Outdoor lighting is well worth the investment to provide curbside appeal, illumination to home features, and provide a sense of security. There are many options and styles of lights available for you to choose from which work with existing electrical outlets, or if electricity is scarce solar power.
But which option is best for your property? You might want to take into account a few details before making a final decision, and first, explore this article that highlights what solar vs low voltage landscape lighting is all about. These differences may help you decide what works for your needs.
Solar vs Low Voltage Landscape Lightning Comparisons
Solar Lighting Explained
Solar lights work by drawing energy from the sun in order to function. Solar panels are made from layers of crystalline silicon and chemicals to form solar cells. As the light from the sun hits these panels, the heat generates movement in the negatively charged electrons which pushes them into positively charged layers of the cell. This activity presents itself as electricity which then transfers along a wire to a battery for storage.
When darkness falls you can activate this stored energy to power your lighting sources. Most solar lights use LED bulbs which are bright, pull very little energy, and are incredibly long-lasting.
Solar lighting varies in cost depending on size and quality. Some options are designed for temporary use and may last a few seasons before the battery life is unable to hold a charge or the bulbs dim. These are typically inexpensive and easy to replace, and often can be found at local dollar stores.
Other options are of higher quality, are made to withstand weather, and have replaceable batteries for when they start to hold less of a charge. Obviously, these options cost a bit more but are designed to be a one time purchase to save you the trouble of having to replace.
It’s also important to consider that solar lighting doesn’t require you to use an electrical outlet, thus saving you money in the long run.
Installation and Maintenance
Solar lighting is incredibly easy to install. Because there are no wires, you can place them literally anywhere they can receive full sunlight for the majority of the day (for charging purposes). Many lights also include cords that run from the light to a solar panel so you have more diversity of placement in case you have shady areas you want to place your lights within.
Solar options stake into the ground, set along fences, gutters, or rooflines, and are easy to mount along vertical surfaces as well.
To keep them running properly, keep the solar panels clean and clear of debris, and also watch for consistent dimming of bulbs that may indicate poor charging due to a dirty panel, or the need of a new battery. Rechargeable solar batteries are easy to find both online and in various stores.
There are some awesome benefits to using solar lighting. First off, you have an endless supply of energy being generated, allowing you to provide illumination without the electric bill of doing so. These lights can also be placed just about anywhere. If you have limited power outlets, a large yard, or want to light at the end of a driveway, solar can reach without the worry of extension cords or expensive electrical installation.
Solar lighting is also very durable. It can withstand severe weather and is designed to handle both heat and cold. Most also have enough power stored to last a few days even if you have cloudy, or low light days that generate less solar energy.
This doesn’t mean they are perfect, however. Solar lights have their share of issues as well. To start, they depend on solar energy, which means they need to spend the majority of each day in full sunlight to fully charge and cast a bright light each night.
They also may not be quite as bright as their electric counterparts, and if considered an ambient light, may cast a bluish hue which is not the best for security uses- and you may need to search for options such as high lumen driveway lights to meet your needs rather than depend on more basic designs. They also may not last through the entire night, and their strength will wan with low lighting and cloudy days.
Low Voltage Wired Lighting Explained
Unlike lighting that runs directly from your 120 volt home outlet, low voltage lighting only requires 12 volts. These lights are specific for landscape use and is powered by a transformer that converts the 120 volts of current to 12 volts. These are often equipped with a timer to allow you to set the times your lights come on and go off automatically.
The cable used to string together lights is designed to be buried underground. Various sized cables and transformers work together to provide power to the system you want to set up. For example, the more lights you have, the more capacity the transformer will need to provide.
This type of system can get costly, and quickly. Although it is fairly easy to run cable and install the transformer if you are uncomfortable with electrical work you will need to hire somebody to do so. Each lighting fixture will also cost you money, with various designs and styles reflecting various price ranges. Altogether this can add up fast.
Installation and Maintenance
Installation can take some time but it is not difficult. To run cable a trench will need to be dug to bury it just below the surface and hooked up to the transformer. Each lighting fixture also will need to be attached to the cable to provide power. These fixtures then become semi-permanent. You can move them after installation but will need to reconnect them to your cable if you choose to do so.
Once installed the system is basically well protected and requires very little in the way of maintenance. Keeping the bulbs clean for a clear lighting effect and take care to avoid fixtures during landscape maintenance is a must.
This type of lighting option allows you to turn your lights on and off at any time, so if a low light day has you needing illumination, you can provide it. You also can easily hook them into timers or even self-operating photocells to turn on at specific times of the day and night.
Lights are designed for all-weather use and are dependable no matter what the weather. Their lights will be consistent as well without worry of a dimming bulb due to a low power source.
You are somewhat limited in your placement of this type of system as you need a connected electrical source. Most of this type of lighting is placed along the ground to light up walkways, driveways, or illuminate landscape features. They are not designed to be mounted on vertical surfaces, along rooflines or fences, or within trees.
On occasion, cables may be cut due to landscaping or yard maintenance and planning. If this occurs the cable will need to be rewired.
Adding landscape lighting to your home and garden is a great way to highlight your features and provide illumination for various needs. You have many options to choose from when it comes to style and design, and also an electrical source. Solar allows you to place lights just about anywhere they can recharge, and are dependable options as long as the sun comes out. Low voltage wired lighting is more consistent overall but does have limitations in placement. There is nothing saying you can’t mix and match their use either!
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