Landscape path lights are an excellent addition to any home. They provide a sense of security at night and highlight or define outdoor spaces with mixtures of warm, glowing spots of light. They also light up external features, such as patios, steps, gazebos, driveways, entries, and architectural details. But as technology advances, choosing the right type of landscape lighting requires more consideration for power sources, bulb types, fixtures, and so on. Two popular options are solar-powered and low-voltage landscape lighting, both of which can illuminate homes and landscaping. But each lighting type has different benefits and drawbacks that make one superior to the other. So, which one is the better option for your property?
Solar-Powered Landscape Lighting
Solar lighting systems collect and store energy from sunlight for power. The solar panels are made from layers of crystalline silicon and chemicals, which form solar cells. When the photons from the sunlight hit these panels, they cause negatively charged electrons to move into the positively charged layers of the cell. This electron fl0w through the solar cell generates electricity, which is stored in a built-in rechargeable battery.
Solar-powered lighting systems are said to be very energy-efficient, cost-effective, and are easy to set up. In most cases, they work well as long as they receive adequate sunlight to charge the batteries fully. They usually use LED lighting, one of the longest-lasting lighting options, sometimes lasting up to 10 years or more. However, these fixtures require direct sunlight during the day to recharge. Worse, they may not offer much illumination as wired landscape lighting. Also, if there’s limited or no direct sunlight for a few days, you risk being without outdoor lighting. On top of that, solar lights may decline in performance over time, which may result in increased spending on your end.
Solar-Powered Landscape Lighting Pros & Cons
|Does not require wiring|
No electrical outlet required, saving on your electricity bill
Easy and low-cost installation
Powered by sunlight
Considered an all-weather option, but you will have to keep the panels clean and clear of debris and moisture
Long-lasting bulbs, when handled properly
Can be installed at various locations on your property
|Doesn’t offer as much illumination as wired landscape lighting LED lights may decline in performance over time|
Lower brightness and unwanted color disruptions when the specialized coating on the bulbs breaks down
May cast a dull bluish hue, which is not suitable for security purposes
Bright LEDs not possible with solar-powered fixtures
The stored energy cannot create the same power output as a hardwired lighting design
May not last the entire night, depending on the day’s weather
Low-Voltage Landscape Lighting
If you need reliable, long-term outdoor lights, low-voltage lighting is your best option. As long as you have an outdoor GFCI outlet within about 15 feet of your first light location, you can install wired low-voltage lights almost as easily as solar-powered lights.
Low-voltage landscape lighting provides an energy-efficient option with easy DIY installation. Unlike solar-powered lights, it does not rely on a battery charge. Instead, it connects to a step-down transformer through wires, which can be buried underground or sit on top of the soil. The transformer changes your home’s 120-V electrical supply to 12 V for efficient light illumination. This power conversion makes this lighting system safe to install and maintain since the voltage level is significantly lower than a standard electrical outlet.
When you have a low voltage cable running through your yard space, you can replace old fixtures with new ones and even add new fixtures – as long as your transformer is correctly sized for the increased power draw. A low voltage level also results in a lower risk of electric shock from accidentally cutting the cabling, and less energy to operate the lighting system.
Another remarkable feature of many low-voltage lighting systems is that they have photosensors on the transformers that automatically turn the lights on or off based on the ambient light. For instance, most of these systems have clock times that allow you to turn the lights off at bedtime.
The installation process for this lighting system is pretty straightforward. It’s just a matter of laying cable and clipping in lights.
Low-Voltage Landscape Lighting Pros & Cons
|May increase the value of your home12-V low-voltage requirement|
Easy to install and maintain
Does not rely on battery power, so it will run as long as you want it to
Less light failure
Timer function to turn lights on or off to save power
Designed for all-weather use
Lower risk of dimming bulb due to a low power source
Great for reliable security
Bright lighting options for spotlighting
Sensors allow the system to provide the light you need when you need it
|Can become expensive to install|
Requires a connected electrical source
Not designed to be mounted on vertical surfaces, such as fences, along rooflines, etc.
Cables may be damaged due to landscaping or yard maintenance
Landscape lighting can work wonders for your home, providing enhanced security, aesthetic appeal, and much-needed illumination. Solar lighting systems give you the freedom to place lights almost anywhere they can recharge. However, low-voltage wired lighting is more reliable and consistent overall. It comes with everything you need to illuminate your yard – although it has limitations in placement.
Quality is key when choosing landscape lights. That’s why Siesta Lighting designs and manufactures some of the highest-quality low voltage landscape lighting products for optimal performance and to withstand the elements in outdoor areas.
If you have any questions or concerns, please let us know. We will be happy to provide specialized information and expert assistance for all your outdoor lighting projects.