LED lights have the lowest voltage of landscape lighting available on the market. Many government buildings and schools are changing their outdoor signage to LED light bulbs to save a substantial amount of money on their electricity bills. There is also less expense for maintenance costs to repair or replace the bulbs, because LED bulbs last 10 times longer than fluorescent bulbs.
Specialty landscaping low-voltage lights come in all sorts of styles, heights and effects. Your landscape design will determine what type of light fixture you will need to accentuate certain features in the dark. The appearance of the light fixture during the day, when it is unlit, can also be a determining factor when shopping for outdoor lights. There are styles with engraved figures and nature elements on them.
LED (Light-emitting diodes) bulbs are considered the future of lighting.
Light-emitting diodes use less power than any other bulb on the market and they have extra-long life spans. They are not as bright as conventional halogen bulbs, and the light they produce can look natural. Their initial purchase price can be expensive compared with other types of bulbs, but this is offset over the long run by their low running costs.
Low-voltage landscape lights run at 12 volts. They come in affordable kit sets, making them easy to buy and install. The bulbs do not last anywhere near as long as LEDs, but they produce a more natural light. They are cheaper than LEDs to set up and are inexpensive to run — although not quite as cheap as LEDs.
LEDs are better overall bulbs and are believed to be the future of lighting, and once the technology becomes more prevalent the bulbs’ price will become more affordable. But as of 2011, low-voltage lights remain the most accessible option for the budget conscious and are recommended by experts as good lighting options for the garden.
Residential Lighting: What is the difference between line voltage and low voltage?
Meeker: Line voltage means that it’s running on the line voltage of the home without a transformer, which is 120 volts. It’s table lamps, and most ceiling fixtures, chandeliers, are line voltage. Low voltage means there’s a transmitter, and [the electricity is] being transformed so the 120 volts is being brought down to 12 volts. Some chandeliers are low voltage. A lot of recessed cans are low voltage. Task lighting, desk lights are low voltage sometimes.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of each?
Typically the advantage of line voltage is that it’s going to be a less expensive fixture because you don’t have a transformer. It tends to be sort of more traditional lighting style fixtures. Low voltage, on the other hand… uses smaller lightbulbs, so you can have more compact fixtures. So if you want to have a really super narrow spot or if you wanted to have a big, wide flood, they’ve got that and everything in between. So, the advantage of low voltage is that it’s got a lot more interesting lamps to use than with line voltage.
With line voltage, [if you want] recessed cans, usually you have either a flood or a spot; there’s a choice between the two, and that’s about it. Whereas with the low voltage, there might be 20 different beam variations in any given wattage. And the other advantage for recessed cans is that there are different types of lenses that can be put in front of low voltage — some line voltage lamps have that but more usually in the low voltage field — so you can change the way the light is. So not only do you have all these beam spreads, but you also have these effects you can create: You can soften the beam, you can stretch it out, you can do all sorts of things with it. So it’s great for lighting artwork, for creating mood and accent, that sort of thing.
What are some other disadvantages to low-voltage light fixtures?
One of the disadvantages of the low-voltage light bulb [is] that you need to have a transformer somewhere. And sometimes transformers buzz and hum. You don’t normally get a buzz or hum from a line-voltage light bulb.
Buy good quality fixtures, number one. Number two, when you are installing low-voltage light fixtures, you have to have a low-voltage dimmer to go with it. That sometimes helps reduce the noise. And then proper installation also helps. If you follow those three guidelines — good equipment to start with, the proper dimmer and then also the right installation — you should have a problem. But, you know, it does come up every once in a while, so it’s a matter of sort of fiddling around with some of the components to see if you can get it to quiet down.
[Low-voltage is not a whole lot more energy efficient than line-voltage]. It turns out that tungsten, as we said, is not very energy efficient; it generates a lot of heat. Next up on the ladder of electricity usage is halogen… [which] is more efficient with its wattage, so it produces more light per watt, about one-and-a-half times the amount. The next up on the ladder would be fluorescent. And fluorescent in a sense is low-voltage because it has a ballast with it. It’s more energy efficient. One of the disadvantages of fluorescent is you can’t really focus the beam very well; it’s more of a general illumination. It can be dimmed, but you have to use special dimmers and ballast to do it. And then on the top of efficiency heap would be LEDs.