DECK LIGHTING BASICS
Adding deck lights to your deck and fence projects will truly enhance your outdoor spaces. Deck lights (also called post cap lights) add ambiance, style and safety by providing the right amount of radiance to seating areas, stairways, walkways and other areas of your outdoor space. Deck lighting adds a finishing touch to your posts. They may encourage more time spent outdoors and can increase your livable space and property value. Below are some things to consider when adding outdoor lighting. No matter which style you choose, deck lights can make a dramatic difference to the appearance and mood of your outdoor areas. Have fun deciding.
THREE CATEGORIES OF DECK LIGHTS:
(1) Solar Deck Lights are perfect for adding accent lights to new and existing decks and fence projects. They create a soft, pleasing, ambient glow but are not as bright as wired lighting. Solar powered lights are very easy to install as no wiring or electricity is needed. They come with long-life LED bulbs and replaceable, rechargeable batteries that can last 1-5 years. Batteries charge during the day and the built-in photo-eye activates the LED lights at dusk. Run time depends on season and location. Solar post caps should be placed in full sun for maximum brightness and duration. We recommend at least 6 hours of direct sunlight, although newer techology may require less sun exposure. Please note, your location and time of year can affect the solar light's brighness and run time.
- Pros: Perfect for new or existing projects. Easy way to add instant lighting to outdoor spaces. No monthly electical costs. No expensive, professional installation required. Easy to replace or update. Soft ambient lighting. Low maintenance.
- Cons: Not as bright as wired lighting. Requires direct sunlight and may produce less light during cooler months or cloudy, rainy or snowy days.
(2) Low Voltage Lighting (12 Volt) utilizes a transformer to convert 110 volts down to 12 volts and is mounted on the outside of the home. There are a variety of ways to turn the lights on and off. Some transformers have built-in programmable timers while others have a photo-eye which turns the lights on at dusk and off at a preset time 2, 4, 6 or 8 hours. Low voltage deck lights can be installed by professionals or DIYers and use a low amount of electricity. (Please check with your local agency if a professional electrician is required to meet code.)
- Pros: Brighter more consistent light output year round. Some styles are dimmable. Ability to manually turn on or off. Ability to add a timer or photoeye. Easy DIY installation.
- Cons: Requires electricity. May require installation by a professional. Requires a power source, transformer, wiring, pigtail connectors (optional), and additional tools.
Types of Low Voltage Lighting:
- Alternating Current (A/C) is the most common low voltage lighting using incandescent or Halogen bulbs. They are easy to install, run on an A/C current and do not require parallel wiring. Each fixture connects to the main wire in any order, then the main wire connects to the terminals on the transformer.
- Direct Current (D/C) typically use LED bulbs and must be wired in parallel (white wire to white wire, black wire to black wire). There are two advantages to using a D/C system: (1) lower power consumption and (2) more fixtures can be installed on a single transformer. However, wiring must be installed correctly or none of the lights will work.
(3) Line Voltage Post Cap Lights (110 Volt) produce the brightest lights and can be installed on the same switch as other line voltage light allowing the lights to be controlled from inside the home. Timers can also be used to turn the lights on and off automatically. The drawback to 110 volt lighting is it typically must be installed by a licensed electrician and many areas require a permit for installation.
CHOOSING THE CORRECT SIZE:
Lighted and non-lighted post caps come in a variety of sizes to fit deck and fence posts made of wood, metal, composite and vinyl/pvc. Make sure to measure your post for a proper fit and use actual measurements, not nominal. For example, 4x4 wood posts have an actual measurement of 3 ½ x 3 ½ inches. While 4x4 vinyl posts measure a true 4” x 4”.
- Ornamental: 2, 2 ½ and 3 inches
- Wood: 3 ½ and 5 ½ inches
- Composite: 4, 4 3/8, 4 ½ inches
- Vinyl/PVC: 4, 5 and 6 inches
CHOOSING COLOR AND STYLE:
Color and style is usually based on personal preference and should enhance the theme of your deck, fence and/or outdoor space. For a classic look, choose post caps and lighted post caps in a color that closely matches your post. Choosing a contrasting color and/or more decorative styles can really transform the look of your deck and fence projects.
CHOOSING DECK LIGHT TYPE:
Visualize how you want your outdoor space to look to determine what type of lights you need. Deck lighting can help you create a radiant and relaxing outdoor space and can be added to posts stairs, porches, rail, balconies and patio covers. Most deck light produce an outward glow of light, adding brightness to the surrounding areas (usually within 2 to 5 feet). Some low-profile, post top lights create a downward glow of light, illuminating the post and areas below. This is ideal to brighten stairways and walkways, to add ian interesting glow or to softly accentuate outdoor living spaces. Below are just some of the different types of deck lights available today.
- Lighted Post Caps are installed on the top of the posts and can illuminate a wide area.
- Side Mounted Lights can be installed on the sides of posts, rails or any vertical surface. They can be used to illuminate steps or brighten a small area. They can be installed anywhere on the post.
- Stair Lights are flush mounted on the vertical riser of stairs. They brighten steps for safety and add a stylish touch to your stairways.
- Mini Recessed Lights are small round dots that can be installed just about anywhere: ceilings, steps, floors, etc. They add just the right amount of radiance for safety and style.
- Hanging Lights coordinate with other deck lights and can be installed on patio covers and covered outdoor rooms.