February 1, 2011 Leave a comment
So… you know you want to have some kind of lighting on your deck, but there are so many different options you don’t know quite where to begin. Well you came to the right place. For the past 12 years Long Island Decking has been lighting up approximately 90 percent of all the decks we install. That’s a lot of lights!! It is the number one accessory that we are asked. They add beauty, value and more importantly, safety to your backyard. Lighting up stairs will cut down on accidental falls, and lighting up railings or up-lighting the back of the house will make your home less of a target for burglars.
Let’s start with the three basic types of lighting available in the market today so you have a basic understanding of the differences between them.
1. Line voltage or 110
2. Low voltage or 12V
3. Solar lighting
Line Voltage or 110
Line Voltage is exactly the same type of electricity that you will find throughout the rest of your home. It is the same power that runs through all of your outlets, powers your television, appliances, and other lighting.
The biggest advantage that line voltage has over the other two is that practically no matter how far you have to go away from your power source you will not have a noticeable difference in the brightness of your fixtures. Low voltage lighting experiences what’s known as voltage drop. That means the further you get away from your power source the dimmer your lights will get.
In most municipalities installing line voltage requires lighting requires a licensed electrician. That means that typically an electrical permit has to be pulled and an electrical inspection has to be performed. These additional steps usually end up costing more and taking longer than the other types of installation. They are fed power through wires.
Low Voltage or 12 V
Low voltage lighting is our preferred type of installation at Long Island Decking. Contrary to popular belief low voltage lighting is not dimmer that line voltage. When installed properly they are just as bright as the line voltage equivalents if not brighter.
Typically all that is needed to install low voltage lighting is an outlet to plug a transformer into. In our area at the time of writing this article you do not need to file additional permits or have a licensed electrician to install them. The newest fixtures on the market today are available in LED. They use a fraction of the power of a normal fixture and last up to 15 years before having to be changed. Less power means smaller transformer and lower cost. These newer fixtures also cut down considerably on voltage drop that is known to plague low voltage systems. We can install 50 fixtures on a single 60 watt transformer and only use the power of a 50 watt bulb. Now that’s efficient!!
Normal incandescent low voltage lighting fixtures are known for burning bulbs out rather quickly. They also experience voltage drop and require special wiring techniques to avoid having some lights dimmer than others. They are fed power through wires.
Solar lighting is by far the easiest to install as there is no wiring to deal with. Just unpack set outside and wait for it to get dark out. Most solar lighting are used as post caps as they get direct sun and collect energy from the now smaller solar panels on top.
Ease of installation… let me say it again. Ease of installation. The main thing that solar lighting has going for it is that they are very simple to install. No wiring necessary. That means that not only do you not need a permit, you definitely do not need an electrician. There is no timer or switch to worry about as they will turn on via a sensor built right into the fixture. They use no power.
Brightness level is the biggest complaint about solar lighting in general. Though the newest generations are much better brighter and smaller than years past they still have a long way to go to catch up with the other two types of installation. Batteries tend to die after a few seasons. Don’t stay on all night.
I hope you now have at least have a general understanding of the three types of exterior lighting available to you so you can make an informed decision on which works best for you on your home.
Owner Jay Oliver has been designing and installing backyard projects in Long Island NY for the past 20 years. If you have any questions or comments on this article please leave them below.