Landscape Lighting - The Advantages of Low Voltage Lighting Systems

Landscape lighting systems can be divided into two main categories: Regular and Low Voltage. The regular voltage systems run on your homes 120v power and need to be hooked into your system like the other electrical fixtures. Low Voltage landscape lighting systems run off of a transformer that can be plugged into a regular outdoor receptacle. The transformer lowers the electrical output and then feeds the correct voltage to the lights that are hooked to the system.

Here are the main differences between 120v and 12v (low voltage) outdoor lighting systems:


12v transformers can be plugged into any of your existing outdoor receptacles; in most cases there is no need for an electrical contractor. 120v systems must be installed by a licensed electrical contractor and may require a permit.

12v systems are fairly easy to install (the cable only needs to be hidden and located out of harms way from digging, etc.) and give more flexibility for making changes later on. 120v systems normally require that the wiring be buried at least 18 inches deep and are placed in a protective conduit (or you could use the more expensive wiring that can be placed directly in the ground). This makes them difficult to install and even more difficult to move if you change your landscaping or have plants that grow too large.


12v lamps (bulbs) are small which means that the fixtures can be smaller and less obtrusive in your landscape. The lamps are also available in different low watt types and can be obtained in many beam spreads (the light comes out at wide angles or narrow angles and many angles in between depending on the lamp you choose). This allows for more precise and artistic lighting effects with lower energy costs. 120v lamps are much larger and therefore require larger fixtures to house them. The higher watt lamps only have one or two beam spread choices and produce inappropriately high light levels. This creates glare problems and reduces your ability to create subtle effects. They are also more expensive to operate.


12 v fixtures and wiring are specifically designed for wet locations and operate safely when they are exposed to moisture. 120v fixtures, wiring and connectors must be absolutely waterproof; and create a potential shock hazard when they get wet. As can be seen, there are several distinct advantages to using low voltage lighting systems for your home landscaping. The 120v systems do have their place in larger applications or for commercial buildings, etc. but for most residential applications, low voltage systems (that are properly sized and installed, of course) are the best way to go.


If you are looking for a Chicagoland electrician then please call (847) 564-4130 for Northbrook or (847) 697-4130 for Elgin or complete our online request form.

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