Outdoor Lighting Overview - Part III

You will need to choose between standard voltage, low voltage, and solar-powered lights. Each type has advantages and disadvantages.

Standard Voltage Lights

Standard lights draw 120 volts from a regular power outlet. They can produce a strong light suitable for lighting large areas or over long distances. They are often more durable than their low voltage counterparts. But this also limits your flexibility in placing them. They tend to be larger, harder to conceal, more difficult to move and aim, and they cost more to install.

The high voltage also means you must take extra safety precautions with the wiring. You will need to get a building permit and wire them through a ground fault interrupter (GFI). The wires must have a rigid casing or be buried at least 18 inches underground, and you will need approved outdoor boxes for all junctions.

Low Voltage Lights

Low voltage lights avoid some of these problems but introduce others. They are safer, easier to place and direct, and therefore more easily moved as your lighting needs change.

To power low voltage lights you will need a transformer that converts the 120 volts from your outlet to 12 volts. Many low voltage systems are available in a kit which includes both the lights and the transformer. Kits tend to have the maximum safe number of lights for the included transformer, so additional lights should not be added.

Alternatively, you can buy the components separately. In that case, add up the wattage used by all the lights you intend to power through a single transformer. Multiply the total wattage by 1.25 to get the recommended transformer capacity for those lights. If the transformer does not come with a fuse box or circuit breaker, you will need to add that to the circuit as well.

Alternatively, you can buy the components separately. In that case, add up the wattage used by all the lights you intend to power through a single transformer. Multiply the total wattage by 1.25 to get the recommended transformer capacity for those lights. If the transformer does not come with a fuse box or circuit breaker, you will need to add that to the circuit as well.

Solar Powered Lights

Solar powered lights tend to be both bulky and expensive. Their main advantage is that they do not require any wiring.

Recommendations

Use standard voltage lights where durability is a concern and wherever you can safely run the wiring. Use low voltage lights if you expect to move the lights frequently and for places that are too cramped for larger lights. Use solar powered for remote areas where it is not possible or safe to run any sort of wiring.

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