LED Decorative Lights – Low Voltage vs High Voltage

What is Voltage? 

It’s the force, or pressure of electricity.  

High voltage is often referred to as ‘line voltage’ and is the voltage that is supplied by most wall outlets – 120V. The most common light strings with familiar 2-prong standard plugs use 120V power. 

Low voltage ranges from 1.5V to 48V and is produced by either batteries or transformers that step the voltage down from the standard 120V. Landscape Low Voltage standards are in the 12V-15V range, battery-powered products are typically in the 1.5V-16V range.  

Which Voltage is best? 

There are advantages and disadvantages to both voltage option. Consider the points below to evaluate your needs then choose the best LED Decorative Light product to satisfy your needs based on each project. It’s important to note that all recommendations are based on products that run on DC current by either rectification or the use of a switching power supply.  

Voltage Drop – Voltage is the measurement of the pressure that the electricity is being forced through the wires much like water through a hose. The greater the pressure, the further the electricity can travel and power your lights. If your installation calls for large, wrapped trees or fields filled with lights, being able to connect and power multiple light strings without having to introduce another power source is a major consideration. A high voltage product would serve your needs the best.

GFCI Tripping – What good is having thousands of lights installed if they are constantly going dark due to GFCIs (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) tripping? High voltages and water do not mix well. If your installation will be subjected to continuously wet conditions, choose a low voltage product that knows how to keep those GFCIs happy and the lights shining even when rain falls on your parade. Learn more about GFCI tripping here

Safety – Low Voltage systems win the battle in this arena because of the greatly reduced risk for shock. Low voltage systems run on Class 2 power sources which make installation, maintenance and use much safer. Consequently, these systems carry different, far more lenient electric safety code requirements. If your installation draws onlookers who are the curious sort, this should be the first place you begin your search. Learn about GFCI here

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Available Power – Admit it, we can’t get enough lights in our lives and often want them in areas that do not have a power outlet convenient. Low voltage battery powered products are an obvious choice here but tapping into low voltage landscape lines is an option that will supply the power you need to wrap those trees without laying out miles of extension cords.

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 Selection – Low voltage lights have been installed in large venues for over a decade and therefore now have the same amount of choice if not more for your inner stylist to go wild! Just as important is the range of infrastructure and control components to support your grand plan. Many light forms are available in both high voltage and low voltage options, so don’t limit your search options.  

Installation – Low voltage products take more installation planning and power supplies than high voltage products. However, the safer voltage and fewer maintenance calls to reset GFCIs often balances out the scales. 

Price – Generally, low voltage products cost a small percentage more than high voltage light products, plus the added cost of the required power supplies. 

Quick Guide 

For those who like to cut to the bottom line quickly, use this Pros and Cons Chart to determine which voltage type you should be shopping: 

Pros and Cons Chart 

 Pros Cons 
High Voltage  120-240V    Longer runs of lights from a single power source 
Generally lower first price point for products 
More susceptible to GFCI tripping due to greater current leakage 
Higher risk of shock  
Low Voltage  24V Ideal voltage for LED Decorative Lights 
Rarely causes GFCIs to trip shutting down lights 
Lower risk of shock 
Requires Power Supply Unit(s) 
Greater Voltage drop over distance = more power supplies needed for longer runs 
Landscape Low Voltage 12-15V Lower risk of shock 
Readily available power already installed in existing permanent landscape lighting 
Voltage Drop too great for longer runs 
Limited to Power Supply Wattage Available  
Battery Power Lowest risk of shock Convenience of no power cords Expense of Batteries 
Voltage Drop too great for larger runs 
Generally not as bright as other types 

  Note: All products and discussions listed above run on DC current via rectification or switching power supply.  

