Question: Can you give me a quick lesson on low voltage outdoor lighting? Are they the same as solar garden lights used for landscaping? Are they difficult to install in the landscape along pathways? Vivianna – Houston, TX
Answer: Low voltage outdoor lighting is inexpensive, environmentally friendly, easy to install and attractive for most residential homes and commercial applications.
It uses a transformer to convert a home’s electricity into 12 volt power to run the lights.
It is bright enough yet subtle, but capable of lighting up pathways and walkways along with highlighting other landscape areas.
Low voltage and solar lighting are excellent options to provide security lighting, accent landscape features at night and increase safety in the garden at night.
This type of outdoor lighting is a marked difference from the higher 120 voltage required by conventional lighting. Low voltage lighting also is a low cost, simple installation to enhance the appearance of your home during twilight and give an added measure of security to your home.
Solar lights are a type of low voltage lighting but they are different in that they get their “power” from the sun’s recharging of a battery where other low voltage lights use a transformer to reduce the voltage.
They are built to use a photocell that recharges usually a NiCad battery all during the day. Solar is becoming more and more popular with more people thinking “green.”
Solar landscape lighting is a smart option for “do-it-yourself” types around the home. Installation of solar lights is pure simplicity (read these tips) and eliminate the need for any complex wiring or digging up the landscape to lay wires, plus they support the greener lifestyle.
The beauty is low voltage solar light is that once charged they “turn on” when sensors activate the lights at sunset.
The biggest factor to consider is to make sure the area of placement will receive enough sun to recharge the batteries each day.
Solar lights are an excellent choice for outdoor lighting – no wiring or plugs to deal with. However, if their placement is not in an area that gets a lot of sun their performance will be less than optimum.
Installation of solar lights is simple – no digging or wires to lay, just stick them in the ground where you want light. One nice feature is that they turn off and on automatically with the built in sensors – on at sunset and off ant sunrise… or when power runs out.
Outdoor Lighting Use
Low voltage lighting when used around pools can create some very interesting effects – unique reflections and mirroring effects – bouncing off the water.
Safety is always of prime concern, safety lighting is an essential part for landscape plans around patios, decks, steps, stairs and along pathways and walkways.
Lighting should be used to provide safe access to entry areas especially front doors and also along paths and driveways.
Lighting trees in the landscape is very effective as it creates dramatic and attractive effects from the street. Uplighting trees, especially lighting palm trees where the canopy of the tree and the trunk are bathed in light produces some truly one-of-a-kind effects.
Directional type landscape and garden lighting fixtures are now on the market which are easy to assemble and can even be mounted on trellises.
Most landscape applications will find lighting installed along pathways, steps, walkways, driveways and around decks, along with washing walls and fences with light or pointing up at trees creating magnificent silhouettes.
Don’t forget to light up the fountains, artwork and statues. Outdoor landscape lighting allows homeowners to transform their drab, dark, property to a radiant stunning showcase during the evening hours.
Outdoor Lighting Fixtures
The world of outdoor lighting continues to evolve with the low voltage lighting fixtures of today reviling the design elements of “wired lighting”.
No longer a cheap plastic fixture but designs in copper or black powder coat finish, decorative or concealed which not only are aesthetically pleasing but functional as well, all wrapped in an energy efficient low-voltage package.
Most of the units are sold as “complete lighting kits” along with a lighting transformer helping to eliminate much of the buying decisions. With everything included it allows DIY installers to create a gentle transition from indoors to outdoor living areas.
It must be said that even though low voltage lighting is easy to install it can take some time and experience to “learn” where the best focal points are located and how much light to focus on a house.
For some ideas and tips read this article on landscape lighting levels.
Deck Lighting and Low Voltage
For lighting outdoors the illumination of stairs, fences, decks and patios low voltage lighting can be an excellent choice.
A little ambiance lighting out on the deck, under trees on a flower border or anywhere you need to create a visible effect.
Decks as well as patios can take on a whole new look when recessed lighting illuminates plants an pool areas and make great use of precious little outdoor space.
For decks and patios which may contain a water feature underwater lighting for the small pond and backlighting a waterfall for those dark evenings can produce some dramatic effects and create a mood. This article offers tips from the pros on low voltage lighting.
Lighting the Garden
Lighting placed in a garden can be transformational – check out these garden lighting tips. Picture yourself slowly walking down a softly lighted path as the stars above sparkle.
The garden paths lit gently guiding your steps as you move towards an illuminated trellised archway – it is magical. Don’t forget rope lighting to create some cool lighting effects!
These amazingly inexpensive low voltage lighting fixtures enhance and expose new vistas in the landscape when the sun goes down.
Installation and Lighting Kits
One of the beauties of low voltage lighting is the installation.
It is a simple process which is affordable and complete since most installations come in kit form for homeowners… available at home centers and hardware stores.
Many homeowners make the mistake of installing landscape lighting without any plan – That is a mistake.
Take the time to find the best lighting suited for your application before purchase. Ask yourself… what pathways or walkways need to be lit up, there should most likely be the first area to light.
Next you’ll want to think about transformer placement. Finally, wiring everything up.
The nice part is that since it is low voltage… there are no real safety hazards.
Most low voltage lighting found in garden centers and home improvement stores today are sold as “complete lighting kits,” this includes the transformer, wire, all fixtures and installation instructions, making the purchase an easy task.
In general, low voltage outdoor lighting is safe and very easy to install, simply follow instructions… little expertise required. It is also easy to experiment with lighting to create all sorts of ambiance outdoors.
They are an easy way for the DIY homeowner to add curb appeal, increase home value, add safety, drama and extend using your outdoor space into the evening.
They are a perfect solution for the homeowner to add that extra POP to their landscape and garden.
The best part – there are hard no rules to follow. Let you lighting imagination go wild.