Landscape Lights Not Working? Solutions To 7 Common Problems

These Are Some Actions You Can Take To Get Your Maryland Home Warm And Bright At Night Again
Andrew inspecting a landscape lighting transformer

We hate that your landscape lights aren’t working as they should. If you want to, you can try to find and fix the problem yourself.

In this post, you can find solutions to the 7 most common problems people have when their landscape lights aren’t working. These are the same steps we take when someone’s outdoor lights aren’t working.

It Looks Like A Patchwork Quilt Of Light And Dark!

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

Matt groans. “Ugh, guess I better go take a look then.” Christina sighs. “Wouldn’t it be easier to get our lighting contractor to come out and take a look? They know what they’re looking for and how to fix most problems.”

Matt nods. “That’s true, but I’d rather not spend the money on something we can probably do ourselves.” Christina’s eyebrow rises. “That’s a good p0int. It’s probably because we didn’t look up how to maintain landscape lights that this happened.”

“Yep. We can probably find some methods for how to troubleshoot landscape lights on Google,” points out Matt. Christina shrugs and nods as she gets her phone out to start Googling.

Here are the 7 problems they find and the solutions to try:

1. How To Find A Short In Outdoor Lighting

Andrew messing with an outdoor light fixture

A short in lighting is when electricity’s 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. It’s a lot of time and energy to look for shorts.

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. We’d also look for bad, wet, corroded, or damaged sockets. We’d be checking for any areas that could be exposing wires or bulbs to moisture too.

2. Section Of Landscape Lights Not Working

Looks like some landscape lights aren't working

It’s the worst when a section of landscape lights isn’t working. It gives off a patchwork quilt vibe (great for quilts, not for lighting).

To fix this, we’d first check the transformer to see if it’s somehow been flipped to OFF. If it has, we’d flip the switch back to ON and see if it works. If that’s not the issue, we’d turn the transformer off and start hunting for a short.

If you’ve had landscaping done recently, we’ll be looking for damaged wires, loose connections, or other problems that could’ve been caused by people disturbing the wires.

3. Landscape Lighting Timer Not Working

Dark house without landscape lighting

If your outdoor lights aren’t working, it could be due to your landscape lighting timer. First, we’d try resetting it by pressing the Reset, Restart, or R button in your transformer. Then we’d set it up again. If that doesn’t work then you may need a new timer.

4. Some Landscape Lights Not Working

If some of your landscape lights aren’t working there are a few options we 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
  • We can also check the cable connector to see if the pins went through the insulation and into the copper strand.

5. Landscape Lights Won’t Come On

Darkened natural area where outdoor lights aren't working

If none of your outdoor lights are working, here’s what we can try:

  • Inspect the power outlet by plugging a 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 a GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) and hit the reset button (see picture below)
    • Mostly found in or near bathrooms and garages, it looks like an outlet but with 2 buttons on it that say reset and test
One type of GFCI outlet
Another type of GFCI outlet

6. One Or More Lights Aren’t Bright

Landscape light that is dim

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

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

If you’re using halogen bulbs, we’d check 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, LEDs are the best bulb for many reasons.

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

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).

You May Also Like To Know

“See, we can totally do some of these on our own,” points out Matt. “Yeah, it’d be sad to pay a contractor to come out here just to flip a switch,” agrees Christina. “How about you start with some of the easier ones and I’ll keep looking up stuff on this blog about landscape lighting?” Matt nods and the couple gets to it.