Anyone who regularly visits stores that sell garden lighting will have noticed a quiet revolution over the past couple of years. Whereas LED garden lights were not so long ago the preserve of specialist solar powered outdoor light fittings, now they seem to be not only an established part of the mainstream but rapidly eclipsing conventional 12v outdoor lighting. Why is this?
The answer to this question has a number of separate strands, but all ultimately derive from the intrinsic characteristics of LED lights. The most fundamental difference between a Light Emitting Diode and a traditional incandescent lamp is that while the latter is based on a simple electrical circuit that causes a resistive filament to heat up and thus glow, the former is a complex electronic device that has considerably more in common with a computer chip than a hot wire.
LEDs produce light pretty much directly by exciting electrons which emit photons (light particles) as they transition between energy levels. Incandescent bulbs produce light as an incidental by-product of heat (about 90% of the electricity used is converted straight into heat not light).
This difference manifests itself in a number of ways. Most obviously, an LED consumes about ten times less electricity to create the same amount of light and converts very little of that electricity into waste heat. In short, they’re much more efficient and thus cost effective to run. That’s why they first started to appear in solar lights where the power supply is limited to the capacity of a rechargeable battery.
In the garden this yields another advantage, which is that because LEDs don’t give off heat they can be packaged in a variety of more interesting ways and located very close to plants and wooden structures without risk of causing damage or starting a fire.
While LEDs might be more complex in terms of the physics and manufacturing process, they are (again like computer chips) surprisingly robust yet also lightweight and, free from the stresses imposed by high fluctuations in temperature that regular lights suffer, last orders of magnitude longer. Features that again make them eminently suitable for outdoor use.
But perhaps the main reason that LED landscape lighting is fast becoming the dominant force in this field is simply the variety and quality of the light itself, with vibrant colors and effects not possible with regular lamps.