Landscape Lighting - Multi-Zones

After years of neglect, I finally decided to update/upgrade/repair my landscape lights. There is a collection of flood lights, lantern type, and what I call ‘mushrooms’ (See below). Now, if I have all lights on at the same time, it’s rather over-powering and the house sticks out on my street. Hence, I decided to do a multi-zone system that consists of the following

  1. Always ON lights for bushes/garden and other areas. Always means typically dusk to dawn only
  2. Pathway lights, only ON when there is motion.

Here is the challenge: Most landscape transformers out there do single zone only (or at least those available in stores). Some of those have the option to add motion sensing, but those are few, and no freely available instructions are provided. (I must head to youtube and do more searching).

Ideally, I’d like to power both 1/2 from the same transformer, with some ‘clever’ wiring if at all possible?

Am I better off with 2 separate transformers … one for static lights and another for motion sensing?

In the long run, I’d like ultimately to integrate the system within OpenHab … and that’s another challenge as I haven’t seen any (yet) that offer remote operation and/or WIFI connection.

For the moment, I’m running all lights on a 20-year old transformer (110V to 12V) with a mechanical timer. Ultimately, I’d like something a bit ‘smarter’ … and younger too.

Thoughts/Recommendations ?



Well, there is this one on Amazon … It has its own WIFI (not too usable), what appears to be 3 channels (zones), but the ratings are not stellar (3.5 stars only). The main reason is that the WIFI does not connect to a home WIFI. Instead, the transformer has its own WIFI, and the user must connect to such WIFI to operate remotely with a dedicated App. A bit non-sensical but hey, they must have their reasons.

Back when I was redoing my landscape lighting I looked around for something similar, but I came up empty. Seems the landscape lighting players haven’t gotten onboard with the Smarthome trend. Would love to hear from someone who has found landscape lighting systems that can be controlled through an API.

INNR Smart Outdoor Set
Paulmann Plug & Shine ZigBee
Philips Hue Gartenstrahler Lily

DIY: WLED + IP64 LED Stripes

What restrictions do you have?
I’m thinking about -
How does the lamp wiring get back to your transformer, is it already wired in banks or strings that might suit your needs? Or do you have cable laying to do?
What control possibilities do you have to the transformer location - wireless, wired? Existing WiFi in range? Is there existing motion sensor network to exploit?
Many mains powered relay type controls will be able to be “abused” to switch the 12V between transformer and lights, but some may require modification.
Personally I’d be looking at something like a 4-relay device, that can give you a “master” transformer switch and a couple of lighting zones.

No ‘hard’ restrictions per say. I pulled out all the old cabling and lights, even removed the old mulch and some plants. Now I’m putting landscape fabric all over (to prevent weeds), redoing the cabling, recycling some of the old lights (after cleaning and changing the halogen bulbs), adding several new LED lights … etc. The cabling goes under the fabric, to avoid getting chewed on again.

From the current transformer, I have only one wire coming out, and it goes through Y-splitters at various places across the property. Though, like I said, I’m redoing most of the cabling as some of it got chewed on by wildlife. Nothing too difficult here, I have enough electrical skills to handle this … except that I’m not in my 20’s anymore.

Thank you @chrode. I’ll look those up and explore my options.

Some more precision about the project.

I already have all the lights I need (some new, some existing). What I’m really after is a SMART Transformer, with multi-zone capability, to do the following.

  1. Zone 1 (Front yard) - Various lights under bushes/trees - These can be on a fixed schedule
  2. Zone 2 (Front yard) - lights for the walk path to the house’s front door - These need to be on a motion sensor.
  3. Zone 3 (Garden, side of the house) - Various lights near raised planting beds - Also on a timer, ideally different from timer in 1)
  4. Zone 4 (Backyard) - Planned for future, as I intend to bury some cable underground to reach trees/bushes that are far from the house - Also on a separate timer.

Having ALL lights ON, on the same circuit, is an overkill and the house would look odd in the neighborhood. However, having different areas on different timers would be preferred.

Now, who’s got a good recommendation for a multi-zone & WIFI enabled landscape transformer?

How about a 4 channel relais or 4 wlan / zigbee plugs

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Is that a complete DIY ?

Living in the Chicago area, with rain/snow and cold, I’d rather do a commercial/robust solution for outdoors usage, with the proper protection level e.g., IP57 or else.

Almost certainly doesn’t exist, and doesn’t need to. Think more along modular lines of multiple independent switches. Either switching individual small power supplies on and off, or switching the output of one fat supply.

Okay, but for the purposes of this discussion - you will end up with separate cable ends at your central power position for each zone?

