact your outdoor lighting professional to find out what can be done. In this situation, the problems are happening in the lighting system. The power isn't the issue. 

However, 9 times out of 10, the outlet won't have power if your lights inexplicably stop working. If the outlet doesn't have power, check to see if it has a GFCI. It it does, reset it and check to see if the outlet will charge your phone. Assuming this works without any issue, then simply plug your transformer back in. check that the timer is still set to the correct setting, and you're done. 


If the exterior outlet to your transformer doesn't have a GFCI, that is completely fine as well. You'll simply need to head back inside and start looking around for a tripped GFCI somewhere inside of your house. Search closely and diligently. Check in the kitchen and bathroom (places where water and electricity are in close proximity to one another). But also expand your search to other places. we've found GFCIs in garages and utility rooms. Heck, there was a time when we even found a GFCI at the back of a client's coat closet. I couldn't tell you why, but GFCIs are simetimes in the most inexplicable places, so look carefully. 

Once you've located the tripped GFCI, push the reset button back in. If the button keeps popping back out, then the current is still being disrupted by water or somekind of undersirable contact. You may need to wait for things to dry out. But if the button stays pressed in when you reset it, head back outside to the outlet next to your transformer. Plug in your phone charger again and see if it has power. If the outlet has power, then you've discovered which GFCI was tripped. Make a mental note of this in case your experience a similar problem down the road.   

If you haven't restored power, try taking a look at your breaker panel: breakers can also trip sometimes and need to be reset. 

Ultimately, it's our hope that this walk through on restoring power to your outlet can help you bring light back into your landscape. If you've given this a try and still aren't sure why your lights aren't working, give our office a call at 801.440.7647.

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