Landscape lighting can make or break your outdoor area. If you spend much time outside during the night, they are necessary. Especially if you live in a rural area street lights won’t be visible from your yard.
But even in the city, having your own landscape lights can make you feel more independent and make your outdoor area appear much cozier. But how do you decide what type of outdoor lights to get?
What Is Low Voltage Landscape Lighting?
The name is quite self-explanatory with this type of lighting. It is simply a type of lighting that is low-voltage and used for landscaping. This means it must be weatherproof and work for nighttime lighting.
But more often than not, low voltage landscape lighting will have a transformer, a thin cable, and piercing connectors for the lights. This is the most common type of low voltage landscape lighting.
What Is Line Voltage?
Line voltage is a more complicated type of lighting used for path lights. They use a thick cable that is buried over a foot underground. The cable is run through conduits and needs weatherproof junction boxes.
It’s not a good idea to install line voltage lights yourself because a faulty installation can result in injury at the time or later on. That said, this type of lighting is wonderful if you have a professional install it.
Why Voltage Matters
Voltage matters because if you don’t have enough voltage, you won’t be able to power your lighting. But if you have too much, then the lighting is unnecessarily dangerous. So finding a good balance is key.
That said, there are only two types of outdoor lights that are hardwired and powered through your outdoor electrical system. These two lights are line voltage lights and low voltage lights. Let’s take a dive into what those two terms mean.
Line Voltage vs. Low Voltage Landscape Lighting
The term line voltage is actually just another way to say “standard voltage” which is around 120 volts. But low voltage is much lower and much safer. Line voltage can definitely take out a human while low voltage likely won’t.
That said, considering it is outdoor lighting we are referring to, when you mix water with electricity, that voltage becomes much more volatile. So even low voltage can do damage to humans in the rain.
Line Voltage Vs. Low Voltage Factors
Here are a few ways to tell the difference between line voltage and low voltage lighting
Cable Thickness: line voltage lighting has a thicker cable than low voltage lighting. A low voltage light will have a cable like a lamp or a hairdryer. While a line voltage light will have a cable more similar to a fridge.
Buried Cable: though both low voltage and line voltage cables are usually buried, most low voltage cables are just under the surface. But line voltage cables are completely buried at least a foot underground.
Junction Box Vs. Transformer: a line voltage light needs a solid and safely stored junction box while a low voltage light can use a transformer, which is similar to a doorbell transformer. This is the standard.
Permanence: line voltage lights are generally much more permanent. Since they use a buried cable and a junction box this can already be assumed. But they don’t generally make line voltage items that are temporary.
DIY: low voltage systems can be done on your own quite easily. However, a line voltage system should definitely be installed by a professional. When it comes to safety, it’s always worth the money.
Maintenance: low voltage systems don’t need much maintenance because when they would need maintenance, they are usually failing. Which means they need to be replaced. But line voltage systems don’t need to be replaced as often.
Other Landscape Lighting Options
If neither the standard low voltage nor line voltage outdoor lighting is right for you, then perhaps one of these other, safer options will do. These can all be installed by you in one afternoon, likely in less than an hour.
Solar lights are a cord-free, safe, and energy-efficient way to light your yard. They are also the most eco-friendly way you can light your yard. You can find solar lights in many different shapes and sizes as well.
You can find round lights that screw into the fence, stake lights that work like garden lights, and larger lights that you can mount on the side of your house. In reality, almost any outdoor light can be a solar light.
Battery lights are also known as battery-powered lights. They are powered by batteries which automatically makes them safer and much easier to install than those with cables like the standard line voltage lights.
Battery lights, in theory can be found in any type of light. However, they are most commonly found in small lights as batteries are generally very low voltage. Even a car battery is only 12V, believe it or not.
Floodlights are a type of light rather than a type of lighting if that makes sense. They are defined by the way that they are powered but where they are installed and what they look like. Floodlights are a very common outdoor light.
Because floodlights are usually installed on the side of your house, the wiring is usually connected to your house as well, just like an indoor light. So the wiring isn’t outdoors, yet the light is outdoors.
String lights are usually low voltage and plug into an outdoor outlet. They work like a lamp and have an extremely well-insulated cord. Because it plugs in and is safe, a string light doesn’t need its cord buried.
You can get all different types of string lights. You can get tropical tiki lights, fairy lights, or even Christmas lights. In fact, after Christmastime is a good time to get a really good deal on string lights for your yard.
Landscape Lighting Ideas
If you are struggling with how to use your outdoor lights and landscape lighting, then these ideas and inspiration may help.
Outdoor Indoor Lights
You can use indoor lights outside most of the time. They just need to have a weatherproof cover and preferably, be used under a cover, like a porch. If you can take care of that, then your possibilities are endless.
Invisible Light Source
There are a few different ways to do this but the most common way is to hide the lighting in a tree. That way, the tree seems to glow and let light radiate throughout the whole yard. This is a neat and alluring trick.
Hanging Tree Lights
Another way to use trees is to hang hanging lights from the limbs. For solar or battery-powered lights, that’s all you need to do. But for lights with cords, you will need to secure the cord along the branch and down the trunk.
Water Source Lights
If you have a pool or are lucky enough to have a waterfall, having lights come from the water leaves you with such an amazing effect. It seems like the water is glowing, just like the tree lights we talked about earlier.
If you have a pergola or similar structure, you can line the underneath of the pergola with string lights. This is the easiest way to install string lights that makes them stable and radiate a lot of light at night.
You can light up solid steps by putting lights on the vertical ends of them and light up opens steps by putting lights on the underside of them. Both options look great and let a lot of light come from the steps.
Overhead Blanket Lights
This is similar to the pergola idea but instead of the pergola holding the lights up, you will need to use posts if they are too far apart. This is a common look for restaurants and Mediterranean areas.
Path lights are a great way to make sure the light hits all the right spots. Because the path in your yard is the number one spot that needs to be lit up. It will prevent accidents and it looks super cool, making the yard look even bigger.
Should I Get Low Voltage Or Line Voltage Lighting?
This depends on just a couple of things. The first one is whether you want to do it yourself or not. If you do it yourself, get low voltage. If you hire a professional, you can do either low voltage or line voltage.
Now, when it comes to other things to consider, the most important thing you need to think about is energy and environmental costs. Low voltage is much better in this case, but that said, line voltage is still a great choice.
Because line voltage is the standard. The lights will last longer, shine brighter, and need less work after they are installed. So after you consider these few things, you can then decide which is right for you.