While domestic LED lighting is still the new kid on the block where indoor home lighting is concerned, it has rapidly become a dominant force outdoors and accordingly a subject that many now feel comfortable with regarding the pros and cons of LED garden lighting vs. traditional forms of outdoor lighting.
Outdoor LED lighting is able to deliver the most gorgeous effects in most any garden. It also combines elegance and beauty with the advantages of being very safe (i.e. low voltage and low temperature), very simple to install, and fairly cheap to both buy and maintain.
Until LED garden lighting made an appearance, outdoor lighting used pretty much the same sort of incandescent bulbs and halogen spotlights as are still (for now) found indoors. These are frequently rather harsh and can easily overwhelm a typical family garden with the result that instead of an alluring night time ambience the effect more resembles the high security perimeter of Stalag Acacia Avenue.
Also, the range of available effects are more limited and even low voltage incandescent garden lights can pose a serious hazard due to the very high temperatures of the bulbs. As for the cost… the usual ratio applies (LED garden lighting cost ten times less to run).
Physically installing LED garden lights is actually little different to installing conventional mains powered low voltage outdoor lights when it comes down to it. One thing worth remembering of course is that garden’s grow – sooner or later any light is going find itself hiding, if not exactly under a bushel, certainly under a bush. This is when you get to find out the true value of that garden workhorse, the Chipper Shredder.
Most garden lighting kits available these days are powered by a 12v transformer (situated indoors of course) rated to accept a particular number of watts in loading. A cable runs from the transformer into the garden and is then laid along the places where lighting is required. Individual light fittings are then attached to this main cable by using a three-way connector – these tend to have quite long cables of their own so there is plenty of scope to arrange them with respect to the main cable. It is also possible to install different types of light (i.e. halogen spots and LEDs) on the same cable if the total wattage load on the transformer is within its maximum load.
A key differentiator with LED garden lighting though is that the low voltage cable and 12v transformer rigmarole is not in fact mandatory. LED garden lights use such small amounts of electricity that they are just as easily powered by rechargeable batteries, recharged via integral (or separately connected) solar panels. The choice available with solar garden lighting is as expansive as with 12v LED garden lighting, but for some folk the fact that they’re either on or off according to individual light sensors is a disadvantage.
Many people like to be able to switch their outdoor lighting on and off as they please (for example, when they go to bed); also, the capability to do this would mean that batteries were not totally discharged overnight. It is however becoming easier to find solar garden lights that don’t use an integral solar panel but expect instead to be connected to a central solar panel and battery. The advantages this brings is are a) the ability to locate lights in spots that don’t benefit from direct sunlight since the solar panel is located remotely and b) the ability to control the central power source.
Also of course, there is more to garden decor than just lighting and solar power can be put to use in the garden in many other ways. Obvious candidates are water features where a discreet solar panel can both ensure constant power to a water pump during the day and recharge batteries to carry on pumping water well into the evening.
Less obviously, but clearly of great benefit to your feathered garden guests, would be solar bird bath heaters. Many people take the trouble to put out bread and fat during the winter months when the ground is frozen and many birds have a hard time finding food, but of greater importance to their well being is in fact drinking water.