There’s no question that landscape lighting can transform your outdoor space. It improves safety, enhances curb appeal, makes your space functional long after the sun has set, and of course sets the mood for whatever you enjoy – relaxing, entertaining, cooking, perhaps even a little evening gardening!
The challenge isn’t deciding whether or not to add lighting – it’s deciding among the myriad options available. One of the decisions you’ll need to make early on is whether you’ll choose traditional halogen bulbs, or go for newer LED lights.
There are some strong opinions on both sides, so let’s explore the differences and see if we can dispel some myths and share information that will help you make the best decision for you.
Quality Of Light
This is often one of the biggest debates among proponents of each type of bulb. Halogen-lovers insist that there’s nothing like the warmth they bring. LED-advocates will tell you that things have come a long way since the harsh glare of those newfangled lights.
It’s true that some of the first LED lights were not the most attractive. They were unable to provide the slightly yellow-ish hue of their warm halogen counterparts, emitting a more white-daylight effect instead.
And let’s face it – if you’re investing in your outdoor space, you want to enjoy it. So LEDs have developed a bit of a negative reputation over the years, but it’s also true that they have come quite a long way.
Nowadays LED lights come in a variety of color temperatures, from warm to cool and everything in between. And yes, there is a temperature that looks exactly like halogens. Perhaps more interesting is that LEDs come in a variety of colors, like red, blue and green. That makes it easy to change up lighting for holidays or to create different mood effects.
The bottom line: the LEDs of today aren’t the harsh lights of the past. From a quality perspective, you can achieve the same effects with LEDs as you can with halogens. As an added bonus, LEDs maintain their brightness over time, where halogens tend to dim.
Energy Efficiency And Cost
When it comes to the two types of bulbs, there’s a tremendous difference in energy consumption. In order to produce the same amount of light, LED bulbs use about 80% less energy than halogens. If that sounds like a lot, it is!
Consider that you will likely have your outdoor lights on a timer, which means they will turn on each evening at sunset and off again at sunrise – with a longer duration during fall and winter. Now take the cost of running those lights as halogens, and reduce it by 80% – that’s how much you can save on energy bills over time.
Of course, the exact number will depend on how many lights you have and the size of your space, but either way you’re going to see a substantial savings in energy cost with LED lights.
The bottom line: LEDs use far less energy than halogens and will reduce your energy costs substantially.
Longevity And Cost
Halogen bulbs have a lifespan of anywhere from 2,000 to 5,000 hours. Let’s be generous and say that you only run your lights for 8 hours each evening, and that the bulbs will last a full 5,000 hours. That means that you’ve got less than two years before you’ll need to replace every single bulb in your setup.
You can probably image that getting pricey – and annoying! – over time.
LED bulbs, on the other hand, can last up to 40,000 hours. If we use the same math logic, that means you’re looking at something like 13 years before you’ll need to think about replacing those bulbs.
Now that sounds like a lot less work – and less money over time.
The bottom line: LED bulbs last far longer than their halogen counterparts, but not all LEDs are created equal. Inexpensive bulbs from a big box store are not going to have the same lifespan as quality bulbs from a professional installer. So choose your bulbs wisely.
Since LED bulbs last a lot longer, you’ll need to do a lot less maintenance on your system. Keep in mind that bulbs aren’t going to snuff out all at once. You’ll have to replace one here and there as they go if you want to keep your system running effectively.
With a one-to-two-year replacement cycle for halogens, you could find yourself doing a whole lot of replacing. And if some of those bulbs are in high places, that could make your job a real pain. If you hire a professional to do it for you, you can imagine how quick that bill will run up.
The bottom line: LEDs are a much more appealing option when it comes to a lighting system that’s low maintenance.
Cost To Install
One of the first questions on most people’s minds is, “How much?” Let’s start with bare installation costs.
LED bulbs are definitely going to run more than halogens, so initial installation costs are going to be higher. How much higher depends on a lot of factors – the quality of the bulbs, how many and what type of lighting you want, and other design elements. The important thing to know is that you’re looking at a higher up front cost with LEDs.
But before you consider raw costs, think about everything we’ve talked about so far. There’s the energy cost involved, replacement costs, and if you’re hiring a lighting professional, costs to maintain.
When you factor in replacing halogens every one to two years vs 10-plus for LEDs, you can start to see where the cost of halogens over time can outstrip your initial investment in LEDs. Add in the cost savings for energy, and you might realize you’re actually spending a lot less over time with LEDs.
The bottom line: It’s a long game. Halogen lights will be less expensive to install but more expensive to maintain over time. LEDs are the opposite.
Safety & Weather Resistance
Halogen bulbs produce heat – a lot of it. That’s why they are so inefficient. The vast majority of energy that halogens use goes to producing heat. While LEDs also produce heat, it’s drawn away from the bulb and dissipated with a heat sink. That’s why halogens are hot to the touch and LEDs are not.
From a safety standpoint, that makes LEDs a better choice. They won’t be melting your snow, but they also won’t ignite a dry pile of leaves and set your garden ablaze.
Heat has another side effect in colder weather, and that’s making halogens more prone to “popping”. While not necessarily dangerous, the lifespan of your bulbs can be compromised any given winter if the temperature drops too low. That can increase your maintenance costs, too.
The bottom line: LEDs are safer in dry weather, and will last longer in cold. As an added bonus, they tend to attract fewer bugs than halogens, so if you’re lighting up a patio or porch, that may be enough to sway you to LEDs!
These are a few of the differences between LED and halogen lighting. The one you choose for your landscape will depend in part on your design vision, budget, safety concerns and tolerance for maintenance and replacement.
If you have more questions or want to discuss lighting your outdoor space for evening enjoyment, book a consultation and we’ll discuss options and make recommendations.