Nov 04, 2014

To address the question right off the bat, the answer is voltage loss.  There are a number of causes of voltage loss but no matter what the cause it has to be mitigated. If voltage loss is not compensated for you will experience shorter life on fixtures and poor performance overall. We'll discuss the main causes of voltage loss and how to deal with the problem with a multi-tap transformer.

What is a Multi Tap Transformer?

This 300 watt transformer has output taps ranging from 12 volts all the way up to 22 volts. Technically speaking a multi tap transformer is a step up (or down) transformer that has multiple taps on either the primary winding or the secondary winding. A multi tap transformer provides flexibility in your input and output voltage requirements. In the landscape lighting world, a multi tap transformer provides multiple terminals with outputs ranging from 12 volts up to 15 or more volts.  The installer has the choice of employing as many of the taps as necessary to ensure even voltage to all fixtures.

Why Use a Multi Tap Transformer?

In an outdoor lighting system of any significant size or scope, voltage loss will occur. Voltage loss can occur for many reasons. Long runs, thin wire, many fixtures on a run and high power consumption are some of the things that will create power loss. Professional installers use a lower gauge (thicker) wire to reduce voltage loss. However there are times where long runs or high power requirements cannot be avoided. Situations like this cause voltage loss and multi tap transformers are frequently the only way to deal with the issue.

How do I Know if I Need a Multi Tap Transformer?

Multimeters like this Inova can be as little as $20 Installers should always have a multi-meter when installing outdoor landscape lighting. When hooking up a run of lights, check the voltage at the last fixture of the run. If the voltage is 11.3 volts (for example) then you'll need to move up from the 12-volt terminal to the 13-volt terminal.  Once you've made the swap check the voltage again. If you get a reading of 12.3 volts then you've solved your power loss issue.

What if I Don't Have a Multi Tap Transformer?

If you only have a 12 volt transformer there are several techniques that you can employ to reduce your voltage drop. Here are a few:

Keep Your Power Requirements Low on Each Run

Don't load up a run with fixtures that require lots of power. If you've got a run that has more than 150 watts consider breaking that run into to runs of 75 or so watts.

Create Hubs instead of Daisy Chains

Hub vs Daisy Chain Layout Daisy chaining systems can mean you'll have a higher voltage going to the first fixture on the system than the last fixture. This could possibly reduce the lifespan of each of these two lights. Use a hub system instead that will evenly balance power distribution to each light.

Create Distance Zones

Don't put fixtures that are close to the transformer on the same run with fixtures that are a long way from the transformer. Instead put all of the nearby fixtures on one run and put the ones furthest away on another. At the same time try not to have too many fixtures on the long run.

Attach Your 'Home Run' Wire to the Center of the Zone

If you've got a line of fixtures on a run that is 50' from your transformer for example, attached the wire that runs back to the transformer to the middle of the wire that feeds the run. This will result in even distribution and the run will resemble a 'T' shape instead of an 'L' shape.

 Is Your Outdoor Lighting System Balanced?

300-watt transformer showing plug-in for timer module and photo cell. This transformer has taps ranging form 12v to 15v. If you are unsure about whether or not you have too much voltage loss let us check it for you. We'll be right out for a no-obligation consultation. We'll check your system and if adjustments need to be made we'll be happy to give you our advice or make the adjustments for you. Visit our web site at, call/text 662-Abulous (662-228-5687) or email

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