When homeowners decide to install a patio that would allow them to spend time outdoors after the sun goes down, few give the lighting system a serious thought. However, proper lighting is the only way to ensure that the deck’s beautiful furniture and fixtures are visible after dark.
In addition, you will need to be certain that the area is safe to use and that the shadows do not conceal potential tripping hazards. Considering the high availability of deck/patio lighting solutions as well as the numerous options, the task seems overwhelming at first. Therefore, I’m here to teach you the basics of the selection and installation process. First let’s compare the two types of voltage: high and low.
High voltage lighting fixtures versus their low voltage counterparts
Let me make one thing clear before we go on: when I say high voltage, I mean systems with 120 Volts, whereas low voltage refers to the 12 Volts. To summarize the points of this section, I’m going to show you exactly what benefits each of them bring to the table.
High voltage lighting fixtures provide:
- Substantially more powerful lighting (candlepower wise)
- A wider variety of lighting solutions
- The line can be run directly from the home
Low voltage fixtures offer:
- Enhanced safety of operation (GFCI circuits are not required in this case)
- Systems that can be expanded and upgraded easily in the future
- Lower installation and operating costs (homeowners can even opt for solar panels)
In other words, while low voltage brings the advantage of low costs and safety, they are still significantly dimmer than the high voltage ones. However, there is no reason why your patio lighting system cannot combine the two solutions for an optimal level of lighting efficiency, candlepower and cost wise.
Spotlights, downlights or floodlights?
Again, there is no reason why you should utilize exclusively one type of lighting on your patio. Each of these solutions serves a certain purpose and while installing them in a certain location would yield optimal results, they might not have the same effectiveness somewhere else. Let me illustrate my point.
- Downlights are the type of systems that illuminate the deck from above, creating a natural-looking ambient lighting. While they are great when utilized sparingly under the railing of the patio, placing them in the proximity of a reflective surface will create an incredibly bothersome glare effect.
- Spotlights work their magic best when they are employed in emphasizing the appearance of interesting features or sudden modifications in the elevation of the deck (stairs, door threshold, etc.). However, pointing them directly towards reflective surfaces is never a good idea.
- Floodlights are similar to spotlights, but the amount of candlepower they produce is substantially higher. This allows them to be utilized for lighting of larger areas, but moderation is also the word of the day for them. The same rule regarding reflective surfaces applies.
Experiment with different solutions before the final decision
You will want to have a general idea on the performance of the lighting and basically, on how well the beam of light is able to enhance the visibility of your deck, not to mention the shades these beams generate. For this purpose, you can employ the aid of a lantern or flashlight in order to simulate the effect of the lighting solutions.
However, while the flashlight’s beam is directional and permits you to emulate a spotlight, the lantern generates light on a 360 degree radius, which is similar to post cap lighting. Use both solutions in conjunction with each other and determine the optimal placement for them.
When dealing with electricity, safety always comes first
The installation of the patio lighting system is generally a task that should be left in the hands of a professional electrician. You will not only fail to achieve optimal results with basic knowledge of the trade, but the lighting system you design might not be safe to use.
Of course, low voltage systems present significantly lower electrocution risks, but their limited lighting capabilities make them dangerous from other points of view. Therefore, I definitely suggest hiring a contractor for the job, because you will not only be able to minimize the risks, but you will also save money on maintenance and repairs in the long run.
Chad is a blogger for Access Fixtures, a leading provider of lighting fixtures.
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