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Landscape Lights Not Working? Solutions To 7 Common Problems

Get Your Landscape Lights Working Again So You Can Enjoy Your Maryland, DC, Or Northern Virginia Yard

When your landscape lights aren’t working your landscape looks incomplete, if you can even see it at all. If you’re like most people you don’t want to pay a contractor’s fee to have them come over and fix the problem by flicking a few switches. So before you pick up that phone you can try these 7 landscape lighting troubleshooting tips.

Landscape lights not working? Here's a photo of Andrew working

When your landscape lights aren’t working your landscape looks incomplete, if you can even see it at all. If you’re like most people you don’t want to pay a contractor’s fee to have them come over and fix the problem by flicking a few switches. So before you pick up that phone you can try these 7 landscape lighting troubleshooting tips.

Landscape lights not working? Here's a photo of Andrew working

It’s So Frustrating!

“I just got home, it’s dark, and our landscape lights aren’t working.”

Jill is obviously upset about this and Jack hates it when she’s mad. Sure she looks cute but it’s upsetting when someone you love isn’t happy.

That’s why he’s going to do whatever it takes to make his wife happy again.

Landscape lights not working and are in need of troubleshooting

“I’ll take a look at the problem tonight and then see what I can do about it in the morning. I don’t think I can get much done when it’s dark out unless I rent floodlights.” Jill agrees with a sigh (at the lights, not Jack) and starts eating the dinner Jack made.

After dinner, Jack gets online and looks up “landscape lights not working” to see what he can find.

1. How To Find A Short In Outdoor Lighting

You can find shorts in outdoor lighting by looking for wires that are cut, broken, frayed, are improperly connected, or are stretched by roots or rocks. Also look for bad, wet, corroded, or damaged sockets. Check for any areas that are exposing the wires or bulbs to moisture too.

Checking for shorts in landscape lighting

A short in lighting is when electricity is going where it isn’t supposed to and nothing is slowing it down. What makes it so hard to troubleshoot is it can happen in many places at the same time.

If you can’t find the cause it may be best to contact an electrician

Jack isn’t about to look over the whole system in the dark, even with a flashlight, so he moves on to the next possible issue.

2. Section Of Landscape Lights Not Working

First, go check the transformer to see if it’s somehow been flipped to OFF. If it has, turn it to ON and see if it works. If that’s not the issue, turn the transformer off and look for a short. If you’ve had landscaping done recently, check the areas for damaged wires, loose connections, or other problems.

Section of landscape lights not working

Jack checks the transformer and sees that it’s still on so he knows that isn’t causing their landscape lights to not work. They haven’t had any landscaping done either so he moves on.

3. Landscape Lighting Timer Not Working

If your landscape lighting timer isn’t working try resetting it by pressing the Reset, Restart, or R button in your transformer. Then set it up again. If that doesn’t work then you may need a new timer.

Jack doesn’t have the timer set up for his lights, but he might do it after he fixes whatever the current problem with their landscape lights is…

4. Some Landscape Lights Not Working

If some of your landscape lights aren’t working there are a few options you can try.

For incandescent bulbs, look for breaks in the wire filament (the wires inside the glass part). Look to see if the light fits properly in the socket. Check the socket to see if it is giving power. If it isn’t it may need replacing. You can also check the cable connector to see if the pins went through the insulation and into the copper strand.

Landscape lights not working

Jack adds these steps to his “do when the sun’s up” checklist and goes to the next problem/solution for landscape lights not working.

5. Landscape Lights Won’t Come On

If your entire landscape lighting system isn’t working, try these methods to fix it:

  • Inspect the power outlet by plugging your phone into it to see if it’s getting electricity
  • Make sure the transformer is set to ON
  • Check the circuit breakers on the transformer for a short
    • Open the breaker box and look to see if the switches are between ON and OFF
      • If there is an indicator light and it’s red that means it’s tripped
    • Switch it OFF and then ON. If it goes back to the middle turn it OFF and call an electrician
  • Make sure the wires entering the transformer are tight and fully inside the terminal lugs
  • Check the voltage and amperage on the transformer to make sure it’s still getting power 
    • if it isn’t the transformer may need replacing
  • If you’re using a timer or photocell, reset the clock or bypass the photocell
    • if that doesn’t work you may need a new one
  • Look for your GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) and hit the reset button (see picture below)
    • mostly in/near bathrooms and garages, it looks like an outlet but with 2 buttons on it that say reset and test
Other type of GFCI on outlet
GFCI on outlet
Other type of GFCI on outlet
GFCI on outlet

Jack and Jill’s lights are coming on so he knows that isn’t the issue. He’s starting to feel some irritation at the fact that he hasn’t found a solution yet but he presses on.

6. One Or More Lights Aren’t Bright

The easiest check is to see if the bulb is in the socket correctly. You may also have too many lights, which means you need to take some out or increase the voltage. Recalculating the voltage drop isn’t too difficult and may solve your problem.

You can also check the wattage to make sure you aren’t going over what’s available.

If you’re using halogen bulbs, checks the volts for the light fixture at the end of the grouping. If it’s less than 10 volts you’ve got a problem. Just switch to LED lights, they’re all-around better for many reasons.

Landscape light that is dim

If it’s none of those, check the connection to the power cable to ensure the pins are firmly in the copper strand.

The lights aren’t on right now, but when they were Jack noticed that they were all bright. He’s going to look for one last solution before he calls it quits for the night.

7. Troubleshooting Your Landscape Lighting Transformer

Look at the ends of the cable to ensure the copper strands aren’t touching. If they aren’t, check the fixture connection points for shorts. You can also recalculate the wattage to ensure you’re not exceeding the transformer’s wattage (watts = amps x volts).

That’s a lot for Jack to check tonight and, to be honest, it’s getting late and he doesn’t feel like it right now. Good thing he has all of tomorrow!

The Next Day…

Jack heads out into the yard to look for shorts, check the transformer, and all the other points on his list that may be why their landscape lights aren’t working. After a few hours, he finds that the reason is the wire leading out of the transformer to the lights was damaged.

Now all he needs to do is contact a professional lighting company to come and fix it.