So, What Landscape Lighting Can’t be Beat? Low Voltage that is!

Depending on who you ask, the answer is either solar or low-voltage lighting. Of course, we say “Low Voltage Landscape Lighting”. Let’s shed a little light on the topic, shall we?

Is there any advantage to Solar?

Using Solar anything has the advantage of a renewable energy source – at least for the next few billion years. Sunrise is as reliable as reliable can get, after all. There are other factors to consider, however; things such as budget, maintenance effort, ease of installation, environmental friendliness and reliability.

When looking at solar lighting from a budgetary perspective, the costs are fairly low (short-term).  The most obvious cost saving is on the electric bill. Since they are not connected to your home’s electricity, there’s no increase in usage; the sun’s energy recharges the system’s batteries. However, occasional battery replacement will generate some expense.

We say short-term, as typically the inexpensive (cheaply-made) solar lighting will not last long or will not even produce enough light to brighten up a pathway. Thus, you will be using more of them, and/or replacing often.

With these solar lights, you don’t have to worry about complicated  wiring jobs as most solar landscape lights can be installed as easily as pushing the light posts into the ground and burying the wires that run between the lights. Just be prepared to replace often.

What are some more of the downsides to solar? Read on:

  • Most solar lighting fixtures have small solar panels. The smaller the panel, the less solar energy is collected and sent to the batteries.
  • If you have frequently shaded areas or live in an area that doesn’t get a lot of direct sunlight, the system may not charge properly.
  • Despite manufacturer claims, many homeowners find that the “Super Bright White” LEDs are actually rather dim with a bluish tint. In fact, many people say solar lighting shouldn’t be used to brightly light large areas or areas used for socializing. In other words, it’s not that great for outdoor living areas!
  • In order to achieve bright enough lighting for these areas, it is often necessary to install more fixtures. This is often less aesthetically pleasing as it gives a runway-like appearance to your landscape.
  • Battery replacement is a more frequent occurrence than expected.
  • Another maintenance-increasing issue is solar panels becoming dirty which prevents them from charging the system.
  • Many Solar Landscape Lights simply stop working. Thus you need to replace them and in the long wrong it may cost you more for much less quality.
  • Lastly, solar landscape lighting fixtures typically turn on when it’s dark and off when it’s lights. There is very little control!

The Lowdown on Low-Voltage Landscape Lighting – The Clear Winner!

You can get this type of lighting in many different brightness levels and styles. While the light each fixture provides may vary by manufacturer, it is considered very good and one of the best forms of landscape lighting. Electricity is provided to the lights via a transformer which can be controlled on automatic timer.

First up, budget: it’s typically more expensive to purchase and install low-voltage systems, but, unlike solar, they can be permanently installed. Other than bulbs, low-voltage systems tend to be more durable and longer-lasting than their solar equivalents which is ultimately a cost-saver. You can now get outdoor low-voltage landscape lighting with LEDs which further decreases electrical costs. An added benefit to the longevity of LEDs and low replacement requirements is not struggling to get into those hard-to-reach places where you may have some of your lighting located. While you won’t avoid replacing bulbs altogether, LEDs don’t burn out suddenly, leaving you in the dark.

There are some not-so-obvious cost-savings with low-voltage lighting. For instance, professionally-installed lighting systems often increase the property and resale value of your home. Many homeowners have also found that their homes are more secure due to the proper lighting. Low-voltage lights provide brighter light and the same level of brightness all night, whereas solar-powered lights are limited in output by the size of their batteries. This limitation is most obvious as solar lighting systems often power down after several hours. An increase in safety and security brings a decrease in expense caused by vandalism. Further, low-voltage systems are shockless and much safer around children and pets.

If you install a low-voltage landscape lighting system with LEDs, you reduce maintenance effort. Likewise, the need to clean solar panels is eliminated. In terms of installation, the most difficult part is burying the wires, which by the way, you need to do with solar lighting systems, too. An LED low-voltage lighting system is also environmentally friendly. There’s no mercury in the LEDs and the amount of electricity required to run the system is very small.

As for reliability, a cloudy day or dirty solar panels will not affect the operation of the low-voltage landscape lighting system. You get to enjoy more time outside in the evenings, whether it’s ambient light for your deck or direct light for your grill. You can also put these lights in locations not serviceable by solar panels, such as shaded areas.

Too good to be true? As we mentioned earlier in this article, both systems have their issues. Here’s a list of the issues you’ll have with low-voltage landscape lighting:

  • If your system isn’t using LEDs, bulbs will burn out and you’ll have to replace them. If this is an issue for you, just go with the LEDs!
  • Even with professional installation, your systems wiring can be damaged. If that happens, you’ll need to repair it. As with any system, you may or may not run into this.
  • You have to reset the automatic timers running your system for daylight savings time.

Is that your final answer?

Now that we’ve shown you the pluses and minuses of each system, which one can’t be beat? Well, that all depends on your individual situation. If your budget is limited and if you’re in a very sunny area, solar landscape lighting may be the way to go for you. Or, if dimmer lighting such as you would use to accent a pond or other decorative feature is what you need, solar may be the way to go.

However, if you’re looking for something that will increase your property values, your ability to enjoy your property after dark, and an increased sense of safety and security, low-voltage lighting is for you. Granted, you’ll need to budget more for the initial purchase and installation, but you’ll get all of the above benefits and still be doing the environment a favor. In fact, since solar lighting systems require battery replacements, which can come with the negative impact on the environment, the small amount of electricity used for low-voltage systems equalizes the environmental impact of both.

Hydro-Scape highly recommends low-voltage lighting over solar options. Most solar applications degrade quickly, and as mentioned, the light emitted from these is hardly worth it.