Deck Lighting Buying Guide

Deck Lighting
  • Choosing the Deck Lighting That is Perfect for Your Needs

  • Before you start planning your deck lighting, ensure you’re aware of different options available to you. From fun little accents to functional deck lighting, the combinations and the look you want to create are up to you! This guide will help you go through the available choices of style, layout, size, and more.

  • Getting Started

  • Before choosing deck lighting, you should think about energy efficiency, cost, eye health, style, light source, and a whole host of different factors. Lighting a deck does not mean putting up several floodlights anymore. Nowadays, deck bring fashion in the lighting schemes. Sensible, strategic use of different light fixtures is a big trend, and this guide will teach you how to plan and make use of creative and logical ideas.

  • What to Consider

  • One of the main factors to consider is sizing. Smaller areas look better with task lighting, while larger areas are more suited to floodlights. Besides, function and appearance also play an important role. Think about what you want to achieve and make sure you bought the right type of lighting.

  • Styles

  • Post Caps.  From unique to functional,thepostcapstyles act as a finishing touch on your deck design by being placed atop the locations that punctuate the deck railing. Styles vary from handcrafted to powder-coat two classic finishes.

    Rail Lighting.  Low-voltage, side-mounted sconces on the railing posts add a nice glow to the illumination. Multiple styles allow you to customize your deck with lighting that adds decorative accents and warm highlights.

    Step Lighting.  Recessed lighting mounted underneath the steps blends perfectly with them– increasing safety and adding harmony to your deck lighting. Recessed LED lights can also be used to highlight features that you love the most about your deck.

  • Bulb Options

  • LED.  If you are thinking of the green movement, think of choosing LED lighting. LED, or light-emitting diode, is illuminated by the movement of electrons instead of using a standard filament that you can find in incandescent bulbs. LED bulbs are cool to the touch and require less energy to operate. Most of them need a DC 12-volt transformer, but the newest options are rated for both DC and AC power. Carefully read the description before buying a LED bulb.

    Incandescent.  These bulbs create light using the filament. The filament glows when power is applied, producing light, and generating heat. Incandescent bulbs can work with line voltage and low voltage application.

    LED vs Incandescent.  Lights for your deck fixtures are usually xenon or halogen lamps, both of them are incandescent. Xenon bulbs are less bright compared to halogens, but they last up to 20,000 hours and can be handled with bare hands. They produce less heat than halogens and the color of light is warmer. Xenon bulbs usually don’t discolor plastic lenses.

    However, many believe that future decks will be lit by LEDs, which last longer and help save on electricity bills. A LED lamp can last for 50,000 hours, after which the light will fall below the acceptable level. The most efficient LED lamps can produce the same Lumens per watt as fluorescents. Some people already use LEDs for their deck fixtures, but their cost, low light output, and blueish color have been some of the obstacles to wider acceptance.

  • Power Sources

  • Low Voltage.  Low voltage lighting requires a transformer plugged into a wall outlet to convey power from 12 volts up to 110 volts. Installation doesn’t require professional help unless you have a transformer that has to be hardwired into an electrical system. Low voltage deck lighting is easy and safe to operate, but you still should contact your building permits department or the building inspector for your area before starting a construction project. Multiple transformers can power low voltage lamps.

    AC Transformers.  They are used to convert AC current to the voltage required for the incandescent bulbs.

    Single Tap Configuration.  These transformers have one terminal that delivers current reduced to a specific amount, most of the time it’s 10% of the incoming voltage.

    Multi-TapConfiguration.  These transformers have many terminals available, ensuring better stability and preventing early bulb burnout.

    DC Transformers.  These transformers aren’t common in US household application, but they are necessary for LED lights. They can convert AC voltage to DC power. DC transformers come in single tap configurations as explained in 3.1.2.

    Line Voltage.  Line voltage products use more electricity to create a larger amount of light when compared to the low voltage deck lighting. This product usually has to be installed with professional help, as the installation of Line Voltage requires a permit.

