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All About Lighting – Deck Lighting

Posted on: April 21, 2014

A beautiful deck is something that should be enjoyed long after the sun goes down—which is why it’s important to have the right kind of deck lighting! From a purely functional point of view, deck lighting serves three purposes:

  • Safety lighting lets you and your guests walk around after dark without tripping on furniture or stairs
  • Talk lighting shines light on specific areas of the deck, such as a grill or table
  • Security lighting lights up the whole deck to deter anyone from trying to approach uninvited

But when it comes to the right type of lighting for your home, deck lighting can do so much more! The key is to design a lighting system that performs all three of the above tasks while enhancing the look and feel of your deck. Rather than flooding the deck with simulated sunlight, integrate accent lighting with posts, railings, stair risers, and other elements to create an inviting after-dark atmosphere.

Types of Deck Lighting: Line-Voltage, Low-Voltage, Solar

Low-voltage deck lights – the most common types of deck lights, low-voltage lights are a safer alternative to line-voltage, posing almost no risk of electric shock. Electrical connections with low voltage lights are simpler, requiring neither a permit nor a license to install.

Disadvantages of low-voltage deck lights are that they require a transformer, and unless they are divided into more than one run of wiring, they share the same 12V of power—which, if you have a lot of lights, can reduce the brightness.

Line-voltage deck lights – line voltage deck lights are brighter, but their installation is more strictly enforced. All connections must be made in an approved electrical box, and any cables run in the open must be enclosed in a proper conduit. Line-voltage deck lighting must be installed by a licensed electrician.

Solar-powered deck lights – because solar deck lights require no electrical connections, timers, or switches, you won’t need to drill routing holes, run wires, or make connections to install them. What you will need, of course, is steady sunshine—usually six hours per day, according to manufacturers. Sunlight charges the lights’ batteries, which mean they are typically limited to post-cap features, although lanterns, string lights, and recessed solar lights are available.

The solar batteries will need to be replaced every 500 charges or so, but fortunately doing so is fairly easy.

Deck Light Installation

Once you’ve decided which type of deck lighting you want, it’s time to choose how you want that lighting installed. An ideal deck lighting design makes use of all three styles of lights: post-cap, side-mount, and recessed lights.

Post-cap Deck Lighting

The largest and most prominent fixtures in the accent deck lighting category, post-cap lights sit at the top of your deck posts, usually at the top and bottom of staircases and at intermediate posts along the perimeter of the deck. Post-cap lights are available in a variety of colors and styles to match your deck, and most manufacturers make dummy post-caps, which are unlit and allow for some space between light sources.

Side-mount Deck Lighting

Side-mount deck lights can be installed on the side of posts instead of the top. Side-mount lights can be beneficial if your posts come to eye level when guests are sitting down, as post-cap lights could shine light directly into peoples’ eyes.

Recessed Deck Lighting

Recessed deck lights are the perfect example of how to accent a deck without overlighting it. Recessed deck lights are installed in holes drilled in the stairs or the floor of your deck to provide lighting while being almost perfectly hidden during the day.

Bulb Types: Incandescent or LED?

Incandescent Deck Lighting – incandescent bulbs are widely available in several different shapes and wattages, and because they are relatively inexpensive, replacement is quick and easy. They cast a softer, warmer glow than LEDs, but consume more energy, making them less efficient and shortening their lives.

LED Deck Lighting – because of the complex housing and circuitry involved, LED lights tend to be more expensive than incandescent lights. They tend to be more than worth the cost however, with vastly improved lifespans (10,000 to 100,000 hours) and high efficiency with almost no heat production. The trade-off is that unless mirrors or reflective surfaces are used, the light output is focused narrowly in only one direction and can be harsh on the eyes in contrast with a dark backyard.

The right type of lighting can make all the difference for your deck. For outdoor lighting installation in Maryland, Virginia, or Washington, DC, call Kolb Electric today!

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