There is perhaps nothing quite as magnificant as a beautifully set out decking area, complete with a planned and well fitted set of deck lights. It can be as simple or as complicated as you like. The main thing to remember is to integrate your deck lighting ideas early, before it is built. This will produce a more homogenous look to the whole deck area. I am not going to talk about how to install deck lighting here, that’s a whole different post all together.
Now I am not going to insult you at this stage by going into the ins and out of advantages and disadvantages of various types of outdoor deck lighting. Well not much anyway, except for power. If you are here I am going to assume you want deck lighting anyway. If you are a newbie and you are not sure what deck lighting is and whether it suits you then I will get some ideas and put it down very soon for you.
So lets get back to why we are here. If you want to jump to a specific portion, then be my guest, I won’t take it personally. the contents list is below.
Types Of Deck Lighting
Well this is where I could write and write if I wanted to and had enough space and time. But when it comes down to it there are really only3 basic types of deck lighting, the rest just being variations on a theme. I have split it up into your power options and the bulb type first of all as you need to make a clear decision on this for your designs first of all. There are so many arguments for LED deck lighting or low voltage deck lighting against solar deck lighting. I have doen a rough comparison table so you can see the main points as well.
Deck Lighting Systems
When I talk about systems I want to look at this in two ways. First of all, how are you going to power your deck lights? Secondly what types of bulbs are you going to use? Both of these will affect your power consumption and bills along with how you plan out your deck lighting design.
Choices For Power
For example if you want to install low voltage deck lighting, there is cabling to think of and where the runs are going to go. They need to avoid areas where they might get damaged later. Then there are the low voltage transformers to locate as well. Deck solar lighting is a lot easier as there are no cables, but will they get enough sunlight to power them up properly? I personally am hesitant about using solar pwower for any security lights around decking as I still have that fear factor of them running out of charge. Of course you can just get them on a motion sensor, so I might experiment.
Certainly though I would use solar for pool decking lights. I have a morbid fear of any mains electricity anywhere near water so I can’t even consider low voltage systems for this sort of application.
Overall though don’t stress over low voltage as compared to solar power. The reality is a combination of the two is best. get low voltage in for critical areas and solar in for where you want more freedom, you would suffer with voltage drop, or for safety reasons like near water or children.
Compare Solar Deck Lighting And Low Voltage Deck Lighting
|Area Of Comparison
||Solar Deck Lighting Systems
||Low Voltage Deck Lighting Systems
||No connection to electricity & no risk if water gets into the wiring
||Commection to the mains via extension lead is greatest risk. Wired through a 12v transformer reduces the risks but they are still there
||Easy to move around, take down and store for special occasions and to put up againEither on or off. Only real control is with motion sensors
||Need planning for your everyday needs. Have to plan where you need openings for deck lighting fictures and cabling runs.Can be very controllable by using timers and dimmers
||Free. The sun does not cost anything
||This depends on the voltage you run them on, the efficiency of your transformaer and electricity costs per kwH in your area
||No ‘moving parts as such, just the lights and a solar panel. Obviously if they are not charged properly they can run out quicker.
||Very reliable providing there is no power cut and water doesn’t get into wiring
Bulb Choices/Light Types
I am a big fan of LED deck lights. I really don’t see the benefits of incandescent bulbs outside. Its how I started, but no longer. It could have something to do with the fact that I am particularly clumsy and was forever burning myself when changing them. I always forget they and any glass surround needs to cool down first. I have lost count of the number of times I have dropped them as well. So for me LED deck lighting is the tops. You can have a look at the post I wrote about LED Deck Lights here. But, I would summarise why I use deck LED lighting as follows:
- Use a lot less power.
- This is really good for my bills and also makes the solar powered LED lights last a lot longer.
- LED bulbs do last so much longer. This saves me money and the hassle of changing them or keeping them in the basement ready
- LED lighting systems don’t just burn out on me. I get a warning as they dim. It comes back to bulbs again. I don’t have to buy just in case.
- Gives me a good feeling that because of the above they are pretty good environmentally. I like to do my bit without going mad. But I always ensure I get the mercury free ones.
Of course as they are also brighter, you need to be aware of your light pollution and nuisance to neighbours. Just always think a bit of others as well. It makes life go just that bit smoother.
Designing & Buying Deck Lighting
This gets down to the real core of things-money. There is tons of choice out there for your deck lights. there are lots of manufacturers, materials and prices. For me get a deck lighting design together before you do anything. I have seen friends really mess things up because they didn’t. It cost them upwards of 20-40% extra.
If you get a good design, you will have you shopping list ready made. No. of lights, transformers, cabling requirements, clips, tools, drill bits, etc
Optimise your spend by buying kits. Good solar or low voltage deck lighting kits can give much better value overall. You will also be able to get a more uniform look over the deck area. the same applies to sticking to one manufacturer for the bulk of the funtional items. Key note or accent lighting items can be sourced individually.
