Lighting in a home or commercial space does more than just provide illumination for rooms and tasks. It can do so much more to enhance the beauty of a space by creating a mood or providing very specific targeted lighting for design elements. Low-voltage lighting is one of the wonderful tricks of lighting design that gives a sophisticated air to your home’s customized lighting look.
Standard lighting traditionally means line voltage lighting. This type of lighting runs along and feeds from the wired 120V electrical line in the house or, the wiring of a commercial space. It is rather economical and very general in its purpose- to simply light a room, or provide electricity to outlets for power. It can be dressed up a bit through fixtures, be it recessed cans, pendants, sconces or decorative lamps. But there are limitations with this type of lighting; the beams are not very customizable giving a generic look to directional lighting, and the bulbs do not offer much variety in the beam of light. Low voltage lighting is a solution for adding complexity where line voltage falls short.
Low voltage has more variety and capability than line voltage for several reasons. First: it is possible to gain much wider, or conversely more focused and narrow beam spreads with low voltage lights. Second: it is also possible to place different types of lenses in front of low voltage lights, allowing for additional interest with different lighting effects. For example, it is possible to soften or stretch the light beam with these lenses, allowing for beautiful complexity when lighting for mood or focusing lighting on artwork or architectural features. Third, the fixtures, and bulbs, are more compact in low voltage lighting, allowing for the lighting source to be less obtrusive. This is especially useful with recessed ceiling cans, as it means a much smaller hole in the ceiling resulting in a much cleaner look. This smaller size also allows for more variety in the lamps themselves, with a more sophisticated result coming from the smaller bulbs. Designers and architects gravitate towards low voltage in many scenarios due to its flexibility, variety, and clean, compact size as it enhances, rather than takes away from the design of a home.
This all sounds fantastic- and highly preferable over line voltage lighting. So what’s the catch? Low voltage lighting does require a good bit of planning, as the fixtures are dependent upon their own transformers. Low voltage lighting requires only 12V of electricity as opposed to the 120V provided in traditional line voltage, so an independent transformer is needed to drop the voltage that is fed to the low voltage lighting source. In come instances, the low voltage transformer is contained within the fixture (as with some hanging chandeliers and wall sconces) in which case no retrofitting is necessary. In other cases a separate transformer must be installed independently from the fixtures; this is best done during new or remodel construction so it is hidden behind the scenes in the drywall. The best approach is always to discuss the possibility of this type of lighting upgrade with your New Electric licensed electrician to see what is feasible in your home. The beauty of low voltage lighting is worth the extra effort; it adds an interesting, modern dimension to your lighting and décor that immediately upgrades your home’s interior.