    Solar.  Solar lighting uses a panel that converts sunlight into electricity and is perfect in a situation when wiring is not an option. Solar lighting can’t produce as much power as line voltage or low voltage power, but it can be used for accent lights. The run time is usually based on the location and the season. For instance, in northern climates, solar lights can run for 10 hours during summer and 4 hours during winter. In southern climates, the same solar lights will run several hours longer.

  • Planning

  • Before you choose your deck lighting, plan the essential elements.

    Sketch It Out. You don’t have to make a sketch of a perfect deck plan, but visualizing the layout of your future lighting objectives can go a long way toward achieving the design you want. Once you have an idea, mark the location of important features, especially if you’re going to have fixed items. These may include large planters, tables, seating, grills, or fireplaces.

    Think Utility.What parts of your deck will you light for functionality, safety, or décor? This can include high traffic areas, stair treads, grilling, and so on. A combination of recessed stair lighting, post caps and rail lighting will produce the right amount of light without ruining the relaxing ambiance. As you decide on the locations, mark them on your plan.

    Atmosphere.  The fun starts with thinking about what kind of atmosphere you want to create. Do you want warm accent lights to soften the environment and add romance? Or bright lights to highlight architectural features and important details?Pencilin these locations as well.

    Choose The Lights.  Choose the lighting style and finalize the plan. As you go through the options, don’t forget about your deck balusters, spindles, and other material. You want the color, luminance, and style of your lights to highlight the existing features and your personality.

    Measure Everything Carefully.  When ordering lighting fixtures, ensure you are correct when measuring the size of your deck posts.

    Transformer Essentials.  To properly determine the size of a transformer you need, add up a total number of watts for each light bulb for your deck. Then you should add 10% for connections and cables that will also add watts to the system. The equation is quite simple: total light watts X 1.1 = transformer size you need.

    Then choose a transformer that matches your total wattage, round the number up if necessary. You can also leave room to add more lights. For instance, 13 light fixtures @ 20 watts each will need a 300-watttransformer (13 X 20 = 260 total plus 260 X 1.1 = 286 watts, but 286-watt transformers don’t exist so you round up the number to a 300-watt transformer).

    Wiring.  Wiring gauge means how much your current wire can handle. Higher current always runs on thicker cable, which is usually indicated by a lower gauge number. Choose wires according to the type of lights, the location, and the layout. You should stay consistent when matching wire types. If you choose LED lighting, matching polarity is crucial.

  • Layout

  • Think where you will run the wires: hidden within the railing, under the deck, or under the handrail. Voltage drops can occur while current runs to each light fixture on the circuit. It could lead to insufficient voltage. To limit the drop, it’s recommended that you loop the main cable.

    Loop Installation.  Loop installation means light fixtures are arranged in a looped circuit, which reduces the possibility of a voltage drop.

     “T” Installation.  “T” installation means the transformer is located in the center of the lighting circuit, creating an equal distribution of power. This installation requires a heavier gauge wire running from the transformer. Choosethis if your lighting fixtures are far from the transformer.

    Straight Installation.  Straight or line installation means the wiring starts at the end of the lighting and follows the direct sequence to the transformer.

    Split Load Installation.  This is the best option when light fixtures run in several directions from the transformer. To reduce the risk of a voltage drop, place the transformer in the center of the light fixture run.

  • Controlling the Lights

  • People often forget about the importance of controls when designing the deck lighting. Most of the time individual lights can’t be switched – entire circuits can. Of course, there are always exceptions, such as lighting at a grill, or solar-powered lighting. How you control your light fixtures depends on the purpose of your lighting. For example, you may want your safety lighting to come on after dark. Such task can be controlled with photosensors that switch on at dusk.

    You can also vary the level of light by setting up different light circuits. You can achieve complete symmetry by alternating light on the railing posts so that each one will be on a different circuit. For a romantic ambiance, one circuit is what you need.

    It’s always a good idea to put accent lights on their own circuit, as there are times when you want only accent lights to highlight a certain object.