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Why Low-Voltage Bistro Lighting Outshines Traditional 120v Options

By Roger Ramsey on May 24, 2021 in BlogNo Comments

Why Low-Voltage Bistro Lighting Outshines Traditional 120v Options graphic

Bistro lighting or string lighting continues to grow in popularity across many market segments and industries. By hanging string lights, outdoor living areas can be enjoyed well into the nighttime hours, effectively lighting a space while complementing traditional landscape lighting installations.

String lighting offers multiple lower lumen light sources spread out over a large area rather than one or two large commercial flood lights. Bistro lighting offers a fun, festive, yet always functional light source without the harsh, mood killing effect created by traditional utilitarian lighting options.

In the first of three articles focusing on low-voltage alternatives to traditional 120v applications, we’ll talk about why transformer-ready outdoor lighting is one of the fastest, easiest and most reliable lighting options available to extend the use of outdoor spaces into the nighttime hours.

The Drawbacks of Traditional 120v Lighting

Line voltage installations are typically best for large, permanent commercial applications. Traditional 120v bistro lighting is a perfect way to light large projects with long runs and high lamp counts. However, these projects should be installed per code by qualified, licensed electricians, and most landscape contractors do not have a license.

For smaller, more intimate applications all big box stores sell patio string lighting that’s friendly to homeowners. These plug and play light sets are meant to be easy and simple to install over patios and hardscape areas. But most of these products are not grounded for added safety. They’re also not very versatile with regards to the ability to expand the line, create a custom design or cut them to fit the space or application where the product is being used.

This is where 12v lighting options powered by a landscape lighting transformer really shine!

It Reduces the Risk of Electrical Shock

12v landscape lighting transformers provide a lighting system with an inherently safer power supply than the more dangerous 120v line voltage, especially in an outdoor setting where it’s exposed to the elements. These transformers provide 12 volts to landscape lights through a process called inductance, creating a physical separation between the 120v input power and the 12v output.

Working within a 12v low-voltage environment limits your exposure to liability while giving you the freedom to offer your clients more lifestyle enhancement products. Many stringent electrical installation codes required for safety do not apply. Low voltage lighting products are typically limited more by your imagination than by strict regulations written to provide safety from electrical shock.

Though you do have to pay attention to amp draw, wattage capacity and potential voltage drop issues, 12v bistro lighting is easily installed on new projects independent of landscape lighting or simply by adding it into an existing system.

It Offers More Ambiance

The lower lumen output of 12v bistro lighting provides a softer, warmer, more inviting atmosphere and blends seamlessly into any landscape lighting design. Strung together above a hardscape or landscape area, these individual pinpoint light sources blend, building into an accumulated level of light that is functional yet festive.

Along with complementing new or existing landscape lighting, low-voltage lighting can turn on and off nightly with the rest of the lighting. Or you can control and even dim these specific applications separately using the FX Luxor lighting system or the LetZgo 12v digital dimmer. Either way, it’s a clean look that blends into the rest of the lighting design allowing it to fulfill whatever function, purpose or ambiance the atmosphere requires.

There are No Limits to the Design Options

12v systems are much more versatile, giving you design and installation flexibility. Direct burial wire can be used and more easily hidden, allowing you to custom cut and install as needed.

In addition to stringing cables above hardscape surfaces, the ability to cut to length allows for creative applications such as stringing bistro lights under umbrella canopies, matching the 24” lamp spacing with the umbrella rib spacing for an easy install that is attractive yet functional.

I like to hide the wire with tinsel garland, and I have on occasion included 12v mini-light strings along the outer edge of the umbrella for an even more whimsical ambiance.



The Opportunity to Expand Your Offering

We’re working hard to find lighting options you can install quickly and easily, making it possible for you to add product options and solutions to your installation and service portfolio that complement what you are already doing for your clients.

By maximizing your ability to earn income on every project, you can increase “wallet share” and make sure you are not leaving revenue opportunities on the table. You’ll also minimize the potential for client regret due to not knowing all of the options available to them. Covering all available options is an important way to add revenue while also providing the most value to clients.

Stay tuned for two additional 12v product opportunities in coming articles, giving you more design creativity and flexibility to suit the needs of any client or project.

Why Low-Voltage Bistro Lighting Outshines Traditional 120v Options graphic
Roger Ramsey
Roger Ramsey serves as Outdoor Living Products Manager at Ewing Irrigation & Landscape Supply. He can be reached at rramsey@ewingirrigation.com.
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