Many of the lights in your home are likely hardwired into the line voltage of your electrical system. The standard voltage found in many wall outlets and junction boxes is line voltage (also known as high voltage or what is generally referred to as household current), which is 120 volts. Traditional lighting, such as ceiling lights and wall sconces, often makes use of line voltage fixtures.
In this piece, we'll talk about low voltage LED lighting, which operates on voltages lower than 50 (usually 12 or 24). In the 1950s, low-voltage lighting first appeared in American homes. Despite its inception as a tool for outdoor use, low voltage lighting has found widespread adoption for a wide variety of inside uses, including but not limited to recessed lighting, track lighting, under cabinet illumination, strip and tape lighting, and many others. What exactly is low voltage lighting and how does it differ from standard line voltage lighting?
Light-emitting diode (LED) fixtures that operate on lower than 120 volts require transformers (sometimes called drivers or power packs) to step down the line voltage. These control modules may be physically positioned near the lighting fixtures, or they may be located elsewhere.
Let's talk about motorists for a second. To accomplish both of these goals, LEDs necessitate drivers. As we saw, an LED driver converts AC with a greater voltage to DC with a lower voltage.
Furthermore, LED drivers shield the lights from power surges and surge protectors. LEDs are rated to function within a specific current range, and their light output is directly proportional to the current supplied to them. Therefore, the excessive or insufficient current might cause the LED to overheat, leading to diminished light output or accelerated degradation.
Because of this, every LED light requires a driver, either built-in or connected externally. Keep the power supply's rated load to no more than 80% of its capacity when deciding on a driver. This reduces wear and tear on the driving parts and keeps them functioning for longer. For instance, if your driver can handle 96 watts, you should only utilize LEDs that require 77 watts or less to avoid overheating the driver. Keep in mind that the LEDs may need a certain minimum combined power from the drivers to function properly and avoid flickering and humming.
Integrated drivers are commonplace in light sources such as common household bulbs with standard screw-in or plug-in bases. In most cases, an external driver is required for use with LED downlights, tape lights, and some fixtures, panels, and outdoor-rated lights. A separate driver is usually required for an LED fixture, however, sometimes it is included. If the fixture you're interested in requires a separate driver, and if so, what kind, make sure to check the recommended accessories section of the product details page or manufacturer's spec sheet.
Low voltage lighting configurations
It's possible to use low-voltage lighting in many different settings throughout the house. Kitchens, closets, and bathrooms all benefit from having adequate lighting, and low voltage under cabinet and cove lighting is a great way to achieve this. Indoors or out, low voltage LED recessed lighting is ideal for providing ambient lighting or for highlighting certain features. Low voltage lighting can often be utilized in the same areas and for the same functions as line power lighting.
Due to its convenience, low-voltage fixtures are frequently used for outdoor lighting. The majority of the path and landscape lighting is available in low voltage. There is no need for costly and time-consuming trenching when installing new or relocating existing fixtures. Line voltage in outdoor installations typically necessitates the services of a licensed electrician due to the need for the underground pipe to comply with local electrical codes.
Spotlights, as well as low-voltage well and step lighting, can provide supplementary outside lighting for your home. LED string lights, often known as bistro lights, are another common low voltage lighting effect, and they add a festive atmosphere when strung between trees and outdoor patios.
The Four Major Advantages of Low Voltage Lighting
Low-voltage lighting is substantially more secure because of the reduced voltage within the light fixtures. Because of the lower voltage, outdoor lighting systems are less likely to cause injury, and they are also less likely to become dangerous when exposed to wet conditions, such as rain.
Smaller bulbs made possible by lower voltage allow for more inventive lighting design. These compact fixtures make it possible to effectively and safely illuminate previously inaccessible areas.
The longevity of low voltage lighting is one of the advantages. The combination of reduced wattage and LED technology produces ideal conditions for long-lasting bulbs, especially now that LED is becoming the most popular type of low voltage illumination. LEDs are more cost-effective than ever before because they consume less power while still producing the same amount of light, and they need to be replaced much less frequently.
Could the use of low voltage lighting help to reduce energy consumption? No assurance switching to low voltage lighting would result in any significant energy savings. It's important to note that they do recommend using a dimmer to reduce energy use. Whether you're utilizing line or low voltage lighting, dimmers allow you to adjust the brightness of the lights to your liking, which has both aesthetic and cost benefits.
However, line voltage lighting allows for more effective and affordable dimming. As the expense of transformers is added to the higher cost of dimmers for low voltage lighting, the price difference becomes more noticeable.
Both line voltage and low voltage lighting are useful in different situations, so your final decision should be based on how much time and money you want to spend on the installation. Depending on the fixture, the upfront cost of line voltage may be lower and the installation process simpler than with other options.