Understanding Different Types of Landscape Lighting Systems
All outdoor lighting systems can be divided into two types depending on which type of electrical system they use.
The first is “line voltage”; like the other lights in your home’s interior, these operate at 110 volts AC. Since line voltage can be dangerous, a licensed electrician must wire and install the system, and an electrical conduit is typically required between fixtures to protect the wire from damage.
The second type of system is a low-voltage system which operates at 24 volts or less DC. While there can be a place for a high voltage system in some commercial environments, low voltage is the superior solution for most residences. It’s safer, requires less infrastructure (no conduit!), and is much easier to install.
For the sake of simplicity, in this guide, we’ll only discuss low-voltage systems.
Now that we’ve established your lighting system will be operating at low voltage, let’s look at how these systems work. A transformer is the first piece of equipment needed for any low-voltage system. A transformer is a device that takes the line voltage (110v) from your wall outlet and converts it into safe and simple DC power.
It’s usually mounted to the exterior of your home and serves as the power source and central “hub” for your outdoor lighting installation.
Transformers come in all shapes and sizes, depending on the complexity of your project. The power rating for your particular model is the most important thing to pay attention to. You’ll see this specified as a wattage number like 700w or 1000w.
When calculating how much capacity you’ll need, a good rule of thumb is to add the wattage of each fixture and then add 20% to give it some headroom.
So, for example, if you have 30 fixtures that are 5 watts each, you would need a transformer rated for at least 180 watts.
Types of Landscape Lighting Fixtures
Now that we’ve gotten through all of the boring stuff let’s look at the different types of lights we can use to bring your property to life.
These fixtures are strategically placed along walkways, driveways, or paths to provide a safe and welcoming guide to navigate outdoor spaces. Path lights not only improve visibility and safety but can also add beauty to your walkways, particularly when their design complements the landscape or architecture of your property.
They can create a magical effect when their glow illuminates flower beds and shrubs lining the path.
Spotlights are the perfect choice if you have specific landscape features you want to highlight, such as a sculpture, a water feature, or a majestic tree. They focus light in a narrow beam, drawing attention to these special elements and bringing a unique aesthetic appeal to your outdoor environment.
Spotlights can create stunning visual effects, emphasizing the textures and colors of your landscape.
Floodlights come in handy for areas where a broad expanse of light is necessary, such as large patios, sports courts, or other outdoor activity areas. They provide a wide, bright beam that can illuminate a large area, enabling outdoor activities even after the sun goes down.
Apart from providing light for safety and visibility, floodlights can also be used to cast dramatic shadows for a visually striking landscape.
Also known as in-ground lights, these fixtures are recessed into the ground for a clean, unobtrusive look. They are ideal for casting upward lighting on walls, trees, and other tall features, creating a dramatic effect that enhances architectural and plant features.
Well lights can also be used for grazing or shadowing techniques in landscape lighting design.
Deck and Step Lights:
These small fixtures are typically built into a deck, stairs, or railings. They serve two main purposes: enhancing safety by illuminating potential trip hazards and adding aesthetic appeal.
Deck and step lights can create a charming and stylish atmosphere for outdoor living spaces, perfect for evening entertaining.