Solar vs. wired Landscape Lighting

Rob621

Well-known member
Looking for advantages/disadvantages when comparing wired and solar laow voltage lighting. I am looking to install lighting around my pool area. Also, any design ideas or particular lights anyone may have input on would be appreciated.

Thanks,
Rob
 

flyweed

Bronze Supporter
Aug 3, 2009
525
SW Wisconsin
+1 for wired low voltage. I hav tried numerous solar lights..even fairly expensive ones..and they all "fail" to live up to the hype after a while. You want continuous, good quality lighting go with a wired system.

Dan
 

tim_pool_newbie

Bronze Supporter
LifeTime Supporter
Oct 6, 2009
165
I have yet to see a solar light that actually provides any amount of light worth its price. They all tend to "glow" rather than actually giving off some serious light.

I have done low voltage lighting all throughout the landscaping around the front of my home and it was a fairly easy DIY project. But I did learn that you really need to add up your total wattage (combined number of fixtures) per each circuit or you run the risk of there literally not being enough electricity left at the end of the wire run!! One problem I am having though is with the local wildlife chewing through my wires and shorting things out.

However, when I put in the pool and hired a professional landscaper, I had them do the landscape lighting around the pool and they did everything hard-wired (put in an extra circuit in the breaker box by the pool equipment). I must say that watching them install the wire and fixtures, I realized it's really not that difficult and may consider replacing my low voltage stuff over time. I've noticed that you can buy all those fixtures right in your local Home Depot/Lowes.
 

bk406

Well-known member
Dec 3, 2009
2,690
Central Massachusetts
Another vote for hard wired, hand down. Tim is right; the solar just glow and dont light anything.

IMO though, the lights you get at a big box store just dont measure up. They wont last that long until you have to replace them. Get a good system with quality fixtures that will last. A good system will come with a multitap transformer that will allow multiple, longer runs. A good system will run a little higher, but you can always add on to the system.
 

anonapersona

TFP Expert
LifeTime Supporter
Nov 5, 2008
2,598
I agree that solar are not good.

If you go with hardwired, you need to stay a certain distance from the pool, there are codes about that. I vote for low voltage, I think the outlet boxes for high voltage are just so ugly, near impossible to hide. You don't need that much power, it isn't an airport runway. You can get 20 watt, 35 watt or 50 watt low voltage bulbs and do all the lighting you need.

Look at some used bookstores for a book by Ortho Books called How to Design and Install Outdoor Lighting. It is really old and has probably been updated, I probably got it at Home Depot. It will cover the basics of how to use different effects; up-lighting, down-lighting, silhouette, wall washing, when a beacon is appropriate, as well as voltage loss calculations and what gauge line to use.

There are several online sources for fixtures and bulbs and I have found that my local irrigation parts store has a lot of decent products at close to the same price but that is probably not typical. Just get metal fixtures, not plastic and use the higher quality connectors, the grease filled kind, with caps. I found these at the irrigation store, not at big hardware stores.

We did the lighting for the prior house and I had a lot of fun doing it. This house had been professionally done, probably more lights and higher wattage than I might have used but they did a nice job. Keeping that many bulbs maintained is a chore, I will point out. In the old house we put several lights up in trees for moonlight effects -- looks really nice but what a pain to get up there to change bulbs. As the years passed, the squirrels chewed some lines, the tree grew over and broke some lines and I worried more and more about my husband way up there on that tall ladder.
 

lights4U

Member
May 29, 2010
6
The suggestions and comments to ignore the solar lights at the big box stores are right on. If you would like a quality designed system that will pretty much last at least 20 years then invest in a professional low voltage lighting system.
If this is something you want to tackle yourself then send me an email and I would be glad to help you out.(ken@copperexpressions.com) If shopping for a low voltage lighting designer/contractor ensure you do your research on the company. There are lots of landscape companies that will install lighting but lack the knowledge and design experiences so taking the time to contact that perfect company will go along way. These reputable lighting contractors only install professional low voltage lighting systems and is their primary business.
All products should be made from copper, brass or stainless steel as these will stand the test of time. Plastic will not stand the test of time from my experiences and this is something that I will not include into any of my designs.
If you are thinking about energy savings they now have replacement MR16 bulbs that are LED. These replacement bulbs are compariable to a 20 watt bulb but be sure to purchase the warm white colour as these are in the same temperature colour as a halogen.
Have fun and post back here to let us know how you have proceeded.

Ken
 

Brentr

Gold Supporter
LifeTime Supporter
Oct 18, 2009
2,636
Jacksonville, FL
Depends on what you want. I purchased solar lights from Walmart and they seem to do the trick for us. Look at our pool build in the sig bar below and you will see pics. Hope this helps
 

scurley

Member
Feb 4, 2012
20
Tucson Arizona
It seems that since the last post on this thread two years ago, solar technology has come a long way. Costco (at least one of them in Tucson) right now has a killer deal on solar lights, an 8 pack for $30. They don't say how powerful each light is, but each one comes with a rechargeable AA NiCD battery. It looks like those batteries alone would cost maybe $15 dollars on their own.

