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Outdoor Lighting

How to light up your backyard, conserve energy and save money

By Steve Parrott

Photos courtesy CAST Lighting (Lighting design by Rob Schucker)

In an era of rising energy prices, looking at your electric bill can be a frightening prospect. Many homeowners are searching for ways to cut costs, and are looking to their outdoor lighting as a possible candidate for cutbacks. While its true that extinguishing all outdoor illumination—from security lights to decorative fixtures—would save some money, it doesn't make for a very happy homeowner. After all, who really wants to hunker down in a pitch-black backyard?

Luckily, there is an energy-efficient outdoor lighting option, one that satisfies homeowners' needs for security and safety, beautifies your home and enables you to enjoy outdoor activities. This solution is professionally installed low-voltage landscape lighting.

These lights aren't the same as the ones available at 'big-box' stores, which can be installed in a matter of minutes. This lighting is designed by a skilled professional, who selects rugged and durable lights that last years (not months) and creates an intelligent lighting design that satisfies your many goals, including energy conservation.

How efficient is low-voltage landscape lighting?

Compared to typical 120-volt outdoor lighting, switching to 12-volt lights saves as much as 90 per cent in energy costs. The savings are realized because of several factors:

  • Light efficacy: This refers to the amount of light (lumens) produced by a unit of energy (watts). Standard 120-volt bulbs have a low efficacy (about 10 lumens/watt); miniature 12-volt incandescent bulbs are 50 per cent more efficient, while light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are about 400 per cent more efficient.
  • Lamp selection: Low-voltage lighting allows the lighting designer to select among dozens of wattages, from three up to 50 watts, and several beam spreads, from very narrow to extra wide. Typical 120-volt lighting provides a much smaller selection, resulting in wasted energy. Low-voltage lighting is all about projecting low levels of illumination over a wide area. High-voltage lighting tends to project overly bright illumination in a few isolated areas.
  • Better control: Standard 120-volt outdoor lighting is turned on and off manually—when it gets dark, you flip on a switch, then turn it off in the morning. Low-voltage lighting, on the other hand, gives you much more precise, often automated, control. You can set on and off times according to when the lights are needed most and, by doing so, minimize the amount of time the lights are in use to conserve energy.
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