All the effort that you’ve put in to make your house, the patio, the lawn, the pathways in it, the flower beds, the backyard, the fence and more stand apart from the rest, remains hidden once the sun sets. A well-designed landscape lighting system can change that completely. Not only will it add a new dimension to the house through the evening and night, but you will also be able to use the space productively once it’s well lit. You will be able to host get togethers outside, instead of fitting everyone in the house. The architectural features of your house, the trees and flowering plants in the garden will also get a chance to shine bright.
Once you’ve made up your mind that investing a bit on an aesthetic landscape lighting design is the way to go, there are a few things that you need to become aware of. Firstly, the size of the space that needs to be covered will help you determine whether a do it yourself (DIY) is feasible or if you require professional assistance. If you decide to go down the DIY path, then low-voltage lighting is the recommended option for you. To put it simply, low voltage lighting is relatively easy to install, it’s safe and isn’t expensive.
The alternative is to use line voltage. It’s typically used in outdoor lighting of commercial or public usage spaces. You can use it for residential landscape lighting as well, however, it will cost you significantly more than low-voltage landscape lighting. In addition, you will need to hire a professional electrician to take care of the installation. The reason line voltage simply doesn’t make sense for residential outdoor lighting any longer is because low voltage modern LED lighting fixtures, in combination with multi-tier step-down transformers, are capable of matching the power of a line voltage based setup.
This is probably the most important reason why low-voltage landscape lighting is recommended for residential properties. You will obviously be spending some time in the outdoor space. It’s likely that you have kids at home, who will be playing in this space. Then there are your guests. A low-voltage lighting system with 12 volt power ensures that they will be protected from shocks, in case they mistakenly touch something. On the other hand, if you opt for line voltage, which has 120 volt power, the consequences of an accident will be severe.
Setting up a line voltage landscape lighting system requires several safety measures such as burying the wires at least 18 feet deep and ensuring that the wire connections can be accessed via junction boxes. So, it’s advisable that you hire a professional to oversee the entire process. In case of low voltage landscape lighting, you can set it up on your own. It’s essentially a transformer-cable-light fixtures setup, which is relatively easy to learn. Plus, working in a low voltage setup is safe, so you can afford to do it yourself.
You will have to buy a transformer for a low-voltage setup, which isn’t required for the line voltage system. While the cables you would need for line voltage lighting are more expensive than those needed for low-voltage lighting. In addition, you should be using LED light fixtures in the low voltage system, which cost more than incandescent lights but last significantly longer. LED light fixtures also consume much less power, so your electricity bill will be lower as well.
Even if you don’t use LED fixtures, in a line voltage system you would require bulbs and fixtures that are 50 watts or more. Whereas in a low voltage system, you can use bulbs and fixtures as low as 2-10 watts.
Since, low-voltage landscape lighting has become the de facto choice for residential properties, manufacturers have developed a significantly wider variety of light fixtures for low-voltage systems. In terms of color and the lenses, there are many more options in a low-voltage system as compared to a line voltage system. This allows you to be more creative in designing the effect of the lights. You can move away from the garish halogen flood lights and create a more intricate lighting system.
The transformer is the most important element in the low-voltage lighting system. It steps down the standard 120 volt current is household to 12 volt for the landscape lighting system. Ideally, you should buy a transformer that has a 24-hour timer, allowing you to set a specific time for the lights to be automatically switched on and off.
The other thing you need to keep in mind is to buy a transformer with a power output slightly higher than what you need at the time of setting up the landscape lighting system. For example, if the total wattage of the light fixtures you plan to install comes up to 500 watt, then buy a 700 watt transformer. This will enable you to add to your lighting system later on, without having to invest in a new transformer.
There’s a plethora of light fixtures available in various price ranges. Selecting the right collection of light fixtures is important, because they will ultimately be responsible for the aesthetics. Hence, you need to first chalk out a clear plan and make a list of the types of light fixtures you require. One way of doing this is asking yourself a few simple questions.
You can get path lights in a variety of styles and in packs of 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10. You can also get complete kits, including flood lights, path lights, spot lights and a transformer. All light fixtures are available with LEDs, which is the ideal option for residential landscape lighting.
Now that you have a better idea about the types of light fixtures suited for the outdoor space around your house, you also need to take into consideration their longevity. A light fixture in a plastic casing won’t last as long as one with a metal casing. Obviously, the the metal fixtures will cost more, but will eventually balance itself because of its longevity.
Finally, remember that it’s your space and you should let your imagination guide you.
The cable connects the light fixtures to the transformers. Generally, the 12-gauge, 14-gauge and 16-gauge cables are used for residential landscape lighting. Note that the 12-gauge cable is thicker than the 14-gauge cable and has greater current delivery capacity. Similarly, the 14-gauge cableis thicker than the 16-gauge cable and equipped to handle more current.
For example, if your transformer is 300 watts, then in case of the 16-gauge cable, it can power only 100 feet, for the 14-gauge cable it can power 150 feet and for 12-gauge cable it can power 200 feet. So, you need to calculate the total length of cable required to connect all the light fixtures and then select the right gauge of cable you need to buy, keeping in mind the transformer wattage.
One more thing. Since, you will have to bury the cable, you should get in touch with the utilities company and ask them to mark out the locations of the cables and pipelines under your property. This will ensure that you accidentally don’t damage one of them.
The installation process essentially comprises three steps — one for each of the three key components of the system.
We hope these tips come in handy when you’re all set to light up your landscape area. Keep these tips in mind and you’ll a wonderfully lit outdoor space!
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