12v AC vs. 12v DC Landscape Lighting: Which Is Better? (Explained)

Are you thinking about installing landscape lighting for your home? If so, it is vital to know the difference between 12v AC and 12v DC. This blog post will give you an overview of both options, the benefits and drawbacks, and how they compare in terms of cost. 

Ultimately, it would be best to consider which type would workOpens in a new tab. best for your needs before deciding on one over the other. 

12v AC vs. 12v DC Landscape Lighting. There is no universally “better” choice between 12V AC and 12V DC landscape lighting, as it depends on specific needs. 12V AC systems are often preferred for longer cable runs, while 12V DC may be more efficient in certain applications. Assessing individual requirements and considering factors like cable distance and power consumption is essential to determine the most suitable option.

Explore this article to find out more information on these two types of landscape lighting systemsOpens in a new tab.!

12v AC vs. 12v DC Landscape Lighting – What’s the difference

AC and DC landscape lightingOpens in a new tab. look similar in surface, but they have differences between them that you need to know if you are considering one over the other.

These two types of landscape lighting work with different principles. In general, AC lightsOpens in a new tab. usually use the main transformer to provide electricity, which is converted into direct current by the light and distributed around it through a thin wire. 

On the other hand, DC lights do not need a transformer as they use regular batteries. If you want more information on how AC and DC lights work, my other complete guide on DC and AC powerOpens in a new tab. explains that in detail.

To better understand why people opt for one or the other, let’s look at the benefits and drawbacks of each type.

1.1 12v AC Landscape Lighting

Surprisingly enough, despite using a transformer to generate electricity, 12v AC landscape lightingOpens in a new tab. is cheaper than DC lights. Mainly because AC landscape lighting does not require batteries to work, which makes it ideal for small-scale residential projects (i.e., less than 100 feet of wire).

Though less expensive, 12v AC lights are also limited in terms of application compared to DC. In addition, because they use electricity supplied by a transformer, it requires power to be available where you are installing the lightsOpens in a new tab..

It can be problematic for places far from the need for electricity (i.e., rural areas) or if there are weight restrictions on your landscape lightingOpens in a new tab. system that may require you to place the transformer far away from the light itself.

That said, 12v AC lighting is your best option if you are looking for something that is not excessively expensive but also capable of meeting the needs of most residential outdoor projects.  

1.2 12v DC Landscape Lighting

12v DC landscape lightingOpens in a new tab., on the other hand, is more efficient in terms of energy consumption compared to its AC counterpart. In addition, it does not require a transformer because it plugs directly into the battery. The fact that you do not need to use electricity that has gone through another power source means that your lights will run more efficiently, saving you money in the long run.

Plus, these lights are designed to last for up to 50% longer than AC landscape lighting due to their low energy consumptionOpens in a new tab.. While 12v AC lights can last for up to 30,000 hours, 12v DC landscape lighting can last for around 50,000 hours—this is almost 25 times longer!

It may be more expensive upfront due to the batteries and wiring required, but it will save you money in the long run. This type is also more versatile, and you can install it through an AC outlet if one is available.

Regardless, both types of landscape lightsOpens in a new tab. are great for outdoor areas and offer distinct benefits depending on your needs. More importantly, though, they look great once installed! 

Is There A Difference Between 12v AC & DC Landscape Lighting?

The main difference between these two types of outdoor landscape lighting is that the AC variety needs the main transformer to generate electricity. At the same time, DC lights plug directly into an electric outlet or battery.

In addition, 12v AC landscape lighting is usually lighter in weight and easier to install because it does not require batteries. On the other hand, DC lighting can last longer due to its low energy consumption and does not require a transformer to generate powerOpens in a new tab..

In the end, both types of landscape lighting will provide you with great ambientOpens in a new tab. lighting for your home or business.

Which is better, AC or DC power for your landscape lighting needs

In general, though, I recommend 12v DC lights if you want something low-maintenance and cost-efficient. They also look better in quality compared to AC landscape lighting, which is a side effect of their increased durability.

How do you convert 12v DC power to 12v AC?

Unfortunately, this is usually not possible because the voltage and current requirements for each bulb type are significantly different. For example, while 12v DC bulbs require between 10 and 14 volts of powerOpens in a new tab., 12v AC bulbs need between 110 and 130 volts.

If you want to get this done, the best solution will likely be to hire an electrician who can do it for you. That is the only way to ensure your system does not get damaged in the process.

Which is more energy-efficient – 12v AC or 12v DC landscape lighting?

As mentioned earlier, 12v DC landscape lighting is more energy-efficient than its AC counterpart because it not only requires electricity to be generated but because its design allows for less loss of power in terms of heat and current.  

12v DC Power & Batteries

Please note that you will need to use batteries with DC power, which are different from regular batteries. Make sure to purchase the right kind, so you do not damage your lights.

If you are looking for something practical yet affordable for both indoor and outdoor purposes, 12v AC and DCOpens in a new tab. landscape lighting is the way to go! They are low-maintenance, durable, and cost-effective.

Landscape Lighting Replacement Bulb

There are many reasons why you may have to replace the lightOpens in a new tab. bulbs on your landscape lighting system. For example, maybe they have burned out, or the plastic covering has melted due to a lightning strike. Whatever the reason for replacement might be, it is essential to understand how these bulbs function.

How to wire a system that uses both types of power together

Unless you are hiring an electrician to do it for you, installing a switching mode that allows you to change from one power supplyOpens in a new tab. to another is the only way to do this. It will be helpful if you want to save on your energy bill by using less power at certain times of the day.


So, if you ever wondered what the difference is between 12v AC and 12v DC landscape lighting, this blog post just gave you a brief overview of the differenceOpens in a new tab. between these two types of outdoor lighting. 

You may have noticed that there are obvious advantages to both, but in this article, I went further to highlight looking at them from an energy standpoint.

An average LED lamp with a 100-watt equivalent bulb can save up to 10 times more energy than its incandescent counterparts. The total cost of ownership for LEDs is also much lower than for other types of bulbs.

You can expect your electric bill to be reduced by around 50% when switching over to LEDs! For more information on how LEDs work, head back here soon for my next blog, where I will be looking further at why you should get LED lights outdoors, mainly “What’s So Great About LED Landscape Lighting?


Charles is a freelance writer whose areas of expertise include home renovation, gardening, and design. A graduate with a degree in Digital Marketing and Business Management. Charles is currently a freelance writer. Charles is always typing away on his laptop or tackling his newest home improvement project. He likes to spend quality time with his family, riding, and working out at the gym.

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