Low Voltage Outdoor Lighting Alternatives to 120V Mains Wiring

Outdoor lighting can greatly enhance the aesthetics and functionality of your home's exterior. However, running new 120V AC wiring to power outdoor lights can be complicated, expensive, and in some cases, against electrical codes. Fortunately, low voltage outdoor lighting provides a simple, safe, and cost-effective alternative to 120V mains wiring.

What is Low Voltage Outdoor Lighting?

Low voltage outdoor lighting refers to lighting systems that operate on 12V DC or 24V DC electricity, rather than the 120V AC current that powers most household lighting. The lower voltage allows for safer installation and operation.

Some key advantages of low voltage outdoor lighting include:

Low Voltage Lighting Components

A complete low voltage outdoor lighting system consists of three main components:

Low Voltage Fixtures

This includes the actual low voltage light fixtures, which may use LED, halogen, or incandescent bulbs. Fixtures come in a wide variety of styles for path lighting, spot lighting, post-mount lighting, and more. They run on 12V or 24V DC.

Power Transformer

The transformer converts 120V AC household current into 12V or 24V DC to operate the lights. The transformer is installed at a convenient indoor location with access to an electrical outlet.

Low Voltage Cables

Outdoor-rated low voltage cables connect the transformer to the light fixtures, allowing them to operate at the lower voltage. Cables are laid beneath the ground for a hidden look.

Low Voltage vs 120V Mains Wiring

Below is a comparison between low voltage outdoor lighting and 120V mains wired lighting:

Low Voltage 120V Mains Wiring
Safety Very safe due to lower voltage Higher voltage increases risk of electrocution
Installation Cost Lower - no electrician needed Higher - electrician typically required
Expanding System Easy to add fixtures More complex to add new wiring and circuits
Energy Efficiency Excellent with LED and halogen Dependent on bulb type

As you can see, low voltage lighting provides a feature-packed yet safe and affordable alternative to 120V mains wiring for outdoor illumination.

Low Voltage Lighting Techniques and Tips

Here are some helpful techniques and tips to employ when installing your low voltage outdoor lighting system:

Recommended Low Voltage Lighting Manufacturers

Some top manufacturers of quality low voltage outdoor lighting products include:

Be sure to purchase components designed and rated for outdoor use to handle the weather conditions. Also check that the transformer has sufficient capacity to power all fixtures in your lighting plan.


For most homeowners, low voltage outdoor lighting provides an optimal way to illuminate gardens, pathways, patios, and other exterior living spaces. The lower voltage allows for safer DIY installation. Long cable runs and expansions are simple with minimal voltage drop. And low voltage systems beautifully accent the home while avoiding the hassles of trenching and installing new 120V wiring. With proper planning and product selection, you can create a stunning and functional low voltage lighting system to enhance your home's curb appeal.