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What is low voltage landscape lighting?

If you care about how the space around your home looks, you’re probably interested in figuring out the best landscape lighting for your property. Low voltage landscape lights are something that many discerning homeowners might wish to consider.

So what is the difference between standard lighting and low voltage lighting? Simply put, low voltage lighting uses less power than normal “line voltage” lights; in most cases, a low voltage lighting system might only run off a tenth as much power as line voltage lighting (down to as little as 12 volts). Led lighting is a popular example of low voltage landscape lights.

What are the benefits of low voltage lighting?

One major benefit of low voltage lighting is that it tends to last much longer without the lights needing replacement. While regular or high voltage light bulbs can last quite a while—up to 1 or 2 thousand hours of use—a low voltage bulb can last more than 6 thousand hours, which is at least triple the lifespan of standard lighting. In addition, you’ll save money since you won’t need to purchase new bulbs too often for low voltage systems. It also makes things much more convenient for lighting that is difficult to reach or not always seen as frequently-for example, outdoor lighting. With low voltage landscape lighting, you’ll be able to sit back and let your lights take care of themselves for much longer, meaning that you won’t find yourself wandering your outdoor space looking for burned-out bulbs nearly as frequently as you would need to. Furthermore, because low voltage lighting uses less energy, you can use the same amount of power to set up a greater number of lights, which can sometimes lead to reduced energy usage for your home overall.

Another benefit of low voltage lighting is that it is significantly less dangerous than standard line voltage, especially when outdoors and buried in the ground or potentially exposed to the elements. Some low voltage wiring is even carrying a low enough charge that you could touch the exposed wiring without feeling a shock. This makes low voltage power an excellent option for landscape lighting since it can be more safely handled and is easier to modify without needing experience in electrical work.

How far can you run low voltage landscape lights?

You can use standard line voltage lighting just about anywhere, and it is often required for lighting that is integral to the structure. This kind of lighting is the standard, in other words, and can run lights essentially as far away from your power source as you want-provided that you can run wires to the location.

However, despite its other benefits, low voltage lighting is more limited. Low voltage lighting is usually used for decorative lights, display lighting, and landscape lighting but should probably not be used in your home’s central lighting systems. Additionally, low voltage lighting is more limited in its range. Because the power being sent down the line is lower from the start, low voltage transformers can’t reach as far as line voltage power sources, so low voltage lighting that’s placed too far away may not get all the power it needs to run properly (or at all).

Fortunately, even though the range is more limited, it’s still possible to extend low voltage power quite some distance from its power source-low voltage lines can usually power lights up to 100 or 150 feet, depending on the gauge of the wire. For some  systems it is possible to reach 250-300 feet. This means that most landscaping projects for average-sized yards will still be easily within the range of a single power source for low voltage lighting.

Should I convert my landscape lighting to low voltage?

If you are interested in learning more about installing low voltage lights, you probably will first want to consider if your landscape is a good place to implement this lighting solution. Because low voltage lighting is much safer to work with, it’s a good option for DIY outdoor lighting, meaning that you won’t as often find yourself needing to work with professional electricians and extensive safety equipment. 

How does a low voltage transformer work?

Before you work with one of these systems, you probably want to know how the systems work. Low voltage transformers convert the higher-voltage power already connected to your home into a low voltage power source, bringing the line voltage down to about 12 volts.

Fortunately for those interested, low voltage transformers tend to be fairly simple to use. Though each will likely come with unique instructions, depending on the manufacturer, you’ll probably find that your low voltage transformer simply needs to be installed on a wall of your home (or another convenient, upright location) near an outlet. Then, once you’ve set up your landscape lighting, you’ll make sure to connect the wire for your lighting system to the transformer as per the instructions, after which the transformer can be plugged in and activated.

If you are not confident in your ability to connect the wiring systems to the transformer yourself, there’s still a lot that you can get done without help! For example, planning out the lighting system for your landscaping, laying out the lights and wires in the landscape, and installing the low voltage transformer are all things you can do without much technical know-how. You can always ask for advice or help on any parts outside your typical experience. On the other hand, you might find that the instructions with the transformer are simple enough for you to safely follow on your own, even without a history of electrical work! Just be sure your transformer is safely unplugged while you’re working on setting up the wiring. 

How many lights can you put in a low voltage transformer?

The answer to this question depends heavily on the capacity of your transformer. The transformer should have a “maximum wattage output” which should not be exceeded; as long as you keep track of the power used by each low voltage light, and then make sure the total does not exceed the maximum capacity of the transformer, your lighting system should work just fine. (For example, if your transformer has a 100-watt limit, and your lights use 12 watts each, the transformer could fully and easily power 8 of those lights.)

Can you run low voltage wires above ground? 

Yes, in many cases. Unlike line voltage wiring, which needs a protective casing and careful treatment to ensure that it doesn’t endanger people or animals nearby, low voltage wiring is safe enough that it doesn’t require as much effort. Most of what you do to bury or hide low voltage wiring will be focused on keeping your landscaping free of tripping hazards (by lightly burying any lines that cross your yard, for example) and on concealing wiring that runs along fences or in similar areas (for instance, by running wiring through garden beds under several inches of mulch). Any wiring that runs overhead, such as that for an outdoor lighting fixture that outlines your home’s roof or goes up along a tree trunk, can be held in place with staples or with similar solutions. 

As with any digging project, if you find yourself wanting or needing to bury low voltage wiring in your yard, you’ll want to be sure that you know where you can and cannot dig—you will want to bury the line about 6 inches to 1 foot under the surface, so it’s a bright idea to contact your utility companies or a company that helps map what’s buried in your yard so that you don’t accidentally break any pre-existing pipes, wiring, or anything of that sort. 

How can Jellyfish Lighting help transform my landscape lighting?

Jellyfish Lighting is a company that offers outdoor lighting solutions, including outdoor color-changing lights and much more. Jellyfish lighting also offers a DIY guide for determining how much wiring you’ll need and where to place your control system.