Most of us take lighting for granted. We walk into a room, turn on the lights and we are all set. We typically don’t think about any aspect of the lighting, really. Yet there are so many aspects that can be considered. The quality of the light, or how well it works within the room for the tasks at hand. The kind of light bulb that is creating the light. Or the way that the power gets to the light.
On the other hand, it is likely that most people realize that the type of lights that are being used is shifting from incandescent or florescent to LED. There are a number of reasons for this, including that LEDs are more energy efficient than either of the other two mentioned lights. LEDs also offer more flexibility. They are easier to manage within a building and they offer a longer life-span than incandescent or florescent.
Although LEDs are low-voltage applications that are typically powered with our household standard of 120 volts of electricity. This means that each light bulb or LED fixture has to have a transformer connected to it that reduces the voltage from the 120V to whatever that bulb requires. It could be as low as 6 volts. This transformer often gets hot, because of the extra energy that it is withholding from the light fixture. That is energy that is lost. So we have two forms of excess within these fixtures. One is the need for an extra device, the transformer and the other is the lost energy in the conversion from 120V to the necessary voltage. The transformer is also converting the type of energy from alternating current (AC) to direct current (DC). Direct current works better with low-voltage applications. If you think about it we have a lot of devices that are converting from AC to DC. Anything that uses a “brick” as part of the plug, such as for our smart phones, our computers, our LED TVs, many printers, etc.
It is possible to provide just the energy that is needed to your LED fixtures. This is done by transforming any AC service to DC and then sending the power over low-voltage wiring, typically Ethernet cable (computer network cable). There are a number of benefits to using low-voltage wiring. One is that it then sends only the power that the bulb/fixture needs and there isn’t any wasted energy. Another is that low-voltage power is inherently safer than 120V power. And low-voltage LED lighting offers a lot more flexibility. This includes ease of dimming (and more complete dimming capability), ease of configuring different areas of light to turn on at one time, the opportunity to easily change lighting with the use of a smart phone app and much more.
Imagine this: you just moved into new house and while you are really happy with your lighting, you wish that you could modify which lights go on with a given switch. In a 120V AC world, that would be very difficult. However in the low-voltage DC world, you can make the changes on your computer and reboot your system. Or even in your original design, you want to be able to turn on lights in several areas of your house as you enter. In the AC world that is difficult, in the DC world it is simple. You now have flexibility that was unimaginable just a short time ago.
Now that’s the power of low-voltage lighting!