The brilliance of low-voltage yard lights
I need efficient outdoor lighting by my deck and landscaping. I need something simple to install, so I thought about low-voltage lights. Are low-voltage lights efficient, and what types are best?—Ronnie S.
The big advantage of low-voltage lighting is you can install it yourself and eliminate the professional installation expenses. There is a huge variety of styles and accessories at nearly every home center and hardware store.
Another advantage is safety.
With low-voltage lighting, when you work in your landscaping and gardens, you do not have to worry about the risk of electrocution when digging with metal garden tools. Because the wires on the ground carry only 12 volts, you will not be shocked if you nick one.
The energy efficiency of low-voltage lighting is fairly similar to standard line-voltage (120 volts) outdoor lighting. If you are interested in brightly lighting a large area, line-voltage lighting fixtures, such as low-pressure sodium, are the better choice.
The newest and most energy-efficient low-voltage landscaping lighting uses super-efficient LEDs (light emitting diodes).
LEDs are still considerably more expensive than other lighting alternatives, but they use one-fourth to one-fifth as much electricity as equivalent incandescent bulbs. They also last at least 10 times longer.
The most difficult part of installing a low-voltage lighting system is making sure the total wattage of all the fixtures on a line does not exceed the rated output of the transformer. The maximum 12-volt output wattage will be listed on the transformer, and the instructions for the fixtures should list their individual wattages.
If you buy a prepackaged low-voltage lighting kit, it will include the proper size transformer for the number and types of lights. If you add more or assemble your own, be careful not to exceed the transformer’s output maximum or ever go above 300 watts. If a lighting layout requires more than 300 watts, do not connect two transformers together. Set up two separate wiring layouts to stay below 300 watts on each.
When purchasing a low-voltage system, select a transformer with a built-in mechanical or electronic timer or photo-eye control.
The most convenient are photo-eye controlled transformers. A photo-eye control has many sequencing options. One of the more convenient and efficient is “on” at dusk, “off” in a set number of hours. For security, an “on” at dusk, “off” at dawn is a good option but uses more electricity.
The following companies offer low-voltage lights:
Troy Landscape Lighting