What’s the Difference Between Line Voltage and Low Voltage Landscape Lighting

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Proper landscape lighting is crucial to enhance the appearance of outdoor spaces and ensure safety and security. It highlights the unique features of your yard or garden, creates an inviting and cozy ambiance, and enables you to enjoy your outdoor areas even after dark.

There are two main types of landscape lighting systems: line voltage and low voltage. Line voltage lighting runs on the same voltage as your home’s electrical system, typically 120 or 240 volts, while low voltage lighting uses a transformer to reduce the voltage to 12 or 24 volts.

Line voltage lighting suits larger outdoor areas requiring more lighting, such as parking lots, commercial buildings, and athletic fields. It is also ideal for permanent installations, as it requires the direct burial of electrical cables, which can be more complicated and expensive.

On the other hand, low-voltage lighting is an excellent option for homeowners who want to highlight certain landscape features or add some ambiance to their outdoor spaces. It is also less expensive to install than line voltage lighting and offers greater flexibility in placement and adjustment.

The upcoming sections will delve into the contrasting features of line voltage and low voltage landscape lighting, considering their efficiency, safety measures, and economic feasibility.

Table of Contents

What is Line Voltage Landscape Lighting?

Line voltage landscape lighting systems operate on the same voltage as the main electrical supply, either 120 or 240 volts. They do not require a transformer to convert the voltage, making them a plug-and-play that can be connected directly to a standard power outlet. Unlike low voltage lighting, which requires a transformer in the circuit, line voltage lighting systems can be simpler to install.

To safely install 120V or 240V line voltage lights, the power cables should be buried at least 2 feet underground and placed within plastic conduits, with sealed junction boxes at the ends for added safety. These heavy-duty line voltage lights are best suited for large landscapes or residential areas with abundant vegetation. While they make brighter light, modern low-voltage lights can also make comparable lumens.

Line voltage lighting is cost-effective and straightforward for outdoor, security, and commercial lighting. It is popular for its easy setup, maintenance, and affordability. Line voltage lighting is often preferred for landscape lighting because it has the ability to cover a wider area, but it is crucial to ensure proper wiring is done to ensure safety.

Despite consuming more electricity than low-voltage lights, line-voltage lights have a significant role in various applications.

Pros of Line Voltage Landscape Lighting

  • Higher Brightness Levels: Line voltage lighting systems can deliver more powerful and intense illumination than their low voltage counterparts. This makes them ideal for large properties or situations where bright, far-reaching light is necessary.
  • More Excellent Coverage Area: Due to the increased brightness and intensity of line voltage lighting, these systems can effectively cover larger areas with fewer fixtures. This can benefit expansive landscapes, parking lots, or commercial properties requiring broad illumination.

Cons of Line Voltage Landscape Lighting

  • Higher Energy Consumption: The higher voltage and increased brightness levels of line voltage landscape lighting systems often result in higher energy consumption. This can lead to increased utility costs and a larger carbon footprint, making them less environmentally friendly than low-voltage systems.
  • More Complex Installation: Installing line voltage landscape lighting typically requires the expertise of a licensed electrician due to the higher voltage levels and potential risks involved. This can make installing more complicated, time-consuming, and expensive than low-voltage systems.
  • Safety Concerns: The higher voltage levels in line voltage lighting systems pose a greater risk of electrical shock or injury if not installed and maintained correctly. Additionally, improperly installed line voltage systems can present a fire hazard, making it crucial to follow local building codes and regulations.

Ideal Applications and Scenarios for Line Voltage Lighting

Line voltage landscape lighting is well-suited for large properties, commercial spaces, or situations where intense illumination is needed. Examples of ideal applications include:

1. Illuminating large outdoor areas such as parking lots, sports fields, or expansive gardens
2. Providing bright, clear light for security purposes or to deter potential intruders
3. Highlighting extensive architectural features or tall trees and structures

What is Low Voltage Landscape Lighting?

Low-voltage landscape lighting is a lighting system that operates on low-voltage electricity, typically 12V or 24V. The low-voltage electricity is achieved by using a transformer to convert the standard 120V or 240V voltage from the main electrical supply to the lower voltage required by the lighting system. The transformer is on the outside of the lamp, usually a transformer that supplies power to multiple low-voltage lights simultaneously. In addition, you have to ensure that the transformer’s wattage rating is equal to or greater than the lighting system’s combined wattage rating.

Low-voltage lighting fixtures, such as Landscape spotlights, LED Post Lights, and LED Bollard Lights, are widely used in outdoor lighting applications. Low-voltage LED fixtures are highly versatile and can be used in various settings. These lights are handy for landscape lighting in areas with restricted access, as they require less bulky equipment.

Low voltage lighting is a safer option for landscape lighting as it reduces the risk of electric shock, and the wiring does not need to be buried as deep underground as line voltage lighting, making installation much easier and more flexible, allowing the lighting to move and adjust as needed.

More than landscape lighting based solely on energy efficiency is required; other factors must be considered when selecting the appropriate lights for your outdoor place.