I was thinking about running a low voltage light system, tapping into the EasyTouch remote and relay system in the breaker panel, but at that price, seems like you can do no wrong with the solar. What do you guys think?
 

XsAllOverIt

LifeTime Supporter
Dec 8, 2010
560
Mount Airy, Maryland
I use both low voltage and solar but most of my lighting is for visual effects around the pool. Spent the $30 and put them out there and see whether you like it. They're always handy to have for lighting. I use some light fixtures that go under my caps on the wall for the low voltage. Each light fixture runs about $65, so the cost of my entire low voltage lighting scenario ran near $1000. The fixtures aren't cheap. I use some transformers that I got at Home Depot that were reasonable and seem to do well in lighting the entire place. $30 vs $1000 is a BIG difference.
 

bk406

Well-known member
Dec 3, 2009
2,690
Central Massachusetts
My opinion still stands, really. Solar lights are pretty useless, IMO. A good system where the fixtures are bronze and will last for 25+ years, probably longer, will run around $200 per light, installed.
 

XsAllOverIt

LifeTime Supporter
Dec 8, 2010
560
Mount Airy, Maryland
I'll add to bk406 response, where I really like my low voltage lights much better than the solar lights, but the solar lights do add to our visuals throughout the pool area. I think I spent probably on average about $80-90 per light for myself including all the electrical conduit, wire and fixtures. My fixtures are all copper and blend really well with my red wall. When spring time comes around I'll have to post some evening shots. I'm not quite done. I purchased 2 more lights this week and I have 2 more to go to be completely done. It's been a 1 year project due to cost to get my lighting in. From the picture posted, my lights are located under the first wall. You can barely make out the two lights located on the left side of the photo - one approximately 5' from the stairs and the other to the left about 10 feet. They will eventually surround the entire pool.
 

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bk406

Well-known member
Dec 3, 2009
2,690
Central Massachusetts
I wish I had put some of those walll ights into my Vers-loc wall when they were being built. Too late now. I went with wall washer fixtures which look nice and have a great washed wall light effect. I did mine in stages too. I'm still not quite finished. I have 55 fixtures so far scattered around in various areas over 3/4 acre.
 

aeromorris05

LifeTime Supporter
Dec 16, 2011
111
Murfreesboro, TN
XsAllOverIt said:
I'll add to bk406 response, where I really like my low voltage lights much better than the solar lights, but the solar lights do add to our visuals throughout the pool area. I think I spent probably on average about $80-90 per light for myself including all the electrical conduit, wire and fixtures. My fixtures are all copper and blend really well with my red wall. When spring time comes around I'll have to post some evening shots. I'm not quite done. I purchased 2 more lights this week and I have 2 more to go to be completely done. It's been a 1 year project due to cost to get my lighting in. From the picture posted, my lights are located under the first wall. You can barely make out the two lights located on the left side of the photo - one approximately 5' from the stairs and the other to the left about 10 feet. They will eventually surround the entire pool.
I'm considering buying a separate transformer and going the low voltage route. BK406 mentioned CAST and I've looked into those. I'm curious the brand you went with. Is everything daisychained off the same transformer? LED/Incandescent?
Thanks
 

XsAllOverIt

LifeTime Supporter
Dec 8, 2010
560
Mount Airy, Maryland
I purchased a Home Depot or Lowes transformer and continue to add lights to the transformer. It was much cheaper compared to some of the CAST systems I've got at least 13 lights hoooked up to it so far, but I've got 2 lines coming in, so if needed, I'll purchase another transformer. I was going to purchase a nice CAST system, but after using this one, NOPE. Also, everything I've got is inside a pool house so I don't worry about weather with respect to the transformer. You simply need to determine the total wattage of lights and not exceed the transformer output. I would recommend buying a cheap transformer if you can keep it weather proof and see where it goes. I was running 6 lights off of a pond transformer initially and was amazed.

These are the lights that I use: http://www.globalindustrial.com/searchR ... &x=37&y=18
 

mhosborn

Well-known member
Jul 2, 2011
312
Broken Arrow, OK (Tulsa)
I wonder if anyone here is using Pentair's Intellibrite landscape lights? They're interesting to me in that they can synch with the Intellibrite pool lights, and can be controlled by an Easytouch or Intellitouch system. They're easily double the price per light of what I've seen posted in here thus far.
 

Locksmythe

LifeTime Supporter
Apr 7, 2011
45
I have the Costco lights and it should tell you something that I am here looking for info on hardwired lights. The batteries stop holding a full charge after 2 months (and cost more than the lights), the lenses covering the solar cell haze over in extended sun exposure (really), and they have plastic spikes that can be broken by a child (trick or treat!)
 

bobby1017

LifeTime Supporter
Feb 2, 2011
665
Petaluma, Ca
scurley said:
It seems that since the last post on this thread two years ago, solar technology has come a long way. Costco (at least one of them in Tucson) right now has a killer deal on solar lights, an 8 pack for $30. They don't say how powerful each light is, but each one comes with a rechargeable AA NiCD battery. It looks like those batteries alone would cost maybe $15 dollars on their own.
I just bought some of these. They cast an interesting pattern of light due to the design of the glass shade. They cast enough light to define the edge of my pathway somewhat dimly. I like them so far.
 

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