Garden lighting comes in a fabulous range of styles and specifications, presenting you with so many different ways to transform your house and garden. But what are the different qualities offered by mains, low voltage and solar powered lighting and which one is best for you?

Whether mains, low voltage or solar powered, there is bound to be perfect outdoor lighting to decorate your home, garden, decking or patio, enhancing its appearance while offering practical illumination.

Mains Powered Lighting

Mains powered lights work on either 230 volts or low voltage i.e. 12 volts via a transformer which can sometimes be included with the product or alternatively will be available to buy separately.

One of the great advantages of mains power is its reliability, you switch it on and in all probability the lights will stay illuminated until you turn them off. Nothing could be simpler. Except that installation calls for specialist skills that have to be paid for. It's never wise to take any risks with mains electricity, that's why we always advise employing a qualified electrician who, after installation, will check all the circuits and ensure that the work carried out is in line with building and IEE wiring regulations.

If you decide to do the work yourself, before commencing it is essential that the power source is switched off via the circuit breaker or fuse box preferably with the appropriate fuse preferably removed. Double check the circuit is dead with a tester or meter and all finished work must be properly inspected and tested to ensure it meets regulatory standards.

Low Voltage Lighting

Electricians cost money of course and so does electricity, so this is where low voltage lighting comes in very handy. With the aid of a transformer, life threatening 230 volts become far safer 12 volts. This arrangement does not require professional installation, is just as reliable but uses less juice and is therefore less expensive.

Don't be under the impression that low voltage lighting isn't bright. Benefiting from modern LED technology, low voltage lights sparkle In the evening and are also enviably long lasting. So they really are a winning solution in more ways than one, working out cheaper and reassuringly environmentally friendly. Transformers can be plugged into a socket inside the house or garage, with the cable going though a hole drilled in the wall or window frame and silicone sealed. A waterproof exterior socket can also be used but, if located outside, the transformer needs to be waterproof and preferably under cover. An IP (ingress protection) rating reflects how sturdy and waterproof a product is, so look out for a rating of IP68.

An additional advantage when not dealing with low voltage is that the cable can be laid above ground, however it might be wiser for it to be buried by a few inches so that it's out of view, you can't trip over it and it is less likely to be damaged by an errant spade.

Solar Powered Lighting

Solar lighting has many advantages over mains and low voltage. It is clearly environmentally friendly, requiring only sunlight that is stored in rechargeable batteries to operate. Although becoming more powerful as technology advances, solar lighting lacks the penetrating brightness of mains powered alternatives but, because there are no cables or wiring, these lights are particularly quick and easy to install in a location that receives plenty of sunlight.

Solar lights are easy to move around and activate automatically after sundown, they can be spiked into the ground to mark a path or the edge of a patio, and naturally cost nothing to run. An excellent choice if you have no detailed plan as to where the lights should be located and want to experiment with different positions, Far more flexible than mains and low voltage, solar lighting currently unfortunately lacks the the breadth of range that mains and low voltage lights boast, so your choice of design and style is more limited but this situation is very likely to change over the coming years due to advanced technology.

More information on on low voltage and solar powered lighting can be found here:
Our Guide To Low Voltage Lighting
Best Uses Of Solar Lighting