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What is the Difference between Line Voltage and Low Voltage

What is the Difference between Line Voltage and Low Voltage?


Difference between Line Voltage and Low Voltage
Line voltage means that it's running on the line voltage of the home without a transformer, which is 120 volts. It's table lamps, and most ceiling fixtures, chandeliers, are line voltage. Low voltage means there's a transmitter, and the electricity is being transformed so the 120 volts is being brought down to 12 volts. Some chandeliers are low voltage. A lot of recessed cans are low voltage. Task lighting, desk lights are low voltage sometimes.


Advantages and Disadvantages of Each
Typically the advantage of line voltage is that it's going to be a less expensive fixture because you don't have a transformer. It tends to be sort of more traditional lighting style fixtures. Low voltage, on the other hand… uses smaller light bulbs, so you can have more compact fixtures. There's a type of lamp called an MR16, which is used in recessed cans, and the great thing about MR16s is they make incredible variety of beam spreads. So if you want to have a really super narrow spot or if you wanted to have a big, wide flood, they've got that and everything in between. So, the advantage of low voltage is that it's got a lot more interesting lamps to use than with line voltage.

With line voltage, if you want recessed cans, usually you have either a flood or a spot; there's a choice between the two, and that's about it. Whereas with the low voltage, there might be 20 different beam variations in any given wattage. And the other advantage for recessed cans is that there are different types of lenses that can be put in front of low voltage - some line voltage lamps have that but more usually in the low voltage field - so you can change the way the light is. So not only do you have all these beam spreads, but you also have these effect you can create: You can soften the beam, you can stretch it out, you can do all sorts of things with it. So it's great for lighting artwork, for creating mood and accent, that sort of thing.


Line Voltage vs Low Voltage


What are some other disadvantages to low-voltage light fixtures?
One of the disadvantages of the low-voltage light bulb is that you need to have a transformer somewhere. It's called a driver, which is a kind of transformer that powers them. And sometimes transformers buzz and hum. You don't normally get a buzz or hum from a line-voltage light bulb.


Is there anything that retailers can suggest to consumers to buy to reduce that sound?
Number one, buy good quality fixtures. Number two, when you are installing low-voltage light fixtures, you have to have a low-voltage dimmer to go with it. That sometimes helps reduce the noise. And then proper installation also helps. If you follow those three guidelines - good equipment to start with, the proper dimmer and then also the right installation - you should have a problem. But, you know, it does come up every once in a while, so it's a matter of sort of fiddling around with some of the components to see if you can get it to quiet down.


In terms of installing a transformer, is that something a homeowner can do themselves?
Well, usually. Let's say you buy a chandelier that has little low-voltage light bulbs on it. The transformer is usually inside the canopy that attaches to the ceiling. So it's not as if it's some sort of special box that you have to deal with. It's part of the fixture. But the designer had to create room when they designed the fixture to put the transformer somewhere. So it's usually a half-sphere that's on the ceiling. Whereas with a line-voltage they don't have to deal with that issue because there is no transformer. And it tends to be a little flatter or not a half-dome. It's usually not a big obstacle; it's just part of the fixture, and you just install it as you would any other sort of fixture.


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