Well … I bought one recently from Menards, it’s ‘half-smart’. In a sense, it has pre-programmed on-off times based on geographic location / time-zone.

Few ‘smart’ ones pop up after a Google Search … but again, not sure what every different vendor means by Smart/WIFI.

Now, it seems the simplest way now is to do multiple transformers, one for each zone … clunky but would work.

Of course, separate zones would need to have their own cables … this is understood. I was merely describing my current setup.

Now, if one is brave enough, one could rewire the whole area with smart/adressable LEDs (4 wires throughout) … the technology is not there yet?

In fact, take a look at this … it’s the one I referenced in my second post. It has connections for what I call multi-zone

So, no one has input on smart transformers? Hard to believe that such devices are NOT YET part of the Smart Home collection. Should we start our own line of products?

Here is a link I found on cnet … it’s however 2 years old.

I’m not sure what you expect, the task is easily done with an un-smart supply and the commodity smart switch of your choice from a range of a dozen different technologies.

I’d expect manufacturers to be keener on supplying individually smart fittings/bulbs.

If that is your answer … then possibly I have not described the problem properly/sufficiently.

In my my current system, the transformer is plugged into an outdoors GFCI Outlet, and the transformer has a built in mechanical timer. As such, here are the difficulties with what you propose:

  1. Putting a smart switch before the transformer is not an option as it would mess up the mechanical timer.

  2. I do not recall seeing smart switches for outdoor usage (i.e., waterproof + GFCI) … Most I’ve seen were those used for Christmas lights, but those typically do not last beyond 1-2 seasons.

  3. If you’re thinking a smart switch on the 12V side … I haven’t seen any of those yet, or at least none that are easy-to-use. As I mentioned before, I can do DIY but I’d rather have an installation that is compatible with existing building codes … etc

A fixed (mechanical) timer is not a good idea these days especially that the day duration changes from Summer to Winter … As such, a smart timer that would adjust based on either the seasons, your geographic location, or even a light sensor (dawn/dusk) would be best. There are already some of such options (system from Menards, I posted above) … but those are NOT multi-zone, and not as smart as advertised …

Need I go on?

Oh, and let’s try not to dumb-down what the OP is asking … :wink: … I’ve done a bit of homework before asking the various questions, and my specific situation might be a ‘tad’ different that what you’re used to … Yes, maybe I’m doing an overkill, but still, for me it’s a very valid situation, and I’m sure many people would appreciate having a single ‘smart’ system able to control multiple lighting areas … (front yard, back yard, garden, walk path, …) and lastly have some smart built-in features, iphone app or else
… wouldn’t you agree?

Do you have examples? Are those suitable for outdoor use? … I’m in Chicago where we sometimes get extreme weather … and up to 3 ft (1 m) of snow.

I think it all depends on the housing.

If you take something like this

[Wifi Relais ](€ 0,72 | ESP8266 5V WiFi relais modul LED Controller Dinge smart home fernbedienung schalter telefon APP ESP-01S

and put it in here

Ip66 Outdoor junction box

it would be very cheap and worth to try.

If you looking for 24v as well, I used this box for my diy garden irrigation control

image image

So far no problem with rain.

I’ve no idea what GFCI is.

Okay. I’d assumed there would be no need of any mechanical timer since you are replacing it with ‘smarts’

Me neither. Sounds like that narrows the field considerably.

Most folk just pop everything in a weatherproof box. But see -

As discussed already, many mains powered types would need a small modification to isolate relay terminals. Some are isolated out of the box.

Maybe we’re at cross purposes here. In a typical openHAB system these functions are performed at the central host; the ‘smart switch’ here is really just a remote control relay under centralized smart control.

This is an openHAB forum so that’s naturally at the heart of the suggestions you’re getting.
If you’re wanting something monolithic you might get more joy in a landscapers or serious gardener’s forum?

Useful feedback as always. I guess my approach is a bit different than most on this forum.

My thinking is ‘get it to work in standalone first, by itself … then, if everything checks-out, link it to Openhab’ … What you’re describing, is to build a system that works with openhab from the start. This is all good, but what if Openhab crashes or my network goes down one day for some unforeseen reason? I would hope that the system kicks in on its own and still operates.

Maybe I’m asking for too much already … good idea to go to a landscapers forum, though, from my experience with those … the first question is free, then after that everyone starts to sell you whatever it is they have.

GFCI - Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter - is a type of outlet here in NA (US, Canada, Mexico), that is most often used in wet locations (bathrooms and outdoors). Just in case the ground line is not working, the outlet cuts itself out to protect the owner. I’m sure they’re available in other regions of the world, though maybe with a different name.