What Voltage is Suitable for Outdoor Lighting?

You probably know that outdoor lighting has several benefits. Security, aesthetics, to illuminate pathways, driveways, doorways, trees, fences, and more. When placed artfully, they can be as natural-looking and beautiful as the landscape itself.

However, one of the things you should consider before installing outdoor lights is the voltage. Therefore, the question;

What is the best voltage for outdoor lighting?

A concise answer to this question is 12 and 120 volts. 12-volt light is considered the best voltage for lighting residential areas. For commercial and industrial areas that require lighting mostly for security, 120 volts’ lights are the best.

You can go here to see the best outdoor lights of 12 and 120 volts.

We’ll sure discuss more on this. But before that, why should you consider light voltage?  Let’s find out:

Energy Consumption

High voltage translates to increased energy consumption. So you want to light up your outdoor space based on your energy bills budget. If you’re going to use the lights in a commercial setting, you may want to choose 120 volts due to its security status. Otherwise, consider the energy consumption level before you get the bulbs. Of course, this is why you need to consider light voltage.


High voltage lights such as 120 volts can heat up a bulb to a level not desirable for residential areas. However, these types of bulbs are required for commercial and industrial areas, and they are installed where people won’t come in contact with them. So, depending on your needs, you should know where you want to install the lights and the best voltage to get.

If you’re looking to illuminate your garden, patio, trees, and other relaxation places in your outdoor space, you should use low voltage lights like 12 volts. They don’t get heated to a level that can hurt, and one can even touch them. This voltage is best for such places. In contrast, you can use 120v on your fence or other areas meant to secure your home from burglars.

Overall, you should care about light voltage to help you use them appropriately. Of course, that’s a means of ensuring safety.


This factor is already reflected in other factors above. Lights voltage are also considered for security reasons. For lights illuminating dark areas like driveway, pathway, and fence, you need super bright lights, which means high voltage.

Note that you really don’t have to go beyond the recommended voltage for outdoor lighting. 120 volts’ outdoor lights are ideal for security areas—both in commercial and residential places.

Best Lighting Experience

This is another reason you need to consider light voltage. You know high voltage lights can emit heat, which may not fit the outdoor area used for leisure. It’s also risky as someone might touch the lights and get hurt.

So for gardens, patios, outdoor ceilings, porches, etc., you should only use low voltage outdoor lights. On the other hand, you can use high voltage lights for driveways and the like. This appropriate way of lighting provides excellent lighting experience.

12 volt outdoor lights

How Much Voltage Should Outdoor Lights Have?

Here is to fulfill the promise. I mentioned that I was going to come back to this. So let’s dig in!

There are two distinct voltage choices when it comes to outdoor lights: 12v and 120v. Here’s an in-depth look at each of them:

Low Voltage (12v) Outdoor Lighting

Low voltage (12v) outdoor lighting is the best choice for domestic or residential outdoor lighting. Outdoor lights in this category come with several advantages: they are less expensive and easy to install. Moreover, you may not need to hire a certified electrician to help you install them.

Low voltage outdoor lights also minimize electric shock risk since you don’t need to bury cables during installation. In addition to this, there are more choices of outdoor light bulbs, fixtures, wattages, and designs.

For most domestic or residential applications, 12v outdoor lights are superior and preferred over their 120v counterparts. This means that smaller bulbs are used in this category, and they will typically burn out with the incredibly higher volts of the 120v line voltage. They are used to provide light in corners, alley-ways, and other tight spaces.

Other benefits of low voltage outdoor lights include:

  • Less disruptive and safe to install since less electrical current runs through the wires. This means it is far less likely to cause a fire in case of unexpected damage to the casing.
  • Less expensive
  • Offers more variety in light bulbs and fixtures
  • More elegant options
  • Cables, in most cases, do not need to be in conduit
  • Incredibly safe for use where children or pets play, chew or dig
  • Smooth relocation of light fixtures, especially when making home improvements or rearranging the landscape.
  • Potential energy savings. The voltage is lower, thus allowing you to save on energy and utility bills.
  • Finally, adding another light fixture to low-voltage lighting is far easier than with line voltage lighting.

Line voltage (120v) Outdoor Lighting

Line voltage (120v) outdoor lighting is mostly used in security, public-use, and commercial applications. Installing them usually requires the services of an experienced electrician for proper installation.

