Low Voltage Lighting Vs. Solar Lighting

By Steve Hodes

There is a growing debate over which type of landscape lighting is better: Solar Lighting or Low Voltage Lighting.

This article highlights some of the pros and cons of both based on my own personal experience.

Low Voltage Lighting

This type of lighting is available in a variety of brightness levels and styles. The light emitted varies from fixture to fixture, but is usually very good. A transformer provides the electricity and can be controlled by an automatic timer. Low voltage lighting is shockless and safe to use around children and pets. It’s also cost effective and the hardest thing about the installation is burying the wires.

Some of the benefits of low voltage lighting systems are listed below:

A professionally installed lighting system has been known to increase the value and resale of properties. Showcasing your house at night with low voltage lighting helps potential visitors find your property easier too.

Compared with line voltage, low voltage is easily installed, safe to operate, extremely economical, and casts beautiful light.

As a homeowner, you can enjoy more hours outside entertaining friends and family. Low voltage lighting can even be wired on your deck giving you great ambient light or even direct light for your grill.

Low voltage lighting systems are expandable so they can be adapted as properties are expanded and/or owners’ needs change.

Proper lighting offers increased safety and security.


Some of the cons:

Bulbs burn out and need replacement.

Wiring can be damaged and need replacement.

Timers need to be reset with daylight savings time.

Solar Lighting

Solar lights use LEDs instead of traditional bulbs. LEDs last longer than any other light source, sometimes lasting as long as 10 years. This type of lighting requires no wiring and is the most energy-efficient lighting because it uses the sun’s energy to recharge batteries. It costs nothing to operate and is easy to install. However, it should not be used to illuminate large areas brightly or for activities such as grilling and socializing.

Some of the benefits of Solar Lighting:

Lasts longer than other light sources. With LEDs there is nothing to break, rupture, shatter, leak, or contaminate.

Unlike typical conventional light sources, LEDs are not subject to sudden failure or burnout. There is no point in time at which the light source ceases to function; instead, LEDs gradually degrade in performance over time.

Reduced Maintenance Costs – Since LED based light sources last at least 10 times longer than a normal light source, there is no need to replace the light, reducing or even eliminating ongoing maintenance costs and periodic bulb replacement. This is especially nice if you have an area that is difficult to access to change bulbs.

Energy efficiency – You can rest assured knowing that you aren’t contributing nearly as much to global warming or the energy crisis when you use Solar products.

There is no mercury in the light source. Eliminating Mercury from your lighting system will enable you to meet new and future increasingly stringent environmental regulations.

Some of the cons:

The solar panels that typical lighting fixtures use need to be small. This means they collect less energy from the sun to recharge the batteries.

Areas that are frequently shaded or get little sun geographically also affect the recharging capabilities of the fixture.

The lighting is typically dim and does not cover much ground. It also tends to look blue even though it says they use “Super Bright White” LEDS.

The dim lighting means you have to use more fixtures, which creates a sort of landing strip look, or if you are using deck light fixtures they end up looking like a bunch of bug zappers, (without the ability to zap the bugs).

No matter how long they say that LEDs last, it has been my experience that the solar panel usually becomes covered in dirt and the batteries don’t last nearly as long as they are supposed to. You have to keep that solar panel clean or it won’t work, this means more maintenance more often.

Fixtures are usually set to come on at dark and off at light. Not much control there.


I tend to prefer low voltage lighting for the simple fact that it is better quality light and can be controlled better with timers. LED landscape lights will probably always be dim. Solar lights just don’t harvest much energy from the sun, so no matter how efficient their LEDs, they will never be really bright. In comparison to your cheapie solar lights, low voltage is likely to be a huge improvement, and the low-voltage installation process is not really that much harder than it would be for solar fixtures.

I say, low voltage is the way to go until the technology can improve solar panels’ ability to capture energy and improve LEDs ability to output more light.

About the Author: Steve Hodes Jr is the owner of Moonlight Decks LLC. Moonlight Decks specializes in deck lighting. I have both solar and low voltage versions of my post caps on my website –


Or you can reach me at info@MoonlightDecks.com



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