Low Voltage Landscape Lighting Tips
The technical aspects of a low voltage lighting system can be quite complex. Proper engineering is required to ensure that wire runs are balanced and wired for an appropriate voltage load. Wires must be run in a way that distributes power as evenly as possible between each fixture, and the lines need to be wired into the transformer in a way that sends the right amount of power down the line to each fixture. Voltage drops are a concern, so wire runs should be split down the middle and center fed to help evenly distribute power and reduce voltage drops. Transformers vary in size and have multiple terminal blocks and multiple commons, with different voltage levels distributed to the system. LED lamps have become prevalent in low voltage landscape lighting, but the system still requires proper engineering to ensure longevity and continued enjoyment for homeowners.
How Low Voltage Lighting Works
A properly engineered low voltage lighting system requires balanced wire runs that evenly distribute power to each fixture. This means the wires must be run in a way that distributes power as evenly as possible, and the lines must be wired into the transformer in a way that sends the appropriate amount of power down the line to each fixture.
Wire Runs & Transformers
Wire Runs and Transformers: Simplifying Your Low Voltage Lighting System
To better understand how a low voltage lighting system works, we can break it down into two parts: wire runs and transformers.
- Wire Runs
The way wire runs are set up can have a significant impact on the performance of the lighting system. Think of a low voltage lighting system as a highway, and each fixture is like a car on that highway. The more fixtures you add to a single wire run, the more the voltage is reduced, similar to how traffic slows down when there are too many cars on the road. Voltage drops are a bad thing, but having the voltage too high can also be problematic.
For example, imagine you have a wire run that is too long or has too many fixtures attached to it, causing voltage to be poorly distributed. The lights on that run will be dimmer than the others, making it difficult to create an evenly lit outdoor space. On the other hand, if the voltage is too high, it can cause the bulbs to burn out faster and potentially damage the entire lighting system.
It's important to split wire runs down the middle and center feed them to help evenly distribute power and reduce voltage drops. Also, avoid daisy chaining fixtures, as it can cause the first fixture to receive too much power, while the last one is underpowered.
The transformer is the heart of the low voltage lighting system, providing power to the entire system. In a smaller transformer, there are usually two terminals, one labeled "common" and the other labeled "12V". Direct burial cables used in landscape lighting typically have two wires, one connected to the common and the other to the 12V tap.
As the lighting system grows larger, the transformer needs to be upgraded to accommodate the increased load. A larger transformer will have more terminals with different voltages to compensate for voltage drops caused by longer distances and higher fixture counts. By connecting the wire to a terminal with a higher voltage, the voltage can be boosted to maintain a consistent level of brightness throughout the system.
In conclusion, proper wire runs and transformers are crucial components of a successful low voltage lighting system. By evenly distributing power and compensating for voltage drops, you can achieve a beautifully lit outdoor space that enhances the overall ambiance of your property.
Determining Voltage Drops: How Can We Be Sure?
The advantage of being able to increase power is that we can easily correct any issue where the final light in a sequence is not receiving sufficient power. However, how do we verify that it is receiving enough power? It is not a matter of reading shadows or listening to insects, as some may assume. Instead, we determine the voltage through the use of a voltmeter. By measuring the voltage at each light along the wiring, we can fine-tune the voltage to meet the exact needs of the system.
It is crucial that the person responsible for installing or maintaining your lighting system understands how to use a voltmeter. From our experience, many individuals do not even have a voltmeter in their toolbox. To ensure your system is in capable hands, it is always wise to ask a qualified professional for the suggestion.
Are LED Lights the Solution to Simple Landscape Lighting, or Do They Mislead Us?
The lighting industry has embraced LED lamps in recent years, and for good reason. These lamps are incredibly energy-efficient and have an outstanding lifespan of up to 50,000 hours. That's equivalent to around 15 to 20 years of illumination. Despite their higher cost, they are an excellent investment.
In the field of low voltage landscape lighting, LED lamps have become increasingly popular. They have enabled larger lighting systems to be created, often without the need for larger transformers. Furthermore, LED lamps are unaffected by voltage changes and turn on at both higher and lower voltages, unlike traditional halogen lamps.
LED lights also provide lighting designers with greater flexibility and control over the desired lighting effects. Without the need for larger transformers that require more involved planning and engineering, LED lamps have simplified the process of landscape lighting installation. However, it is crucial to remember that proper installation and use of a voltmeter is still necessary to ensure the system operates efficiently.
While LED landscape lighting has many benefits, it is essential to seek professional advice to ensure proper installation and operation when you are really struggle with it. LED technology has simplified many aspects of landscape lighting, but the importance of proper engineering practices and use of a voltmeter cannot be ignored. With the right expertise, LED landscape lighting can be a game-changer, providing energy-efficient illumination without compromising on quality.
The Importance of Proper Engineering Practices in LED Landscape Lighting
It is a common myth that LED landscape lighting is a simple and straightforward process, and that traditional engineering practices can be disregarded. However, this could not be further from the truth. Proper engineering practices are just as crucial in LED landscape lighting as they were in the halogen days.
The voltage requirements for an LED lighting system can vary greatly. Our own experience has taught us that LED lamps should be calculated to receive a voltage as close to 12V or 11.5V as possible. Inside each LED lamp is a driver that allows the lamp to function within a wide range of voltage loads, depending on the specific lamp and manufacturer.
Nevertheless, it is not advisable to run the system at peak output simply because it is possible to do so. Running a lighting system at its highest voltage can cause problems, particularly when trying to send enough power to the last fixture in a long run of daisy-chained LED lights.
In our experience, LED lamps that are powered too high or too low have a shortened lifespan. Considering the cost of LED lamps, it is essential to obtain their full lifespan. The internal components of the LED lamps are forced to work harder when more or less power than 12V is being supplied to them.
One of the key elements often overlooked in the construction of low voltage landscape lighting systems is the proper wiring of the transformer and center fed wires to fixtures at the appropriate voltage. Neglecting this critical step can greatly impact the longevity and satisfaction homeowners will derive from their landscape lighting system.
For instance, consider the case of a poorly wired system where the voltage loads were not properly balanced. This could lead to premature failure of the fixtures, reduced illumination, or even electrical hazards. Therefore, it is crucial to seek the advice of a professional when installing a landscape lighting system to ensure that it is engineered and installed correctly, allowing for continued enjoyment for years to come.