What is Low Voltage Landscape Lighting?
The landscape lighting gives a gorgeous luminance to your landscape and brings radiance to your home.
Low Voltage Landscape Lighting
Low Voltage Landscape Lighting is the most popular outdoor lighting option for residential use. It improves the beauty, safety and security of any home, and lets you enjoy your outdoor living spaces after the sun goes down. Low voltage lighting began with the introduction of 12v halogen bulbs, which produced the same levels of brightness and performed just as well as the mains voltage halogen lamps.
The Halogen lighting is being phased out. However the low voltage lighting industry is now dominated by the much more energy-efficient LED technology.
In an ever more pronounced shift away from standard 230v mains voltage lighting, low voltage lighting and its benefits are winning over consumers everywhere. Initially developed to facilitate safe outdoor landscape lighting, the technology is now also used indoors and works by using an LED driver or transformer to step the voltage down from 230v to 24v, 12v or lower. The driver or transformer is either built into the light fitting itself or installed separately, but its presence is essential for the operation of the light.
How to Install Low Voltage Landscape Lighting?
The installation process consists of three steps.
1. Lay the Landscape Wire
- You need to place the light fixture in the positions where you will install them.
- Lay the landscape wire all the way to where the transformer will be installed.
- If you see an obstacle while laying the cable, you can either slip it under or around it.
- After laying the cable, use a shovel to dig a shallow trench along the line of the cable that has been laid out. If you meet an obstacle, dig a trench around it like in the case of the cable.
- Place the cable in the trench and then press it down into the ground. The cable might be damaged if the shovel is used to press the cable.
- You will have to cover up the trench with the soil that you’ve dug up and then tap on it with your boot to pack in it tightly. However, you do this at the very end, when the transformer has been installed and the light fixtures have been connected. This will save you some time in case you need to make any last minute changes.
2. Install the Transformer
- Low-voltage cables are typically double stranded.
- You need to peel apart about 5-6 inches of the two strands.
- Next, you have to use a wire cutter to remove an inch of the insulated cover off the top of each strand in order to expose the copper wire underneath.
- Slip both strands into the transformer via the slot at the back.
- Inside the transformer, you will find two screw terminals marked ‘A’ and ‘B’. You have to slide one exposed end of the copper wire into each of the terminals and tighten the screw to secure its position.
- You can fix the transformer on a wooden stake that’s been pressure treated (the ones usually used in fences). Alternatively, you can fix on an exterior wall, ideally a little distance away from the main house.
- However, make sure the electrical outlet you use to power the transformer is a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlet, as it will protect you from electrical shocks.
- Once the light fixtures have been connected and tested (which has been elaborated in the next section), you will have to cover the transformer with a weatherproof cover.
3. Connect the Light Fixtures
- Generally, landscaping light fixtures are equipped with what’s known as snap-on connectors.
- These connectors enable you to simply snap the prewired prongs onto the cable. The prongs bite into the cable and come in contact with the copper wire underneath.
- However, even though the connectors are super convenient, they aren’t ideal. The reason being that the wire remains partly exposed and could be affected by water or other elements.
- You need to cut off the connectors, expose about half an inch of the wire from under the insulated cover and install weatherproof wire connectors, which have a sealant and base shield.
- Once this is done, switch on the transformer and test each and every light fixture.
- When you’re satisfied that all the light fixtures are working fine, you have to install them as required. So, if it’s a well light you must have hole dug deep enough for it to sit comfortably. For path lights you will have to stick them into the ground deep enough to ensure they are stable.
- Next, you cover up the cable as mentioned earlier.
- Finally, you need to set the transformer timer and select the switch on and switch off times for the lights.
Due to the significantly lower voltage running through the light fittings themselves, low voltage lighting is much, much safer to use. The lower voltage reduces risk of serious electric shock, while also providing a safer option for outdoor lighting installations that won’t pose a hazard when exposed to rain and moisture.
A lower voltage means bulbs can be smaller, which also means lighting designs can be more varied and creative. These smaller fittings allow for the lighting of smaller, tighter spaces that would otherwise be difficult to light safely or efficiently.
3. Long Lifespan
Our final benefit of low voltage lighting is the lifespan. Particularly now that LED is becoming the most popular form of low voltage lighting, the combination of the lower wattage and LED technology creates ideal conditions for long-lasting bulbs when compared with outmoded incandescent and halogen bulbs. LEDs are now more cost-effective than ever, requiring less energy to provide the same levels of light and requiring less frequent replacing.
4. Cost Effective
You will have to buy a transformer for a low-voltage setup, which isn’t required for the line voltage system. While the cables you would need for line voltage lighting are more expensive than those needed for low-voltage lighting. In addition, you should be using LED light fixtures in the low voltage system, which cost more than incandescent lights but last significantly longer. LED light fixtures also consume much less power, so your electricity bill will be lower as well.
Even if you don’t use LED fixtures, in a line voltage system you would require bulbs and fixtures that are 50 watts or more. Whereas in a low voltage system, you can use bulbs and fixtures as low as 2-10 watts.
THE DISADVANTAGES OF LOW-VOLTAGE LIGHTING
- You need a transformer.
- It can be less bright.
- Limited on lighting options.
- Commercial businesses might have a harder time passing inspection.
- Maintenance can be challenging.
Do low voltage lights use a lot of electricity?
Low-voltage LED outdoor lighting uses 15-20 percent of the electricity we use with halogen or incandescent bulbs. This means far lower energy bills.
What gauge wire is best for low voltage lighting?
For low voltage lighting in long wire runs, like exterior landscape lighting, you will want to travel with a 12- or 10-gauge wire to stop fall.
Why Is Low Voltage Used For Landscape Lighting?
Landscape lighting is designed to illuminate your landscape at night, making it easier to see and enjoy. Your home will have more appeal when it is well-lit at night.
If you're thinking about hiring a landscape lighting designer, you'll need to consider the size of the area you want to light. If you decide to go down the DIY path, then low-voltage lighting is the recommended option for you. Low-voltage lighting is relatively easy to install, it’s safe and isn’t expensive.
If you need to use high-voltage landscape lighting. You'll pay a lot more than for low-voltage lighting. You'll also need to hire a professional electrician to install the lighting. Low-voltage lighting is no longer limited to commercial and industrial applications.
What are the common types of landscape lighting fixtures?
Are low voltage lights worth it?
In regard to the electricity bills and recurring operational costs to run exterior lights outside, you will get lots of additional savings benefits by using low voltage lights as these lights consume much less energy, last much longer and at the same time provide superior illumination both around the exterior.
While keeping you and your wallet safe, low voltage bulbs are perfect for lighting up the outdoor space. When working on your next lightning project, keep in mind that low voltage LEDs are great for lighting those smaller spaces, and allow for your creative mind to shine bright!