For the same reasons, buy your low voltage cable in bulk and get about 10-20% more than you need. you can deal with any mistakes, unforseen detours and leave yourself with a bit of spare as well. Buy from a reliable source with cheap shipping and a good and clear returns policy if you do it online. Buying more cable also means you have some spare to make adjustments, alterations or if you add to the design later.
The Best Tools For Installing Exterior Deck Lighting
Make sure you have the right tools to do the job, especially where power tools are concerned. You should be looking at a good and reliable brand like Milwaukee or De Walt. If you want to get a cordless drill, then get a spare power pack, so you alwways have one on charge. My personal choices and best selections are below.
I nearly always buy from Amazon or Small Parts. They have the best selection every time and definitely the cheapest power tool prices and best shipping. I have looked elsewhere and even the discount online stores can’t match them. The links are below, so check for yourself. These are the best rated drills in their class as of today. All 4 & 5 star reviews.
See more best rated drills-Click Here For The Best 4 and 5 star power drills
Best Rated Low Voltage Cable
Of course if you are not using solar deck lights, then you are looking at a low voltage lighting system. That requires proper cabling and routing under and around your decking and deck lighting fixtures.
Now please, please make sure you get the length you need right. Unit price wise cabling doesn’t seem too bad, but when you start having to get 40, 50 or 100m plus it adds up. Of course you will also nee a low voltage transformer as well. Read the reviews and you will see why they are so popular
Bestselling Low Voltage Cable & Transformer
Deck Lighting Fixtures & Options
Now this is where we can open a whole can of big worms! There are lots of types of fixtures and options and different manufacturers have different names for the same thing. It is designed to try and confuse us as buyers. Are they post lights, downlighter, step lights or deck post lights?
So I am going to try and keep it generic, with a few tweaks here and there. If I have spotted a bargain I will let you know (Watch out for my bargain watch posts soon!). First of all the ‘meat on the bones’ with deck post lighting, then the essential deck step lighting.
Deck Post Cap Lights
As the name says, they sit on top of your main decking posts. Whilst most are simple and decorative as well as functional, you can get some really fantastic models of deck post cap lights which make excellent focal points. Personally I love the classic look and also the lantern style post lights.
But there are post cap lights for everyone, including stained glass and also modern and contemprary designs as well. I have been having a browse around lately for some of the more unusual and standard lights. Hope you like them, my little gallery of fun. If you need more info on any of then a simply click on the picture.
Deck Post Lights/Downlights
When I talk about deck post lights, I mean the more discrete downlighters, that usually sit near the bottom of deck lighting post. They direct their light down and are quite low powered. The function, is not to light up the decking, but mainly to provide suitable light at foot level to be able to make steps, stair and perimeters safer. Of course, by doing this with a lovely diffused light effect, they also set a lovely subtle atmosphere as well to the areas they are in.
The best deck post lights will be hardly noticable and many designs are very funtional. You can get more adventurous or classic designs as well and Kichler deck lighting seems to excel in this area with an extensive range of low voltage deck lighting for posts. The Kichler deck post lights mainly come in metal, with various patinas or burnishes applied. But occaisionally you do find something a little different with their downlighters. I found these rather lovely lizards which are very different and could look very different as part of a landscape lighting design incorporating your deck lighting
Deck Step Lights
Deck step lights are essential, for safety of your family and guests if nothing else. You will also find that they play a vital part in satisfying your building code regulations. You need to make sure you check you local state requirements when designing deck lighting.
Usually sitting in the stair riser, they light up any stairs and steps to prevent accidents. However, if you choose right, they can produce wonderful displays as well. I have seen some great effects with steel circular step lights on a curving stair. This is where we get a crossover in naming as well, with what I would class as post lights/downlighters included as well.
Styles vary of course, but the Louvre style are very sybtle and popular, functioning as step lights as well as downlighters. As with all deck lighting, the material and style you go for should form a theme across the decking area ideally. You can see just what I mean by clicking here
Recessed Deck Lighting
Recessed deck lights are exactly what they sound like. They are either inset slightly or flush with your decking floors, which is where they are mainly used. Fitted like this they are perfect on heavily trafficked areas or where safety is an issue, such as around pool areas. As they are flush they don’t become a trip hazard. But, you can use them in other places where the discrete recessed deck lights look great. I have seen them used on bench ends, in stairs and steps or embedded into walls and constructions.
Generally these deck lights are fitted to light upwards, so a smoked or opaque lens is recommend to diffuse the light properly so deck users aren’t dazzled by them. Do remember to buy only those with flat and not dished lens tops as well, otherwise they are going to collect water. For durability and corrosion resisitance all in one, it is hard to beat stainless steel recessed deck lighting. Plastic can be used, but don’t expect it to last as long. It also has a tendency to discolor in UV light. I personally would always also go for LED recessed deck lights. they don’t heat up like incandescent bulbs so are safer where bare feet are around.
Those are the three main deck lighting areas really. There are plenty of variations on a theme though and we will need to look at cheap deck lighting, where to buy deck lighting, the best deck lighting and who makes the best deck lighting, but those are in the pipeline for future posts, so subscribe to my feed and keep up to date.
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