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A Beginners Guide To Low Voltage Garden Lighting

A Beginners Guide To Low Voltage Garden Lighting


    

A Beginners Guide To Low Voltage Garden Lighting

by Elise Kavenagh

Not so long ago it seemed that hardly anyone lit their garden at night and those few who did had little choice of lighting available. Since then a quiet revolution has swept through and now there is garden lighting to suit every possible project and budget, with LED garden lighting fast establishing itself as a dominant force in this market.

This is hardly surprising when you consider how LED garden lights combine visually appealing and novel effects with characteristics such as simplicity of installation and affordable purchase and running costs. Additionally, the fact that they consume only tiny amounts of low-voltage electricity means they remain cool to the touch and are thus safe for animals, children and plants.

Most outdoor LED lighting receives power using the same basic system as traditional garden lighting. An internally located transformer converts mains electricity to 12 volts DC (low-voltage) which is distributed throughout the garden via a cable to which individual light fixtures are then connected. The main difference is that LED outdoor lights require less than 10% as much power as conventional garden lights that use incandescent (including halogen) bulbs.

Conventional incandescent lights work by literally burning a metal filament - this converts electricity into light (about 10%) and heat (90%). LED lights work by stimulating electrons which causes emissions of photons (technical term for light) but instead produce over 90% light and less than 10% heat - in other words the exact opposite ratio.

Two are two obvious implications of this. First, with less than ten percent of the energy lost as heat, LED light bulbs run almost cool to the touch. Second, to get the same level of light as say a 30 watt incandescent bulb requires an LED that draws only 3 watts of power (i.e. ten times cheaper to run). They also last on average over twenty times longer so maintenance hassles and cost are greatly reduced.

On the issue of the quality of white light produced by LED lights, the Colour Rendering Index which assesses how faithfully an object is depicted using artificial light rates them highly. The basic color choice for most LED garden lights is white but they also come in a wide selection of other stunningly rich colours too.

Another interesting feature of LED light is that it is a pure color. In other words the light covers just a single portion of the spectrum rather than being a mix of colors, which lends them an almost metallic look, not unlike gem stones such as emerald green, ruby red and sapphire blue. LED light is also inherently directional and so they tend to be great for spotlighting but are equally effective in other roles if filters and diffusers are applied.

Nowadays of course you can find LED outdoor lights in all manner of different types: rock lights; floodlights; patio and deck lights; wall wash effects; lanterns; spikes; integrated in garden ornaments; submerged in ponds; pagodas, and bollards. Yet the most enduring style still seems to be the LED spot light.

To cap it off, the following points provide a basic checklist of what to take note of next time you buy LED garden lighting.

First don't be fooled by the diminutive power levels; it's surprising how bright a 1W LED light for example can seem once night descends on the garden.

Second be sure to take into account the beam angle is since this controls how whether the light pool appears small and bright or large and less intense - which you choose depends on the effect(s) you want to create.

Third, the electronic circuitry in most LED lights is easily ruined if the outer casing is not robust enough to keep out moisture.

Finally, remember that quality and cost tend to be closely related when it comes to LED lighting and accordingly you are on the whole likely to get what you pay for.

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