How to Use Patio Umbrella Lights With Low Voltage
One of the more clever forms of patio lighting there is, is what is known as umbrella lights. A lot of us have patio umbrellas and when you think about it, they make excellent stands for a bit of lighting. Especially with the type of umbrella which is combined with a table (round table with the umbrella in the middle, typically), patio umbrella lights make a lot of sense. You can get several designs which simply clamp to the umbrella pole; some are solar panel powered, others come with batteries. Both can be nice enough – although they may not provide as much light as you would like. No matter how those batteries are charged – from a solar panel or via mains voltage – they have to be fairly large to provide any real light power for a usable amount of time. But if you want some more light, and you don’t usually move your umbrella around a lot, there is another option for you.
Low voltage lighting is just the thing. Yes, most solar – and battery driven umbrella lights are also low voltage lights. The difference is not in the voltage, but in the available electric current. Batteries can store only so much power in watts, and watts are electric current over time. The more watts you spend, the faster you discharge the battery. Now, a good, strong source of light would be something like halogen bulbs, or some of the more powerful led arrays. These like to be fed some current though, so batteries are not practical. Instead, you could use a low voltage lighting transformer to power them. This would give you all the power you could want, since the transformer is connected to mains voltage. So if you chose 12v bulbs, you would need a 12v transformer. You could power any amount of bulbs with it – just buy one powerful enough. It wouldn’t give in, until your fuses do.
How would you go about the installation in a practical way? Basically, there are two paths. One is to mount the low voltage transformer close to the light fixtures, like at the base of the umbrella. In that case, you would run a mains cable to the foot of your umbrella. The other way is to put the transformer further away, like in a waterproof box under the patio – or elsewhere. This way, you might get away with using a much thinner cable running to the umbrella, a cable you might hide under a carpet – or simply route directly down through a hole in your patio floor. Which one you choose is up to you. Perhaps you also have other lighting installations on your patio requiring low voltage, which could make it practical to have a single, large transformer – and then run cables from that.
If well-planned, your patio umbrella lights could become part of a large, flexible and energy efficient lighting system, which would make a lot of jaws drop. Why not go for it?
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