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Types of Outdoor Lighting and Their Uses


Types of Lighting Systems

There are three types of outdoor lighting systems: low voltage, solar, and  conventional.  In most cases, the long-term best choice is low-voltage lighting because it requires less maintenance than the other two forms, it is safer than conventional, should be less expensive than conventional, and provides greater flexibility than the other two types.


Conventional Systems

Conventional outdoor landscape lighting may need to fit municipal codes, with municipal permits and possibly requiring the services of a professional installer. The reason for these requirements is that conventional lighting is very dangerous outside unless it is completely and permanently protected from all water and moisture; this high level of precision often requires the services of a professional to achieve and includes special sheathing and other precautions, such as being buried according to local code requirements. Such burying can be expensive and provides limited flexibility for changing lighting arrangements.


Solar Systems

Solar lighting does not include dangers from electrocution but can require significant maintenance and can only be put in places with significant sunlight every day.  The amount and type of lighting that can be used is also generally very limited compared to the other two types of lighting.


Low Voltage Systems

Low voltage lighting requires a transformer to convert the electricity to safe 12 volt DC current. The wiring can be buried close to the surface or may not even need to be buried at all. No electrician or professional is required to install it. The owner can experiment and try different locations or different fixtures to enhance the effects.


Types of Fixtures


Walkway Lighting

Walkway fixtures are generally placed on either side of sidewalks, driveways, or paths, are attached to the ground with a post of 1’ or less, and aim the light downward; the diffuser for the light is generally in the shape of one or more disks.


In-Ground Lighting

The fixtures are flush with the ground and are used to accent walls, trees, or shrubs.


Spot Lighting

Spot lights are similar to household spot lights.  Sometimes they are planted in the ground with a small post and are used to accent an area similar to in-ground lighting.  Sometimes they are attached to a wall or a tall post for general outdoor lighting for a small area. Some of these fixtures have two or more cans attached to highlight multiple areas.


Flood Lighting

Flood lights are similar to in-ground and spot lighting but the bulbs and fixtures are designed to throw a great deal of light over a broad area for general lighting.  Sometimes the fixtures are planted in the ground on short posts and sometimes they are attached to a wall.


Entry Lighting

Entry lighting fixtures for doors, garages, or gates are generally placed high on a wall and provide non-directed, general lighting.


Underwater Lighting

The fixtures are flush with the bottom or side of pools, fountains, or ponds and, of course, are waterproof.