Comparing the different types of deck lighting
There are four different types of deck lighting. These lighting systems all have different characteristics. The types of deck lighting are solar, 12-volt (usually called low-voltage), LED, and line voltage.
Each solar light has a built-in solar panel that provides power for the light. The solar panel collects energy and turns it into electrical current. The current is stored in a re-chargeable battery; which then powers the light when it is required. The obvious benefit to solar lights is the ease of installation. Since there is no central power source and no wiring, you can put solar lights just about anywhere. The drawback to solar lights is the amount and quality of the light they produce. If you are trying to create bright areas with bold shadows, you will be unhappy with solar lighting. If you want accent lighting that is environmentally friendly and easy to install, solar lighting may be just what you are looking for.
Every low-voltage lighting system starts with a voltage transformer. This is a box that plugs into an existing 110 volt wall outlet and reduces the voltage to approximately 12 volts. Transformers usually have either a Stainless steel or black plastic housing. They usually have a switch to turn the lights on/off; as well as a timer that can be set to automatically turn the lights on and off once or twice each day. Some transformers are equipped with a photocell that will turn the lights on at dusk and off at dawn. The photocell can work in conjunction with a timer. Transformers are usually mounted next to a power outlet on the exterior of the house. Low-voltage cable is connected to the transformer and to each light. Many low-voltage lights have connectors that simply push sharp points through the low-voltage cable, so you don’t even need to strip the wires. Installing a low-voltage lighting system is a very easy process that does not require any special expertise. There are a few areas in the country that require a licensed electrician for low-voltage work, but most do not. Low-voltage lighting is the most popular type of deck and landscape lighting. It costs less to operate and is easier to install than line-voltage lighting; and it provides more consistent lighting than solar lights. There are an enormous variety of types and styles of low-voltage lighting.
Much like low-voltage lights, LED light systems also begin with a voltage transformer (sometimes called a driver), although the transformer for LED lighting converts the 110volt AC power into direct current (DC) power. Installation of LED lighting is otherwise just like low-voltage lighting, except the wire is smaller. The LED bulbs are much smaller than regular bulbs, so the LED fixtures have the potential to be much smaller too. This allows LED lights to be designed for tiny spaces that would never have been large enough for low-voltage lights. Another big advantage to the LED lights is energy efficiency. A low-voltage light that uses 16-20 watts of energy can be replaced by a LED fixture that uses just one watt of energy! LED lights also will last for 50,000-100,000 hours. The only issue with LED lights is the initial cost. Although the operating costs are much lower than low-voltage lights, they currently cost significantly more to buy.
Unlike LED or low-voltage lights, no transformer is required for line-voltage systems. Line-voltage uses regular 110volt AC power just like your interior lighting. Line-voltage lights use more energy than the other types of deck lighting, but they can also offer more light. Line-voltage lights should also be installed by a licensed electrician.
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