How to choose and install low voltage lighting

Especially now that autumn's dark evenings are fast approaching, Nathan James Dodd discovers how low voltage lighting can be used to transform the look and feel of your house and garden.

Created by David Coton on Friday, 28th of August, 2015.


low voltage

All the hard work you have put into your garden throughout the year needn't disappear under the cover of darkness. Low voltage outdoor lighting can bring your garden, pond or pathway alive at night, creating interesting focal points, highlighting different trees, shrubs or statuary. You can then view them from inside or they will provide a striking backdrop to any partying on the patio.

Before rushing into buying the required equipment, take a while to think about the practicalities of low voltage lighting.

Low Voltage Basics

Mains electricity is 230 volts in the UK, this must be reduced to 12 or 24 volts for a low voltage circuit (in simple terms a volt is the electricity pressure, just like water pressure, 12 volts will give you less of a jolt that 230 volts!). To achieve this reduction you need a transformer.

Which transformer depends on the total wattage of the lamps in the circuit. (The watt is a unit of power and it is simple to calculate the total wattage of a circuit just by addition.) For example the Bermuda LED Pond Light Set contains three lamps rated at 3.2 watts, hence the kit comes with a 12v transformer that can handle 9.6 watts or above.

If you buy more lights you need to check the kit's transformer wattage and if necessary purchase another capable of handling the increased load.

It's worth noting that the VA figure given on some transformers is the equivalent of a watt. The lamp load should also not be less than a third of the wattage rating of the transformer and of course should not exceed it.

Cables should be low voltage and, if you need to extend the length, extra cable is easy to obtain as well as connectors.

Voltage Drop

If you have very long cables with lots of lights, you may want to know about 'voltage drop' and how it can be minimised. Voltage is steadily reduced along a cable, the further away a bulb is from the transformer the less voltage it receives and therefore won't be as bright. A bit like those children you went to school with who always sat at the back of the class.

To get around voltage loss and if you don't want to either shorten the cable or use lower wattage bulbs, think about using a heavier gauge cable, a higher rated transformer or using a looped circuit instead of a straight run.

Hopefully you're now convinced that low voltage lighting is easy to install, cheap to operate and above all will transform your house and garden into something really special.

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