You finished your deck and landscaped your entire backyard and now you’re ready to add some lighting so everyone can see your masterpiece at night as well. Let’s begin with a little explanation of different lighting products available and then we can add in some pros and cons to give you an even better idea and make an informed decision. Installing landscape lighting is a fairly simple DIY project that can easily transform your home and yard with security and/or aesthetically pleasing lights at night.
There are several categories in outdoor lighting and we will try and touch base on all. By now you have seen countless solar powered or hardwired lights throughout your development. Some are even hard-wired, Low Voltage or LED, how do you choose which is your best solution?
Let’s first explain that energy-efficient lights save in electricity costs and reduce environmental stress and damage. Low-voltage LED lighting and solar lighting are both excellent alternatives to standard lighting setups. Both options are likely to reduce the cost of lighting your home. However, they have different benefits, and one may be a better option for your unique lighting needs.
Solar Lighting Defined
By nature, solar lighting is highly efficient. Aside from the cost of installing solar lighting fixtures and infrequent repairs and maintenance, solar lighting is entirely dependent upon the sun and requires no additional electrical fee. Because of this, solar lighting is reliable even during normal power outages. Similarly, solar lighting is extraordinarily energy efficient. Solar energy is a renewable resource and is not damaging to the environment.
On the other hand, low-voltage LED lighting provides a greater degree of control than solar lighting. Low-voltage LED lights can be brightened and dimmed to suit your mood and at your discretion. While low-voltage LED lighting is not as inexpensive as solar lighting, it generally costs quite a bit less than standard lighting setups. Low-voltage LED lights are also energy efficient, though not as much as solar lighting. Finally, low-voltage LED lighting is safe for use with children and pets, as the risk of electric shock is very low.
Solar landscape lighting is gaining popularity as more people become environmentally aware; however, low-voltage electric lights are a proven, time-tested lighting option. Before you make your final decision on which lighting option is best for you, take the time to compare both options. Adding landscape lighting to your home can make a major difference in your curb appeal.
Unlike electric lighting, solar landscape lights use LED lights. LED lighting is one of the longest lasting lighting options, sometimes lasting 10 years or more. Solar-powered lighting is great for those that don’t have much experience working with wiring because they don’t have any wires. They are exceptionally energy efficient because they run off the energy produced by the sun and they are virtually a no-cost lighting option.
What are the pros and cons of solar landscape lighting?
Instead of dying or blowing out, like conventional bulbs, LED lights simply lose brightness over time. Solar-powered lights don’t contain mercury. This may not be a big consideration now, however, as focus on the environment increases those with solar landscape lighting won’t have any environmental issues to consider. Magnifying the energy efficiency and sustainability of solar lights is the fact that they run off the power of the sun and don’t have a carbon footprint.
On the downside, solar landscape lights don’t usually offer the brightness of low voltage electric lights. Brightness is a large consideration if the lights are placed in areas that don’t receive much direct sunlight. Maintenance can also become an issue. The lights can become covered in dirt and then aren’t able to absorb sunlight and recharge. If you are looking for bright white lights, solar lights many not be the best choice because they tend to look blue. The lights don’t offer you much control as they come on at night and go off during the day.
LED Deck Lighting
LED lights are another excellent choice for lighting your deck. Recessed LED solar deck lights can be added in the floor of the deck to illuminate where you step without blinding you as you walk over them. These up-lighters are one of the most widely used deck fixtures and their kits come with twenty to a set, making them an economical choice. LEDs last much longer, use significantly less energy, will not burn a bare foot, and come in solar or low wattage options. They are also perfect for recessed lighting on stairs. Deck lighting kits for floor and step options are available for do-it-yourselfers, as well as other designer kit choices.
Now that we have explained that a few general words of caution: Always use UL listed, outdoor-rated lights outside. Always turn off the power before doing a lighting project. Homeowners can undertake low-voltage, i.e., 12v, projects themselves, but outdoor lighting solutions that are hardwired to the home’s 120v system must follow housing code, and must be installed by professionals. Professionals should also be engaged if low-voltage wires need to cross driveways or pathways.
