Should I get plug and play electric garden lights?
You have hours-upon-hours spare to install and ground a complex electrical system, right? And it goes without saying that you’re a qualified electrician with an encyclopaedic knowledge of which regulatory bodies you’d need to consult when pulling wiring out of your walls.
Of course not. You wouldn’t be reading this if that was the case!
If you just want some lights in your garden without the headache of getting a professional involved, then a simple low-voltage system run from a standard plug – commonly referred to as "plug and play lights" – could be the perfect option.
Like solar-powered garden lights, plug and play options are easy to set up, don't require wiring into your home’s main electrical system, and require little to no maintenance.
Whether you should go down the solar or plug and play route is down to personal preference. Would you prefer reliability over low running costs? Do you want brighter lights at the cost of being less environmentally friendly? These are the kind of things you need to consider.
We’ve structured this article so that reading it from top to bottom will give you all the information you need to make an informed decision. On top of this, we have a separate article that focuses on solar-powered garden lights.
In this article, we’ll start with the benefits and disadvantages of electrical garden lighting generally. Then we’ll explain in more depth what plug and play lights are, how they compare to the more old-fashioned and laborious wired options, and the different fixtures available. Finally, so that you understand what the whole process entails, we’ll explain what you need to consider when planning your plug and play system and how to set it all up.
However, if you have a specific question you want answering right now, click the link relevant to you below. You’ll be taken straight to the relevant answer.
- What are the benefits of electric garden lights?
- What are the disadvantages of electric garden lights?
- What are plug and play electric garden lights?
- Are plug and play garden lights dangerous?
- What types of plug and play garden lights are there?
- What do I need to install plug and play lights?
- What should I consider when planning my plug and play garden lighting setup?
- How do I install my plug and play garden lights?
- What if I don’t have an outside plug?
What are the benefits of electric garden lights?
There are many reasons to install lighting in your outside space. For example, you can admire the fruits of your gardening after sun has gone down, add an extra level of security to your home, and you can keep the party going outside long into the night!
The benefits of electrical garden lights are numerous, particularly when compared to solar lighting. They:
- Are brighter than solar lights.
- Can be left on for as long as you like, whereas solar lights need sunlight to recharge.
- Are more reliable in winter and cloudy conditions as they don't require sunlight to charge.
Electric garden lights are brighter and more reliable than their solar-powered counterparts.
What are the disadvantages of electric garden lights?
However, there are two main downsides to electric garden lights that you have to consider.
Firstly, electric garden lights can be expensive to run – especially if you want to light up your whole outside space. If you were to go with solar lighting, you’d only have to pay the upfront cost of the units.
Secondly, most electrical lighting will require a lot of work and potential form-filling when being installed. Even minor electrical changes can require you to speak to regulatory bodies.
Unless you have experience and qualifications yourself (in which case, you wouldn’t be reading this), we’d highly recommend using an electrician.
And that can incur high financial and time costs.
Thankfully, plug and play lights offer an electrical option free of headaches.
Although not as reliable or bright as their mains-powered counterparts, solar lights are more environmentally friendly and don’t have any running costs. Pictured above are our Solar 8 Bulb String Lights.
What are plug and play electric garden lights?
For a simpler solution, we’d recommend a plug and play option – particularly if you have an outdoor plug.
Plug and play lights are the new generation of light fixtures that can be plugged into an outlet and used straight away. They come with everything you need already built into them and are easy to install yourself.
If you’re looking for ease and don’t want to get an electrician in, plug and play electric lights are your best option. Pictured above is our Deck Light Starter Kit.
Are plug and play garden lights dangerous?
Plug and play garden lights are low voltage, which makes them safer than high-voltage options.
They also have an IP rating – IP standing for "Ingress Protection". This is a rating that measures the level of protection the light offers against various environmental factors, such as dust, moisture, and impact.
The main thing you need to know about IP ratings is that they run from zero to six, with zero being completely unprotected and six being fully waterproof. In other words, if you have an IP rating of four or higher, then water won't get inside and damage the electronics within – but if your device has an IP rating below four, then there's no guarantee that it won't suffer damage if exposed to moisture or water over time.
Thankfully, reputable plug and play systems, such as what we sell on our website, have IP ratings above four.
Just make sure to always check the IP rating before buying or installing such products, and make sure to follow the instructions included with your products.
Plug and play lights are safe! Just make sure to check your lights’ IP ratings and always follow the manufacturer’s guidance. Pictured above is our Black Spotlight.
What types of plug and play garden lights are there?
There are three main types of plug and play garden light fixtures available.
Spotlights are perfect for accenting your home’s architecture or your favourite garden features.
As their name suggests, they cast a focused beam of light onto a target.
Want to highlight a specific feature of your garden? Go for a spotlight. Pictured above is our Stainless Steel Spotlight viewed from two angles.