Still not sure? We’ve summarized a few scenarios of key criteria shoppers often consider first with recommendations: 

  • Expansive installation requiring long runs of lights that are not in curious onlookers reach. Benchmark & Ext RGB 
  • Expansive installation near water elements with large crowd of mixed age ranges Versaline & LVRGB 
  • Installation that requires tree wrapping and will stay installed for more than 3-seasons Everlastrings 
  • Installation near existing buried low voltage landscape lines. TapNGo 
  • Installation requiring battery operated lights. NeverDim 
  • Installation requires lining buildings or pathways Decorative Bulbs, Ext RGB 

5 Tips to Creating a Memorable Holiday Lighting Event 

In the past, decorating for Christmas holiday events was all about buying a bunch of lights, hanging them everywhere you could, and being merry about it. The biggest challenges were figuring out if you used too many lights and making sure nothing started a fire. Then we transitioned to LEDs which meant more lights with less power and an increasing selection of light styles. More options meant more design planning was necessary and adding more lights meant needing more open power sockets! And praying it doesn’t rain or snow too much! Now our Holiday Events have an astounding variety and capability of products and…systems?!  The biggest challenge we face today is that anything is possible and how do you figure out what you need to make something great happen? 

1. Evaluate Your Opportunities 

Taking a moment to review and evaluate all the options you have to present a memorable show comes with a little strategy and planning. What can you do to create a memorable event for your audience? Are you looking to create a simple atmosphere or an immersive environment that people will want to experience again and again. What new possibilities do you have for upgrading your existing show? Do you have any technical or environmental challenges? Creating a clearly defined list will help you make a plan and optimize the return on your investment.  

2. Choose Your Products Wisely 

It’s time to think outside the light string. Choosing the right product will help you create a memorable experience for you and those who see it. S4 has a variety of decorative lighting products that can transform any event into a lasting memory to share. Low voltage lighting options with compatible power and infrastructure can help ensure you have a safer more reliable display. You can learn more about our Versaline system of products and how to create dazzling displays here. If you are looking for a main attraction to up your light show game our Pixel Pines Tree with a Snowburst RGB Tree Topper would be a great choice. If you have a lot of space to work with our patented Extendable RGB series where you can connect hundreds of feet of pixels on a single output without the need to inject power along the way would also be a good choice to create an-awe-inspiring show! You can explore many different products in use on our Making The Magic page or reach out to one of our product specialists and they can find the best options to match your creative vision. 

3. Execution Is Key 

Now that you’ve made a plan, you’ve picked out great products and have identified opportunities to help add wow moments, it’s time to implement those choices. There are many aspects that go into making sure all the pieces of the event come together and that is where S4 Lights can help. Our experts can help you finalize your plan, help you create the visual impact you are looking for, and make sure you have a reliable show for the duration of your event. The devil is always in the details and you want to partner with a company who has decades of experience not only with decorative lighting products but also in executing decorative lighting displays big and small.  

4. Share The Magic 

Don’t underestimate the value of sharing what you have created even if it’s geared towards a smaller audience. If you are investing a lot of time and money into your event display then you want to let people know and get credit for your hard work. Word of mouth is powerful and digital media gives you an easy way to get the word out. 

Recognize areas where you can Increase your digital presence. Maybe it’s more Social Media Shares. Pin down the platforms you’re going to use, how you will use them and what you will talk about. It only take a few minutes to create memorable posts with snapshots you take yourself or your guests share.  

Find ways to keep guests engaged by creating a plan for them to see the show in different ways. Maybe that is creating different ways of experiencing the show at your venue or sharing snippets of the show online so they can pass it on to friends or find something they may want to visit again. 

Always keep things relevant, if someone was to do a search for you what would they find? 

Help Build Tradition by incorporating Audio & Visual (link to S4i creative content)  elements to your show this can create lasting memories all season long. 

Add WOW Moments to the event. Things that people will talk about and post about. Ex.” Oh my Gosh, did you see that tree?! 

5. Analyze and Improve 

Now the show is over, you’re coming down from the high of a picturesque season and you’re gearing up for the next one. Don’t forget to analyze the results of your event. From how many people attended, to your web and social analytics, and even the overall technical challenges that you faced along the way. Taking a moment to debrief and analyze what you have done aids in preparing an even better show for the next season.  

A well-rounded show will bring people back every season so they can continue to build memories with loved ones, talk about how spectacular the show was and hopefully tell someone else, so the tradition keeps going from year to year. 

Have questions about our products? Want to talk to one of our experts about creative content for your next event? Contact one of our sales experts today.

Check out our full line of decorative lighting products. View our Catalog.