Before you being, if you are installing outdoor lights or attempting to light a large indoor space, low-voltage LED lights may be a better choice than solar lights. Low-voltage LED lights cast high-quality, bright light that is capable of providing adequate light to an outdoor deck or patio as well as a large space within a house. Solar lights, on the other hand, have a fainter light and tend to cast a light that is slightly blue in color.
Although solar lights are cheaper and less environmentally costly than low-voltage LED lights, you may find that your lighting needs are better met by LED lights. Many homeowners find that the extra time spent performing installation and the more frequent maintenance are worthwhile sacrifices for the brighter, high-quality lights. Both varieties are good alternatives to standard lighting, and neither requires particular expertise to install. If you have any questions about solar or low-voltage LED lighting or the installation and maintenance required for either, consult with an electrician or home improvement specialist.
Low-Voltage Electric Landscape Lighting
Low-voltage electric lights are the choice of many professional landscapers. The brightness of these lights is usually very high and they come in a variety of styles and finishes. The lights do require wiring; however, the wiring process is not terribly difficult. Low-voltage lighting options also allow for the addition of a timer and are a low-cost landscape lighting option.
Low-voltage landscape lights are ideal for lighting up your garden at night without spending too much on your electricity bills. It is powered by a transformer that can be attached to normal outdoor receptacles. Below are the benefits of low voltage lighting system.
Low-voltage landscape lights, when properly positioned and installed, enhance your landscape during night time without the dangers associated with line voltage lighting systems such as short circuits that are the common causes of home fires. A low-voltage landscape lighting system is also not a potential shock hazard since it is especially designed to operate in moist and wet areas.
What are the pros and cons of low voltage lighting?
An electric lighting system of professional grade can increase the value of your property and is a feature that new home buyers are usually interested in. The brightness of low voltage lighting also allows for visitors to locate your property at night with ease. Low-voltage lighting works great when you are looking to illuminate social areas, such as decks and gazebos. An overcast day won’t leave you entertaining your guests in dim light.
On the downside, even the little bit of wiring required may best be left to a professional. The bulbs on low-voltage lights will need to be replaced and the wiring may require care as well. Though these lights do offer timers, the timers will need to be reset for daylight savings time.
Since we are on the subject of landscape lighting, this also includes any fences, trees, or even your house itself that you’d like to illuminate at night. If you do have accessibility to a standard 120V AC current known as line voltage lighting, you can install a spotlight kit in plug-in or in hard-wired form. You’ll see lots of these lights around the holiday season that plug in, but with careful planning, you can install a line-voltage fixture that will last for years. While this may take extra work by way of installing wires and possibly using conduit, it produces the highest lumens/watts of any lighting system.
Another Category in the Deck and Stair Lights is called flush mounted. This kind of light is sometimes lumped together with low voltage lighting, but is really in a class of its own. These lights can be purchased in standard hard-wired (120V) as well as in low-voltage, so you have many options. They are installed flush in the stair riser, which will require accessibility behind it to wire it. I’ve seen customers use these indoors are well, it’s really the safest night for stairs you can get. In this category we will also include post cap lights which are placed on top of a post to give higher lights that look amazing on a deck.
PROS: gives safety and security to seeing steps and decking outdoors/ post lights can come in wired or solar versions
CONS: accessibility behind and under the step/deck is required to install them/ needs proper placement to ensure no excessive water and moisture is contacting the internal electrical components
Other Exterior Lighting Options
This category is very broad, as it can be described as wall task lighting to even post lantern lights. Additionally, security and area exterior lighting is a different category than landscape lighting, but when done in unison, you can get a nice looking light display to compliment whatever you are illuminating.
PROS: 120v line-voltage lighting gives you the brightest landscape lighting possible/ no transformers or batteries to maintain over time/ can be controlled via an indoor switch
CONS: is the most time-consuming and complex wiring installation than other systems/wire will require direct burial/ local electrical codes should be addressed before starting job/ may require an electrician to install. After deciding which is the right lighting system for you, now is the time to set everything up! Some systems like line and low voltage systems will require you to plan out where and how to run the wire. The line voltage systems can be highly unique and can be installed in various lengths and ways.
With recent advances in lighting technology, there are more choices than ever when it comes to deciding what outdoor landscape light is right for you. So before you buy make sure you have an informed decision, this can save you hours of time in the long run.