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Low Voltage Outdoor Lighting


Ease of installation

Exterior light fixtures come in a wide range of designs to suit different areas and create different lighting effects. Most fixture types are available in either 12-volt or 120-volt versions. For the homeowner, 12-volt, or low-voltage landscape lighting systems have several advantages. Most important, low-voltage landscape lighting equipment is easier to install. Except for the transformer that's connected to a 120-volt circuit, the entire system runs on harmless 12-volt current. Low-voltage wiring is lightweight and can be laid on the ground or buried just below the surface.

In contrast, a 120-volt system runs on the same power that supplies your home and requires the same precautions and expertise that normal house wiring does. Outdoor 120-volt lighting will need to be installed according to code and may require buried conduit. Once installed, 120-volt systems are relatively permanent, while outdoor landscape low-voltage lighting fixtures can easily be relocated if you wish to change your lighting scheme. One disadvantage with low voltage wiring is that that the wires are not buried deeply and are more prone to being damaged.

Low voltage systems are relatively inexpensive to purchase and operate

Another advantage of low-voltage lighting equipment is that it can be relatively inexpensive. And, when you do the job yourself, the bottom line for outdoor low-voltage lighting looks even better. Not only can the capital outlay for a standard high-voltage system be greater, but you may need to hire a professional for part or all of the installation.

One shortcoming of low-voltage lighting generally means less lighting power. For example, if you want a brightly lit parking area for security purposes, you may require the muscle of 120 volts. Most grounds and garden situations, however, don't need this much light and can actually look better with tastefully placed low-powered lamps. For extra beef, bright 12-volt halogen lamps can be very effective when used to flood an area with light.

The low-voltage lighting transformer that powers your system must be sized to match the combined wattage of your lamps. If you buy a system that comes with six fixtures, for example, adding new lamps may mean upgrading the low-voltage lighting transformer or adding a second one. And, because voltage drop over long distances is more pronounced in a low-voltage lighting system, using wire that's too light can affect the output at the lamps.

In addition to 12 - and 120-volt systems, some light fixtures use the energy in sunlight to provide electric light in the evening. These solar lamps have a photoelectric panel that charges a battery while the sun shines. When the sun goes down, a light sensor activates the lamp.

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