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Outdoor In-Ground Lights and Well Lights

The Difference Between Outdoor In-Ground Lights and Well Lights

Well lights are concealed lighting fixtures. They’re small and installed in the ground to provide up-lighting.

Despite the difference in the nomenclature, there is absolutely no difference between an outdoor in-ground fixture and a well light. In fact, full name of the light fixture is an outdoor in-ground well light.

There are several types of sizes, wattage, voltage, and material. However, the variety of lighting options does not change the overall fixture type.

What Well Lights Are Used For

Exterior designers and landscapers use these light fixtures to up-light trees various elements with minimal visibility of the light itself. This includes trees, plants, fountains, and a building’s architectural features.

They are specifically designed for the viewer to experience a beautiful view of the landscape design without drawing attention to the fixture.

The small profile makes them ideal for homeowners looking for discreet outdoor lighting. Commercial businesses also use them to increase the safety of their offices while utilizing greenery to soften the building’s appearance.

Outdoor well lights are available in 12v as well as 120v configurations. 12v LED varieties would work for both residential and commercial use without the fear of voltage drop. However, a halogen or incandescent system would require the lighting project to utilize the 120v system.

Where to Place Well Lights

In-ground lighting fixtures are designed to be relatively hidden while illuminating taller landscape features. Depending on the application, the size, bulb type, and shield on the face of the fixture would vary.

An outdoor in-ground well light would most commonly be placed at the base of notable architectural and landscape elements. This includes:

  • Statues
  • Fountains
  • Mailboxes
  • Gazebos
  • Columns
  • Trees
  • Bushes
  • Shrubbery
Keep in mind that you don’t need to light everything up. First, consider how much you need for adequate visibility. Next, select which structure and elements you want to highlight with your well lights.

How do I pick the right size, bulb type, and shield for my landscape well light?

These various options allow the functionality of up lighting to be customized based on the yard’s needs. Larger landscape details are highlighted best with a wide, unobstructed beam of light, while narrower features such as flag poles are best illuminated with a more focused lamp.

There are a few different shield styles to help direct the light output:

  • Open Face Cover - this style provides the lamp the largest, unobstructed beam spread. The light is not restricted so the glow is absolutely radiant. Bulb glare from different view points is a minor disadvantage of this type.
  • Grill Cover - this shield provides the second largest beam spread while also protecting the fixture from common landscape hazards. The grill shield is great for high traffic areas; however, it does decrease the light output.
  • Mushroom Cover - for homeowners that desire discrete pathway lighting, the mushroom shield is the right selection. It provides a low fan cover that intentionally directs the light horizontally instead of vertically like the other options. Unlike traditional pathway lights, this shield provides walkway lighting with minimal fixture visibility.
  • Glare Shield Cover - this face provides the same output as the open face option, but reduces the bulb glare. The shield is specifically designed to remove the hotspot, while directing the light source at the desired feature.
  • Marker Ground Lights - these provide a low voltage option for clearly identifying a distinct boundary in the landscape’s design. Common boundaries found in landscaping are driveways, pathways, and designated seating areas. Paver ground lights are similar, but these are installed flush with the pavement. This style of in ground light is designed to blend into their environment when off, and then draw attention to the walkway or drive by providing great light output surrounding the designated area.

What is voltage drop?

Voltage drop is calculated based on the length of run as well as how many fixtures are on each run drawing power from the transformer. With incandescent systems a longer run would mean less fixtures on the run due to the power draw needed to illuminate the lamp. Now with the energy efficient LED alternative, a 12v low voltage system allows homeowners to maximize the amount of fixtures on each run, and the installation requires less precautions than the 120v option, making LED well light ideal for residential use.

How do I select the correct outdoor transformer?

A 12v outdoor ground light system requires a low voltage transformer for proper installation. You can select the size of the transformer based on the amount of energy draw needed for your lighting project. An easy way to calculate the size of transformer you’ll need would be to multiply the wattage draw of the bulbs you’ll be using by the number of fixtures. For example if the bulbs are 8 watts and you plan to use 15 fixtures you would need a transformer capable of supporting at least a 120 watts. In order to give yourself design flexibility we recommend a transformer with slightly larger energy capabilities then you calculate.