Low Voltage Lighting System

Pros of Low Voltage Landscape Lighting

  • Energy Efficiency: Low voltage landscape lighting systems consume less energy than line voltage systems, making them more environmentally friendly and cost-effective. Reduced energy consumption can result in lower utility bills and a smaller carbon footprint.
  • Easier Installation: Installing low-voltage landscape lighting is generally more straightforward and less time-consuming than installing line voltage systems. Due to the lower voltage levels, there is a reduced risk of electrical shock, and homeowners can often tackle the installation themselves, saving on professional installation costs.
  • Increased Safety: Low voltage landscape lighting systems are inherently safer than line voltage systems due to the lower voltage levels. The risk of electrical shock is significantly reduced, and the chances of fire hazards are minimized, making them a safer option for residential properties and family-friendly outdoor spaces.

Cons of Low Voltage Landscape Lighting

  • Limited Brightness Levels: Low voltage lighting systems may not be as bright or intense as line voltage systems. This can limit their ability to provide adequate illumination for large areas or situations requiring high-intensity light.
  • Smaller Coverage Area: Due to the lower brightness levels, low-voltage lighting systems may require more fixtures to cover the same size as a line voltage system. This can result in a more cluttered appearance and higher costs for additional fixtures and wiring.

Ideal Applications and Scenarios for Low-voltage Lighting

Low-voltage landscape lighting is well-suited for residential properties, smaller commercial spaces, and situations where energy efficiency and safety are prioritized. Examples of ideal applications include:

1. Illuminating pathways, driveways, and garden features in residential landscapes
2. Accentuating architectural details or plantings in smaller outdoor spaces
3. Creating a cozy and inviting ambiance for outdoor living areas, such as patios or decks
4. Providing subtle, ambient lighting for outdoor dining areas, pools, or water features

What’s the Difference Between Low Voltage and Line Voltage Landscape Lighting?

When selecting a landscape lighting system, consider the distinct features of line voltage and low-voltage options to make an informed decision based on your specific requirements.

Line and low-voltage landscape lighting systems are popular choices, but the optimal decision depends on several factors. First, to determine the most suitable lighting system for your project, evaluate these general considerations before making your final choice.

A. Size and Layout of the Area to be Illuminated

The size and layout of the outdoor space play a significant role in determining the most suitable type of landscape lighting. For example, line voltage systems are typically better suited for larger areas that require brighter, more intense illumination. In contrast, low voltage systems are more appropriate for smaller spaces where softer, more subtle lighting is desired.

B. Desired Brightness and Intensity

Consider the level of brightness and intensity required for your outdoor space. If your primary goal is to provide robust and far-reaching light for security purposes or to illuminate large areas, line voltage systems may be the better choice. However, low-voltage lighting might be ideal if you prefer a more ambient, intimate atmosphere.

C. Energy Efficiency and Cost Considerations

Energy efficiency and overall costs are essential when choosing a landscape lighting system. Low voltage systems are generally more energy-efficient and cost-effective in terms of electricity consumption, while line voltage systems may incur higher utility bills. Additionally, consider the costs of fixtures, wiring, transformers (for low voltage systems), and professional installation services when comparing the two options.

D. Ease of Installation and Maintenance

Low voltage lights necessitate a transformer to reduce the standard voltage supply of 120/227V to 12/24V. Some fixtures come with an integrated transformer, while others need a separate transformer close to the circuit. This setup is safer and poses fewer hazards during installation.

Conversely, line voltage lighting does not need a transformer to decrease the voltage, simplifying the installation process. However, due to the higher voltage of 120 volts involved, line voltage systems require the oversight of a professional electrician to ensure safe handling and installation.

Evaluate the complexity and expertise required for installing and maintaining your chosen landscape lighting system. Low voltage systems are generally easier to install, often allowing owners to handle the process themselves. Line voltage systems, on the other hand, typically require the skills of a licensed electrician due to the higher voltage levels and associated safety concerns.

E. Local Regulations and Codes

Before deciding, research your local building codes and regulations related to outdoor lighting. Some areas may have specific requirements for the type, intensity, or installation of landscape lighting systems. Ensure your chosen method complies with these regulations to avoid legal issues or potential fines.

F. Safety Concerns

Safety should always be a priority when selecting a landscape lighting system. Low voltage systems offer increased safety due to the lower voltage levels, reducing the risk of electrical shock and fire hazards. Line voltage systems, while capable of providing brighter illumination, come with higher safety risks if not installed and maintained correctly. For example, consider the safety needs of your property, as well as the presence of children, pets, or elderly individuals, when choosing between line voltage and low voltage landscape lighting.

G. Light Output Quality

With their higher voltage lights, line voltage systems typically generate warmer and more diffused light output. In contrast, low-voltage lamps emit light closer to natural light, making more focused light beams.

The light quality of low-voltage LED lights is considered superior due to their reduced light scatter and improved optical control. They are primarily used in applications where aesthetics are of importance. With low-voltage LEDs, you can access a range of color temperatures and beam spreads, such as floodlights and spotlights, providing more versatility than line voltage lights, which offer limited options.

