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How to Install a Total Light TL-PHOTOCELL in a Transformer?

Welcome to this comprehensive guide on how to install a Total Light TL-PHOTOCELL in a transformer. If you're looking to enhance your landscape lighting system with a photocell, you've come to the right place. In this article, we will walk you through the step-by-step process of installing a photo cell in your landscape lighting transformer. We'll cover everything from the tools you'll need to the detailed instructions for a successful installation. So, let's get started!

How to Install a Total Light TL-PHOTOCELL in a Transformer

To begin the installation process of a Total Light TL-PHOTOCELL in a transformer, follow these steps:

  1. Gather the Required Tools and Materials

    • Flathead Screwdriver
    • Hammer
    • Total Light TL-PHOTOCELL
    • Landscape lighting transformer
  2. Turn Off the Power Before you start working on the transformer, it's crucial to turn off the power to ensure your safety. Locate the power switch or circuit breaker that controls the transformer and switch it off.

  3. Identify the knockouts on the Transformer Examine the transformer and identify the where the knockouts are located. Typically, they are located on the sides of the transformer.  The Total Light Transformers have a knockout on both sides of the transformer. This allows you to chose which side to mount the photocell in the Total Light series of Stainless Steel Low Voltage Transformers.

  4. Remove the Knockouts Use a flat head screw driver and a hammer to remove the knockouts from the transformer.  This will allow the photocell wire to enter the internal area of the transformer.   

  5. Install the Photo Cell Take the Total Light TL-PHOTOCELL and locate the attachment nut.  Remove the nut and push the wiring through the knockout hole.  Slide the nut over the wiring and thread it back onto the photocell and make sure your connection is hand tight.  

  6. Connect the Photocell Identify the protective photocell plug.  Photocell protective plug

  7. Remove the protective cover from the photocell connection.  Then insert the photocell wiring harness into the port.  Protective Photocell plug removed
  8. Test the Installation With the setup complete, it's time to test the installation. Turn on the power to the transformer and observe the landscape lighting. The photocell can be tested during the day by covering it with your hand or using the black protective cover.  The photo cell should automatically control the lighting based on the ambient light conditions.  The TL-Photocell comes with a black test cap, remove this after testing the installation. 

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. How does a photo cell work in a landscape lighting transformer?

A photo cell, such as the Total Light TL-PHOTOCELL, works by detecting changes in ambient light levels. It is designed to automatically control the operation of landscape lighting systems based on the amount of available natural light. When the light levels drop below a certain threshold, the photo cell activates the transformer, allowing the landscape lights to turn on. Conversely, when the ambient light increases, the photo cell signals the transformer to turn off the lights. This functionality ensures that your landscape lighting system operates efficiently and effectively, providing illumination when needed while conserving energy during daylight hours.

2. Can I install a photo cell in an existing landscape lighting transformer?

Yes, it is possible to install a photo cell in an existing landscape lighting transformer. However, it is essential to ensure compatibility between the photo cell and the transformer. Check the specifications of both the photo cell and the transformer to ensure they are compatible in terms of voltage and wiring requirements. Additionally, follow the manufacturer's instructions for installation to ensure a successful integration of the photo cell into your existing system.

3. Are there any specific maintenance requirements for a Total Light TL-PHOTOCELL?

The Total Light TL-PHOTOCELL is designed for long-lasting performance with minimal maintenance requirements. However, it is recommended to periodically inspect the photo cell for any dirt, debris, or obstructions that may affect its performance. Clean the photo cell gently using a soft cloth or brush to remove any accumulated grime. Additionally, check the wiring connections to ensure they remain secure and free from corrosion. Regular maintenance will help maintain the optimal functionality of the photo cell in your landscape lighting transformer.

4. Are there alternative methods to control landscape lighting besides a photo cell?

Yes, besides photo cells, there are alternative methods to control landscape lighting. Some popular options include:

  • Mechanical Timer-based Controls: These allow you to set specific on and off times for your landscape lights. Timers can be programmed to align with sunset and sunrise or customized to your preferred schedule.  The TL-MECHTIMER is a good option for this type of timer.  

  • Astronomical TimerAstronomical Timers provide flexibility and convenience, especially for adjusting lighting levels during different times of the year based on your location.  For more info take a look at our article about Astronomical Timers

  • Smart Home Style Timers: Continued availability of devices that control landscape lighting are becoming available.  These devices range in technology like WIFI and Bluetooth, RF, Zigbee, Z-Wave and Lutron.  Be sure to check your WIFI availability at the transformer before installing an internet based timer.       

Each method has its advantages and considerations. Choose the one that best suits your needs and preferences for controlling your landscape lighting system.

6. Can I install a Total Light TL-PHOTOCELL myself, or do I need professional assistance?

The installation of a Total Light TL-PHOTOCELL can be undertaken by homeowners with basic electrical knowledge and DIY skills. However, if you are uncertain or uncomfortable working with electrical components, it is always recommended to seek professional assistance. Electricians or landscape lighting specialists have the expertise to ensure a safe and proper installation, minimizing the risk of electrical hazards or damage to the equipment. Safety should always be a priority when working with electrical systems.


In conclusion, installing a Total Light TL-PHOTOCELL in a transformer is a straightforward process that can greatly enhance the functionality and efficiency of your landscape lighting system. By following the step-by-step instructions and using the proper tools and materials, you can successfully integrate a photo cell into your existing transformer. Remember to consult the manufacturer's guidelines and specifications for the photo cell and transformer to ensure compatibility. With the photo cell in place, you'll enjoy the convenience of automated lighting control, allowing your landscape to shine beautifully day and night.


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