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Upgrade your yard lighting to LED the smart way



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Brian Cooley / CNET
                                                

One of the last things in your smart home might be your outdoor lighting. If you want a smart outdoor lighting system for your garden, you could cobble together an array of smart home lighting products from various makers or use them from one brand Philips Hue outdoor line . But I recommend a different route: Upgrade the bulbs in your current outdoor fixtures to LED. You will not get all the bells and whistles possible, but if you can live without nightclub color scenes or speakers built into lights, you'll like the results of my cheap and straightforward upgrade.

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The benefits of LED conversion

Retrofitting your existing garden lights with bulbs will deliver four wins:

  • Power efficiency: LED bulbs use a lot less power, meaning you can make many more lights with your existing transformer or more light from the current number. I know few homeowners who do not wish their garden lights were brighter.
  • Durability: Ease of installation: Even though low voltage. LED bulbs are known for their robustness and it may be years before they have broken down in the dirt Light bulbs are pretty easy to replace.
  • Low cost: LED bulb upgrades are a lot cheaper than buying all new garden light fixtures. [19659015] You need to know a few things about LED bulbs before you start this upgrade.

    Bulb type

    LED bulbs wants to fit the sockets in your fixtures. Remove your current bulbs and inspect the base:

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    Three common types of low voltage garden lighting bulbs.


    Brian Cooley / CNET
                                                    

    Bipin bulbs are common and come in a wide variety of sizes. The key differentiator is the spacing between the pins. A G4 bipin has 4mm spacing, a G5.3 has 5.3mm spacing, and so on.

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    You'll encounter a lot of bipin bulbs. They are often known by their "G" number, which reflects the spacing of the pins, measured in millimeters. Shown are G4, G5.3, G6 and G8 bulbs in both LED (left) and halogen (right) technologies.


    Brian Cooley / CNET
                                                    

    Bulb brightness

    This is a glossy apple, but it's a misnomer baked in tradition. Wattage tells you how much power it uses, but the two are at least directionally related.

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    We're accustomed to gauging bulb brightness by wattage rating, but that's a historic misnomer. LED bulbs provide as much or more light while consuming less wattage.


    Brian Cooley / CNET
                                                    

    As you pull each incandescent bulb from your garden lights, try to read the wattage rating printed on it. Then shop for LED bulbs whose wattage is promised as equivalent. For example, you may find that a 1.5-watt LED bulb promises to replace an 11-watt incandescent bulb while delivering much more light, so much greater is LED's efficiency.

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    There is no simple rule of thumb for converting incandescent wattage or LED wattage. You'll have to trust the manufacturer's claims of watt equivalence or go. "


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    The color temperature.

    The temperature difference of a bulb expressed in degrees Kelvin (K), tells you if the bulb emits warm or cool white light. 4,000K is a warm bulb, while anything above 4,000K is a cool or bluish white. Make it 'smart'

    To make your own current garden lighting system smart, which usually just controlled by voice or an app, will switch to the "on" position manually and leave it that way. SmartThings, Apple, Alexa, or Google.

    Pro tips while you're out there

    • Whenever you can, down lights on a white background.
    • Avoid using LED lighting in an area exposed to sunlight. Cats, dogs and many other animals detect light flicker that humans can not detect. Use incandescent in those cases; see my video above for a way to that with 12 volts.
    • Use the 14 gauge wire in your low voltage system rather than the cheaper, thinner 16 gauge, which introduces more power loss on long cable runs.
    • Splice low voltage landscape wiring with weather-proof wire proof grease inside them to prevent splice corrosion in steam conditions. Bonus points for using weather-proof crimp connectors.
    • LED garden lights. They usually have poor output due to battery limitations and must be discarded if any part fails. They're good, but you'll learn why the first night.

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