The lighting cable that comes with the line voltage (120v) must be placed in conduit and buried at least 18 inches underground. They must also have sealed junction boxes at every connection point.

Line voltage outdoor lights are generally used for lighting up large areas using brighter but fewer fixtures. They are also used in residential applications where there is a need for extensive up-lighting of large canopies of trees, though modern, low-voltage LED fixtures have enough power to take up this role.

Line voltage outdoor light fixtures are big with more light output than low-voltage outdoor lights. This means more energy consumption and high electricity bills.

Line voltage (120v) outdoor lights are known for the following:

  • More expensive
  • Line voltage fixtures are often large and offer fewer lighting and fixture options.
  • It usually requires hiring a licensed electrician for installation.
  • Line voltage outdoor light cables require trenching and must be inside a conduit or buried at least 18 inches deep.
  • Connections for line voltage outdoor lighting must be waterproof to prevent electric shock.
  • Line voltage outdoor lighting offers brighter fixtures that are perfect for security, commercial, and public-use applications.

Verdict: 12 Volt Outdoor Lights Vs. 120 Volt Outdoor Lights, which is Much Better?

You may have already read this and understood clearly. But let me reemphasize that 12 voltS are ideal for residential outdoor spaces—where even children play around. You need low voltage lights that won’t heat up and cause excessive heat in such areas. Low voltage lights are less risky in case of electric shock and hotness of bulbs.

On the one hand, 120 volts are suitable for commercial and industrial areas where security is required. You may also use them in residential settings for security. They should be installed in elevated areas where people won’t get their hands on by mistake.

So both 12v and 120v are ideal for outdoor lighting, but usage depends on your needs.

RELATED: Best Outdoor Lights with Remote Control

Some Outdoor Lighting Safety Tips

Lighting also comes with downsides, which is why you need the safety tips at your fingertips to prevent electric shock and fire outbreaks mostly. So here are some safety measures you should take seriously:

  1. Some installations of outdoor lights, especially hardwired lights—are not DIY, except string lights and hurricane lamps. For every other one, it is best to hire a certified electrician.
  2. Always use bulbs of the correct wattage and type. Get in touch with the manufacturer of the fixture or lamp if you don’t know the correct wattage. Bulbs with excess wattage may quickly overheat and cause a fire. You also want to consider UL listed bulbs/light fixtures.
  3. Ensure that every bulb and fixture is correctly rated only for outdoor use. Places under a roof or overhang can still get very cold and damp; the light should withstand such events. Some fixtures may be rated for wet locations (weatherproof), meaning they are up to the task if it rains.
  4. Install and use bulbs with extended lifespans in locations that are typically hard to reach. This is to minimize the number of times you may have to fetch and climb a ladder, move around furniture or engage extensively in potentially hazardous activities.
  5. If an outlet is exposed, use a special ‘in use’ cover to keep it and the plug dry, especially if it is wet. Every outdoor outlet should be GFCI-protected to prevent electric shock and the like.

Outdoor Lighting Related Questions

Why do outdoor lights keep burning out?

Your outdoor lights may burn out when the light fixtures or wiring is not correctly installed/connected. Light fixtures with loose wires can result in varying voltage flowing to the bulb. This situation wears out bulbs quite fast. You should also ensure your light fixtures are correctly mounted and wired correctly as well. Get an electrician to handle it if you have no prior electrical installation experience.

How can I reduce energy consumption in outdoor lights?

You can save energy by turning your lights off when not in use. An excellent way to do this is install outdoor lights with a photocell dusk to dawn feature. This automatically switches the lights off when it senses sunlight and turns them off and dawn.

Do all outdoor lights require hardwiring?

No, not all outdoor lights need hardwiring. However, a good number of them require hardwiring. Hardwired lights may require a bit of electrical knowledge to install them correctly. You may have to get an electrician to handle your installation if your light requires hardwiring.

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By now, you already know the best voltage for outdoor lighting. As you have read, outdoor lights voltage can either be 12v (low-voltage) and 120v (line-voltage), and this depends on where you want to use them. Also, most outdoor light fixtures have recommended bulb wattage and even the type of bulb to use. Make sure to always use the recommended bulbs for the best lighting experience.

Proper installation can also help prevent your lights from burning out. Ensure your installation is correctly done at all times for safety.

If you’re looking to purchase outdoor lights and are unsure which ones to go for, you may want to consider any of these outdoor hanging lights or wall lights.