2. Deck lights
Deck lights provide a soft glow that lets you see where you're going without blinding anyone who might be walking by.
They are perfect for creating a welcoming atmosphere for guests or setting the mood for a bit of me time on the patio.
Want to illuminate your deck or patio? Pictured above are two of our Stainless Steel Deck Lights.
3. Bollard lights
Bollard lights are best used in landscaped areas where they can be strategically placed to highlight your beautiful plants and flowers.
They can also be used to light up pathways at night, minimising the risks of you taking a tumble!
Want some light around your borders or paths? Get some bollard lights. Pictured above are our Bollard Lights.
What do I need to install plug and play lights?
To install a plug and play garden light system, you will need:
- A power source – either an indoor or outdoor plug
- A transistor to plug into your power source
- Light fixtures (i.e., spotlights, deck lights, and/or bollard lights)
- T-piece Adaptors for every light in your sequence but the last
If getting this all together sounds a bit daunting, don't worry. You can get everything you need to begin with a plug and play garden light starter kit.
But that's not all. Probably the most important thing you'll need to install plug and play lights is a plan!
Starter kits are best for, unsurprisingly, those looking to get started with plug and play electric lights. Pictured above is our Spotlight Starter Kit.
What should I consider when planning my plug and play garden lighting setup?
Now you know what you need in general to run plug and play lights, it's time to make a plan for your garden specifically.
Below are a few things to take into account when you make your plan.
1. What types of lights do you want and where?
Have a think about which of the three types of lights (as a reminder, spotlights, deck lights, and bollard lights!) you want in your garden and where.
Do you want to create a nice atmosphere with deck lights? Are there some favourite features in your garden you'd like to place a spotlight on? Is there a path that needs to be lit up with bollard lights to avoid a nasty tumble?
2. How big is your garden?
An important step in planning your plug and play garden lighting setup is considering the size of your outside space.
If you have a larger outside space, you may want to spread out your lights so that they're not all clustered in one area.
If you have a smaller space, it's easy to hide extra cords by keeping them out of sight behind bushes and plants. A single cord is easier for homeowners with smaller yards to manage than multiple cords tangled together throughout their property!
3. How many lights do you want?
The next step is determining how many lights you'd like per outlet.
You'll want enough bulbs so that they look bright while still being affordable enough!
Also, you'll need to pay attention to any maximum number of lights for one outlets given by the manufacturer.
4. Have you got enough cable length?
Don't make the rookie mistake of not giving yourself enough cable length!
On your plan, make a note of the distance between each of your lights and the length of cable (and the number of T-Piece Adaptors) you'll need to connect everything up.
5. How many hours a day (or more likely night!) you'd like your lights to be on for?
Next, you'll want to figure out how many hours per day the lights should be on.
If you're using garden lights for security purposes, you may only need them on at night when no one is home or whilst you're away.
If you're using them as decorations for your yard or garden, however, they'll probably be on a lot longer.
Handily, many systems have automatic sensors that can be set to turn the system on and off after a certain amount of time.
How do I install my plug and play electric lights?
The process couldn’t be more simple:
1. Decide what type of lights you would like to have in your garden
As a reminder:
- Spotlights are great for highlighting specific features.
- Bollard lights are perfect for lighting paths and borders.
- Deck lights can create a wonderful ambience in your seating area.
2. Make a detailed plan
Pull together your plan considering the points in the previous section and select your lights and cables accordingly.
Measure the distance between where you want to place each light and back to your power source.
You’ll need a T-Piece Adaptor (commonly, you will get multiple in starter kits) for every light – except for the last light in the sequence. Make sure that you have enough.
Now, measure the distance from your power supply to the first light and mark this on your plan. Make sure the total cable length doesn’t exceed the amount you have!
Once everything is planned out and you’ve checked you have all the adequate pieces, you’re nearly there.
3. Grab a transformer, plug in, and enjoy!
Connect your transformer to a plug to bring everything to life.
Ideally, an outside plug should be used. However, it will still work from a plug within your home.
What if I don't have an outside plug?
If you don't have an outside plug, you can always get one installed.
It's definitely best to hire a professional electrician if you're going to go down this route. This will ensure that the installation is done properly and safely.
If you want an easy and quick way to light up your garden with electricity, plug and play options are perfect – particularly if you already have an outside plug installed.
On balance, and considering the temperamentality of British weather, we’d advise going for this option if you don’t mind paying the running costs.
Although, if you're looking for a solution that has lower running costs and your garden is exposed to plenty of sunlight, then solar lighting could work for you. Also, doing so has less of an environmental impact in the long run!
In the end, it's up to you to decide what best suits your needs. Whatever choice you make, we hope it makes your garden even more beautiful.
You’ll invite us around for cocktails on your newly lit deck, right?