Low voltage lighting systems were used for the first time in the 1950s, when a client asked Bill Locklin, an electrical contractor in Redlands, California, to suggest some light fixtures for outdoors. During that time, only 120-volt lights were used for outdoor lighting. Locklin designed 12-volt lighting fixtures out of containers and headlamps, and powered them using car batteries. More and more people liked this idea for outdoor lighting and the demand for low voltage lights grew.
In the last few decades, the use of low voltage lighting has become very popular. In these systems, a step-down transformer is used, which takes the normal 120-volt current down to 12-volt levels.
Installing low voltage lighting systems is very easy. In fact, you can do that without the help of an electrician, provided you take certain basic precautions. These lighting fixtures are available in kits that contain a plug-in transformer, cable wire (at least 50 inches in length), and light fixtures. The transformer should be plugged into an outdoor outlet of 120-volt power outlet with Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI). The cable wire is fixed to the transformer, which distributes power to the fixtures that are connected to it.
The voltage of the transformer should be chosen based on the combined wattage of the lighting fixtures. For example, if you have installed a system with six lights, adding more lamps would mean upgrading the transformer to match the wattage of the lamps, or you can install a second transformer. It is also to be noted that the brightness of the lamps depends on the cable wire that has been used. If the cable wire is not of a superior quality, the voltage may decrease over a long distance.
As the name suggests, they consume less energy in comparison to traditional home lighting, and are also available in affordable prices. These fixtures are available in two versions, viz. 12-volt current and 120-volt current. A majority of the homeowners use 12-volt systems.
Low voltage lighting has the following advantages:
- Since the electric voltage is low, you can install other lights when the power is still on.
- There are timers in the transformer, with which you can set time durations like 4, 6, or 8 hours, as per your convenience. Some new versions are provided with photocells which enable it to automatically switch on at daybreak and switch off at night.
- If you don't want to deal with cables, solar-powered lights are also available in the market. However, these are more expensive, and need eight hours of sunlight per day for proper functioning.
Low voltage lighting systems are commonly used in bathroom vanities, home offices, living rooms, kitchens, gardens, walkways, and landscape lighting. Halogen lighting systems with a low voltage are used in restaurants, museums, and art galleries. Using this type of lighting outdoors is good for security reasons and, at the same time, it adds to the aesthetic value of the surroundings. You can take your pick from a variety of designs and color effects to make a perfect match with the interior design of your house or the landscape of your garden.