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Introduction to Landscape Lighting: Fixture Types & Terms to Know

January 6, 2021 March 1st, 2021 No Comments

What are the types of landscape lighting?

There are two main types: line voltage and low voltage landscape lighting. Line voltage requires licensed electricians to install while low voltage can be installed by anyone. Line voltage is found in common household electrical outlets; it’s most commonly used for lighting in commercial, security or municipal applications, although it can also be appropriate for larger homes. Low voltage is typically preferred for residential use and can be safely installed as a do-it-yourself project.

What are the main components of a landscape lighting system?

The first major component of a lighting system is the fixture. It not only houses the light source but helps to direct the light towards the area you wish to illuminate. The next major component of a 12-volt lighting system is the low voltage transformer. This is the 120 volt power supply that converts line voltage current down to 12 volt AC. The final two components of your system are wire and wiring connectors. These are what carry the power out from the transformer to the fixtures in the yard.

What are the common types of landscape lighting fixtures?

  • Spotlights are the most common type of landscape light. These highlight specific key features throughout your landscape.
  • Any spotlight with a 60 degree beam angle or wider is known as a flood light. These use large pools of light to illuminate broad areas with a single fixture.
  • Path lights are used as guiding lights to illuminate walkways and pathways. They can also be used in large flower beds to illuminate areas with lots of ground vegetation.
  • Hardscape fixtures are used when you need a low-profile fixture to highlight specific architectural features.
  • In-ground lights are used in up-lighting situations that require the light source to remain hidden.
  • Underwater lights are specifically designed to be fully or partially submerged year-round. They are typically used in fountains or ponds.
  • Downlights are spotlights or flood lights that are designed specifically to be oriented in a downward position.
  • Specialty lights are designed for specific tasks that may be hard to illuminate with other standard fixtures; these lights include bistro lights, tiki torches and even decorative area lights.

What are the main fixture classes of landscape lights?

  • Integrated fixtures have an LED board built into them, so there’s no bulb to install. The downside to integrated fixtures is that if one should fail, then the entire fixture has to be replaced as opposed to just a bulb.
  • Lamp-ready fixtures take a bulb, which allows for much more customization in terms of brightness (lumens), color temperature and beam spread. And usually if a lights goes out, you just need to pop in a new bulb.

What are some important landscape lighting terms?

  • Beam spread or beam angle refers to the spread of light from the luminaire. This is chosen based on the task at hand and how wide the light needs to spread. Sometimes the beam spread is fixed based on the fixture’s unique shape, as it is with area lighting.
  • Color temperature is measured in Kelvin and refers to how warm (yellowish) or cool (bluish) the lighting appears to be. Most lighting ranges from as low as 2000K (which is very warm, like candlelight) up to 5000K (which is a stark whitish blue). Typical applications call for warm white 2700K light, which is most similar to that of traditional incandescent lighting.
  • Lumen output is the amount of illumination provided or simply how bright it is.
  • Wattage is the amount of energy used by a fixture and is an important number to keep track of. Add up the wattage of all of your fixtures or bulbs and then determine the appropriate transformer for that wattage. We recommend not exceeding 80 percent of a transformer’s capacity. If you don’t have at least a 20 percent buffer from maximum capacity, you will need to step up to a larger transformer.
  • Efficacy is a ratio that compares power consumption to light output. This is measured in lumens per watt. The reason efficacy is important is because a lot of bulbs are listed by wattage equivalents, which is how brightness was traditionally understood. Because LED bulbs are so efficient, they can produce a lot more lumens while utilizing much less power or wattage. For example, a 5 watt LED bulb may have a 30 watt halogen equivalence due to its high efficacy.

How are landscape lighting fixtures mounted?

There are various fixture mounting options to choose from. Most of the time, you’ll just need a simple ground stake. However, if that’s not an option in your desired location, you can use a surface mount, gutter mount, flag pole mount or other specialized mounts.

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