H. Cables and Connections

For line voltage systems to adhere to safety standards, wires must be buried at a minimum depth of 18 inches underground. Encasing the cables within a conduit can further mitigate potential hazards. Utilizing high-quality wires and connections with water-resistant and shockproof properties is essential.

Low voltage systems are safer and do not necessitate deep wire burial. However, for such systems, positioning the low-voltage wires just a few inches underground is usually adequate for most applications.

I. Relocation Of The Systems

Low voltage lighting systems offer greater flexibility, as they are not as permanent as line voltage systems, allowing for easy relocation. Additionally, incorporating another fixture into a low-voltage system is straightforward as long as the transformer can accommodate the extra load.

J: Voltage Drop

Voltage drop denotes the decrease in voltage encountered along a circuit of lighting fixtures. This phenomenon occurs in low-voltage lighting systems, as electricity dissipates during transmission. The voltage decreases as the cable’s length increases, resulting in fixtures receiving less power than needed for optimal output.

Position the transformer closer to the low-voltage landscape lights to solve this issue and refrain from using a daisy chain configuration. In a daisy chain setup, the first fixture typically receives more power than the next.

In the case of line voltage systems, adequate power is supplied to the fixtures, ensuring proper operation without the voltage drop issue.

For more even power distribution among fixtures in low-voltage lighting systems, it is recommended to divide the wire runs. Additionally, transformers can support a specific number of fixtures. For example, calculate the total wattage of all the fixtures you plan to illuminate to determine the appropriate transformer.


Before selecting a lighting system, it’s essential to comprehend your project’s requirements. For example, line voltage and low-voltage systems have unique applications in which they excel, so understanding your specific needs is crucial.

Low voltage lighting is commonly employed in projects requiring a customizable, striking appearance. Users can control these lights, making them ideal for designing aesthetically pleasing projects using low-voltage LED swimming pool lights, underwater spotlights, and fountain lights. These lighting options are primarily utilized in residential and commercial settings, including pathways, parks, playgrounds, and display lighting applications.

low voltage lighting

Line voltage lighting is predominantly employed in applications with extensive wire runs, including landscape, architectural, and street lighting. It is utilized in commercial and public spaces where a vast area needs to be illuminated by a limited number of bright fixtures. Line voltage lighting is frequently found in security applications where high illumination levels are necessary across large areas.

Combining Line Voltage and Low Voltage Landscape Lighting for A Balanced Solution

A. How to Create a Harmonious Blend of Both Lighting Types

To create a harmonious blend of both line voltage and low voltage landscape lighting, consider the specific requirements of your outdoor space. First, determine areas where intense illumination is necessary, such as entryways, security zones, or parking lots, and utilize line voltage lighting. Low voltage lighting can provide the desired effect for more subtle or accent lighting needs, like garden pathways, architectural features, or water features.

B. Maximizing the Benefits of Each Lighting Type

To maximize the benefits of each lighting type, carefully assess your landscape and identify the most suitable application for each system. Use line voltage lighting to provide broad, bright illumination in areas where safety and visibility are crucial. Low voltage lighting also creates a warm, inviting atmosphere and accentuates key features within your landscape. By strategically placing fixtures and selecting appropriate lighting designs, you can optimize the advantages of both lighting types.

C. Examples of Successful Mixed Lighting Installations

  • Commercial Properties: In a commercial setting, line voltage lighting can be used to illuminate parking lots, building perimeters, and main entrances, while low voltage lighting can be used to highlight landscaping features, pathways, and signage.
  • Public Parks: In public parks, line voltage lighting can provide ample illumination for sports fields, playgrounds, and large gathering areas, while low voltage lighting can be used to accentuate walking paths, gardens, and sculptures.
  • Residential Properties: For residential properties, line voltage lighting can be used to enhance security by illuminating driveways, garages, and entryways. Low-voltage lighting can create an inviting ambiance along walkways, around decks or patios, and within garden areas.


Line and low-voltage landscape lighting systems differ in various aspects, including voltage levels, energy consumption, brightness, installation complexity, and safety considerations. Line voltage lighting operates at higher voltage levels, provides more excellent brightness and coverage, and typically requires professional installation. Low voltage lighting works at lower voltage levels, is more energy-efficient, offers more accessible facilities, and is generally safer.

When choosing a landscape lighting system, it’s crucial to consider individual requirements and preferences. Assess the unique features of your outdoor space and determine the specific lighting needs for each area. Select the appropriate lighting type to achieve the desired ambiance, security, and visibility, ensuring your landscape is functional and aesthetically pleasing.

For the best results and to ensure safety, it’s recommended to consult with professional landscape lighting designers or electricians when planning and installing your lighting system. These experts can help you choose the most suitable lighting types, strategically place fixtures, and adhere to local regulations and safety standards. By collaborating with professionals, you can achieve a well-designed and safely installed landscape lighting solution customized to your needs.

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