When it comes to outdoor lighting, there are several options available to you. Here are a few pros and cons for each.
We’ll compare solar lighting, low voltage (12-volt) lighting, and standard voltage (120v) for the advantages and disadvantages of each. Each system has advantages and disadvantages and many homeownere have unrealistic expectations of the different systems.
The important thing is to decide who is doing the work and what you need the lighting to do; and oh yeah, what your budget is. 🙂 The best bit of advice I can give you is to do your homework on these systems so you get what you need to make your garden look great at night.
This style of landscape lighting is very popular and for good reason. There is no need for wiring or transformers on the simple systems. It’s unpack from the packaging and stick in the ground. The solar cell charges a battery and turns it on at night and off in the daylight.
Your only cost is the purchase price and battery replacement (on more expensive models)
- Low cost (shop around at discount stores and you’ll be surprised at how cheaply you can pick these up)
- Easily installed. Not in any way dangerous currents. Easily replaced if damaged.
- Batteries don’t work well when they’re cold and winter temperatures will drastically reduce the effectiveness of this style of light.
- Easily broken. The inexpensive nature of the product means you’ll be replacing many of them on a regular basis. Don’t hit the plastic with a shovel in the cold winter for sure.
- Not overly adaptable in shady areas or to work at doing much other than pathway lighting.
Note there are some high-quality solar lights on the market but usually through commercial landscapers. Those sold by the mass merchants tend to be lower quality.
This involves purchasing a 12-volt power adapter to plug into a regular house socket. The transformer/adapter then puts out 12-volts to power a series of lights.
- Medium cost – a good transformer can be purchased but do evaluate your load (how many lights you want to run) before you buy on price. Low cost transformers will not handle many lights and you’re better off spending your money on bigger transformers to handle a future load than looking for “cheap”.
- Can be installed by the homeowner as the voltage is a safe level.
- Can be installed in a variety of outdoor lighting conditions – from pathways to trees to Christmas tree and house lighting if the transformer is large enough.
- Inexpensive to run.
- Available in a wide variety of styles and landscape lighting materials
- Can operate in shade
- It takes time to install. It’s not drop and stick and lighting.
- More expensive than solar lighting
This is the most expensive form of landscape lighting because it takes a licensed electrician working to code to install one of these systems. You don’t want to mess about with running full current outdoors and you do want to make sure the wires are protected from shovels and future construction.
- Powerful lights to security lighting and ability to light large areas to almost-daylight levels.
- Can be attractive and designed to fit almost any lighting need.
- Expensive to install and most expensive to maintain.
Which Should You Use?
There’s no hard and fast, one size fits all answer to that question. Every garden and gardener will have a different set of requirements and resources to spend on garden lighting.
What’s clear to me however is that garden lighting really does make a difference in the good garden and I’ll be putting it in mine when I get to that stage (dry stone wall building finished) 🙂