Proper outdoor lighting is part and parcel of good home garden design. Without it, all the effort that you’ve put in to make your house and garden stand out will be obscured when the sun sets.

With landscape lighting, you not only highlight and add depth to some of the best parts of your home but also ensure your safety and security. Additionally, appropriate outdoor lighting adds to your home’s curb appeal and allows you to use your outdoor area productively, even at night.

There are a ton of ways that you can light up your backyard, deck, or patio. Some outdoor lighting systems operate on line voltage – the 120-volt current that runs from your home – though, nowadays, most outdoor lighting is low voltage.

What is Low Voltage Lighting?

This kind of lighting system is hardwired and makes use of cables and wires. Its main difference from the usual line voltage system is that it uses a step-down transformer to convert the standard outlet voltage of 110/120 volts to 12 volts. This allows you to use a lower voltage while still getting bright outdoor lights.

Components of a Low Voltage Landscape Lighting Set-Up

A low voltage lighting system consists of three main components: the transformer, light fixtures, and electrical cable.

Transformer

This is the most important element in the low voltage lighting system since it supplies power. A transformer is an electrical device that plugs into a GFCI-protected outdoor electrical outlet and reduces the household current from 120 volts to 12 volts. It controls when the lights go on or off using a timer or a photocell.

Transformer models range from 44 watts to 900 watts and are rated according to the maximum wattage output. You can determine which size transformer you need by adding up the wattage of all the lights in your system. The wattage rating of your transformer should be the same or higher than the combined wattage of your lighting system.

Light Fixtures

Light fixtures consist of the socket assembly, light bulb, and covers. They come in a variety of styles and price ranges. It is vital to select the right light fixtures, as these will determine the overall aesthetic of your outdoor lighting.

No matter which style you choose, you should ensure that all light fixtures are water-resistant and UL-approved for outdoor use. Most lights typically draw 4 to 7 watts of power.

Some light fixtures you can install in your backyard, garden, deck, or patio are:

  • Floodlights – These light up a large part of your outdoor area.  
  • Path lights – Light up the pathways you have in your backyard to avoid tripping.
  • Post lights – These lights are attached to the posts on your fence or deck.
  • Railing lights – Installed on your railings, these lights highlight your deck while lighting up the way.
  • Recessed lights – These lights are mounted flush to the deck itself.
  • Spotlights – Illuminate a certain feature in your yard or garden, such as an ornamental tree.
  • Step lights – These are attached to the vertical part of the stairs and illuminate the steps.
  • Wall lights – These lights are mounted on the wall.

Electrical Cable

Specifically made to be buried underground, the cable used for landscape lighting connects all the lights to one or more transformers and the electrical outlet. Which cable you should use will depend on the size of your transformer and the length of cable required for the job.

outdoor lighting

Pros and Cons of a Low Voltage Lighting System

Pros of a Low Voltage Lighting System

The biggest advantage of a low voltage lighting system is the safety it affords. Having a low voltage lighting system with just 12-volts of power ensures that you, your family, and your guests will be protected from electrical shocks, should anyone mistakenly touch something.

Low voltage lighting is also easy to install; so easy, you can even set it up on your own. Since the system is low voltage, you can add wires and lights without worry. The system is also less permanent than a line voltage system. You can easily add or move a light, provided that your transformer can handle the extra power.

Additionally, it is cost-effective and environmentally friendly. Though you will have to buy a transformer, cables, and LED light fixtures, what you pay upfront will result in energy savings, in the long run. LED light fixtures consume less power and last longer than incandescent lights.

Since the voltage is so low, you won’t be using that much power to keep these lights going. And, less electricity consumed means fewer harmful greenhouse gasses released into the atmosphere.

Cons of a Low Voltage Lighting System

There aren’t a lot of cons with low voltage lighting, aside from the lights not being as bright as the lights in a line voltage system. This isn’t that much of a setback, though.

One other disadvantage of a low voltage lighting system is the potential for voltage drop, which is when the system lacks full power by the time the voltage arrives at the fixtures. This causes a loss of efficiency.

Low Voltage Lighting Versus Solar Lighting

Low voltage lighting can be compared with solar lighting, as both are low-power ways to light up your landscape. There are a few main differences between the two.

Unlike low voltage lighting, which gets its energy from your home’s electricity supply, solar-powered lighting gets its energy from the sun. In a solar-powered lighting system, each light fixture is a self-contained unit with its own tiny solar panel. Solar lighting won’t increase your energy bills. These light fixtures will gather solar energy no matter the weather – though it will absorb significantly less sunlight on cloudy days. Since they don’t have as much power stored in them, you may notice that solar-powered lights dim a little during the rainy season.

The light fixtures in solar-powered lighting are standalone and not connected to each other, so you can move them around as you please. Meanwhile, low voltage lighting is hardwired, so you can’t move them around as easily as you’d be able to with solar-powered lighting.

Low Voltage Lighting in Landscape Design

Proper outdoor lighting, whether low voltage or solar-powered, can add drama and flair to your landscape. If you want a good lighting system on your property, get in touch with Landscapes Unlimited today. We will transform your landscape and make it look sensational.