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Outdoor Low Voltage Landscape Lighting

Mar 29, 2008
Low voltage landscape lighting is a safe, easy and effective way to enhance your home and landscaping investment. Whether you have a small patio, apartment terrace, pool courtyard or extensive landscaping around your home, low voltage outdoor landscape lighting can transform a normally dark space into a nighttime showplace. Let's talk about some of the tools that professional landscape lighting designers use when doing a low voltage lighting system. Here are some fixture types:

Up Lights

Up lights, the workhorse of any design, are used to illuminate trees, shrubs sculptures or the fašade of your home from the ground pointing up. Up lights come in stake mount models, rock lights, as well as grade level models for highlighting items where it would be difficult to hide the fixture. Up lights produce spectacular effects, showcase trees and shadow which are critical to an artistic design. In fact, the shadows can be just as important as the lighting itself. So pay attention to where you place the low voltage landscape lights and where the shadows will be cast on the house or wall.

Path Lights

Path lights are a wonderful lighting toll for blending light at ground level for aesthetics and safety. Path lights concealed in the planting areas produce a glare free light source that adds balance and charm to any space. They are particularly useful for illuminating trip hazards such as steps, pavers, stepping stones and around fountains. When locating path lights, it's a good idea to stagger the placement creating random pools of light and shadows. It never looks good if all the lights are lined up in a row. Set up a nighttime test and mark the locations before installing and burying the wire. Path lights come in many finishes: copper, aluminum, brass and shapes and sizes. Take your time and pick one that compliments the space and does not stick out like a sore thumb.

Down Lights

Low voltage down lighting fixtures, like there 120 volt counterparts, can be installed above an area to simulate natural daylight. Lighting coming from the top down is a very natural light form that is helpful in many capacities. Down lights can be mounted on the house, arbor structures, trellises, pergolas, and trees. Down lights can be used as floodlights for general lighting the space or as spots for accenting a tables, fountains or sculptures. Just be careful when installing down lights, that you do not create objectionable glare or bright light levels that would take away from the overall design. This can be achieved by using a dimmer control, internal fixture louvers or glare shields.

Underwater Lights

Underwater low voltage landscape lights are a fabulous way to enhance any pond, fountain or water fall. The light passed through the water not only highlights the water feature, but creates a beautiful dancing effect from the water movement. Underwater low voltage lights in copper should never be used in ponds with fish. The reaction between the copper and the chemicals in the water are deadly to fish. It is always best to use an underwater light made of solid brass or composite materials. Keep in mind that using an underwater light with an aiming bracket gives you the most flexibility to adjust the light right where you want it.

Transformers or 12 volt power supplies are designed to convert the 120 volt house current to a safe operating 12 volts. Used in conjunction with a GFCI receptacle, transformers are the heartbeat of any low voltage landscape lighting system. For salt air environments you may want to consider a transformer that has a stainless steel enclosure or a composite or fiberglass enclosure. Most transformers have a set output of 11.5 volts to extend lamp life and account for voltage spikes. For larger systems, transformers also come in multi-tap models for manipulating the output voltage on longer runs. This prevents voltage drop or wiring issues, which are the main case of dim lights.

Low voltage outdoor landscape lighting can be a very fun and reward project for any homeowner. Why pay someone, when you can do it yourself?
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