I was recently asked by a female homeowner to explain the pros and cons of low voltage landscape lighting versus line voltage lighting or solar lights you can buy at a large super store. Not wanting to be highly technical I told her the following:
The standard line voltage landscape lights can sometimes be very harsh. They use a high watt bulb and if not aimed just right, they can leave bright “hot spots” on homes or trees. Line voltage or 120 volt systems also use higher wattage bulbs where the energy consumption can be quite significant, especially if they are turned on for several hours. The installation of line voltage lights is also much more invasive to a homeowner’s property. The cable has to be buried very deep which usually involves heavy trenching and requires new landscaping. Lighting systems using 120 volts also take longer to install.
The solar lights that can be purchased at a super store have a very limited life span. They are often times made of plastic and not designed to be a fixture that will be kept for a long time. I explained that the light output was really more of a “glow” rather than actually lighting something. Although they are energy efficient because they use no power from your home, their inabilty to create any usable light makes them a waste of money and time. Another big draw back is that on over cast or rainy days, the batteries will not recharge enough to create even a dim glow of light.
I told this homeowner that the best of both worlds could be obtained through a low voltage lighting system. The fixtures we use are wired into a transformer which used 12 volts which is much safer thatn 120 volts. The light output is usally better than that of a line voltage system and it uses less wattage which saves energy. Since our fixtures are low voltage, we can use them in areas that other fixtures can’t be used, such as wet areas. The placement of our lights is carefully designed so that there are no hot spots or bulbs shining in your eyes as you drive by a house. The installation is minimally invasive to your property; everything is done by hand so no deep trenching is involved.
She appreciated the information and decided that a low voltage lighting system was the best choice for her. I really appreciated the fact that she wanted to be educated a bit on the types of lighting she had heard about.