View Full Version : Malibu Transformer Installation

05-15-2007, 03:14 PM
Hello I am new to landscape lighting and want to know if it ok to mount a malibu transformer(600watt) inside a garage attached to a home. The power pack or transformer get hot when on, I hear this is normal. The wattage is not exceded so everything is installed correctly. If this is typical what's the difference if I mount it inside the garage, malibu says it must be outside?? Anyone please help...Thanks

Chris J
05-15-2007, 03:48 PM
I don't touch the product because it is garbage. All I can tell you is that if they say to put it outside, you better put it outside. :hammerhead: You might also want to check your homeowners insurance policy and make sure your covered for loss due to self-inflicted fire hazards.

05-15-2007, 08:02 PM
So do these tranformers get that hot to be classified as a "self-inflicted fire hazard"?? Why would you still want to mount it to the outside of the house. It could still burn it up. It sounds like it's "when", not "if" it will catch on fire. What other type of transformer would you reccomment?? I could still return the malibu one. I have 2 runs both 180 watt totals...so I need a transformer that can handle 360+ watts. Thanks

05-15-2007, 11:05 PM
your missing another point. Your 2 runs and malibu only has a singluar 12v tap your going to possibly be left with half the voltage you should have at the last fixture.

Consider going with a proffesional model trans that has multi taps and seeking proffesional advice and design if you still want to do it yourself. If you are dead set on using the malibu yes mount it outside prefferably on a post off your home and surround by rocks in case it does go up in smoke.

Then split it into more than 2 runs to help ease the voltage drop since you will be lucky to get 10.5 to 11v out of the transfomer under load.

05-15-2007, 11:20 PM
In reply...it is a 600 watt total transformer with 2X300 taps. No one can tell me if it is normal for all these transformer to get hot. Thanks

David Gretzmier
05-16-2007, 12:16 AM
I would say that the transformers I have experience with: Unique, FX, and Nightscaping, never get more than luke warm to the touch even fully loaded. they are expensive, and made to last awhile. when you see one,pick it up, and compare it to a malibu, you'll understand, they are 4 times the size and weight. also, 4-8 times the price. the good ones are sold at irrigation and electrical supply houses, and they may not sell one to a homeowner.

It would not surprise me that the malibu is hot, and yes, hot means dangerous. the earlier post is right, if you take a voltage meter and test each light, you'll find that the voltage is dropping as you get further from your transformer-it should be between 11.5 and 10.8 for good color and bulb life. An FX or Unique transformer allows you a higher starting voltage for a separate run to your distant fixtures. and a lower starting voltage for your fixtures closer to the tranformer on another separate run.

In a city of the size of St. Louis, you might find a lighting contractor to give you some professional advice and help for a small fee, but most are like me- I want to do the install and make money, because that is how I pay my bills. good luck.

Chris J
05-16-2007, 12:20 AM
It is normal for a transformer to get warm. The larger the transformer (and the load) the warmer it will get.
In response to your 2x300 taps; that's all well and good, but it's not going to matter with helping the voltage drop issues your going to have. What Billy is trying to tell you is that a Malibu transformer only has a 12v output. Once the voltage travels down the wire to all of your fixtures, it will steadily lose voltage. The last fixtures in your runs are going to be very dim because you will not have the proper operating voltage (10.8 to 12) supplied to them.
Take his advice...Seek professional help to assist you with this. Learn more about it before you try this on your own.

05-16-2007, 01:09 AM
I'm with billy on this one. Get a good one or get it far away from combustibles. I have noticed that the kichler transformers don't seem to get as hot as others. They tell me it is because of the way that the copper is coiled differently inside. Don't honestly know if they were selling me a line or what. But it's worth checking out for an interior mount.

05-16-2007, 01:56 PM
You guys crack me up. First of all, Malibu is a brand name. Intermatic makes the transformers. Intermatic Inc. is one of the biggest names in electronic hardware in the USA. Besides residential grade landscape lighting (Malibu) they also private label for other big box stores like Lowes (Manor House). The pioneered the analog rotary timer thats used in every brand's transformer, if your not using a photocell, and this same analog timer can be found in every washing machine made. They also make photocells, both industrial and consumer grade. On top of every street light is a photocell made by Intermatic.

In addition, Intermatic makes hardwire transformers, doorbell transformers, step up/down transformers (buck/boost), Isolated transformers for ponds and Jacuzzi's. They are a ISO9001 compliant company.

Intermatics transformers are basic and simple. They will last equally as good as any other brand out there, but again, they need to be specified for the right job. They offer wattages in 44, 88, 100, 121, 200, 300, 600, and 900. As per UL1838 guidelines, no secondary circuit can be more than 300 watts/25 amps. Thats why when you go into a 600 or 900 watt supply, you see 2 and 3 circuits. Transformers can be mounted inside with adequate ventilation, but the problem exists with running cable through foundation walls. The proper conduit and electrical practices need to be observed here to avoid a fire hazard. Thats why they simply recommend mounting outside.

We all know most landscape lighting systems use high wattage fixtures, so Intermatic's Malibu line is not a good choice if your using less than 300 watts.

We sell and carry the OEM Malibu line (no retail box and pad printed instructions on the dial) because our accent lighting products are fixed at 4 watts. If you look at the wire terminals on the bottom, you'll see A, B, and C. A & B are your hot leads, and "C" is a common dummy terminal to be used as a built in wire nut when using the photo cell accessory.

I've been to Intermatic and have had a grand tour of their facility. They're one of our biggest vendors.

05-16-2007, 02:17 PM
Intermatics Malibu line is still not MDL when it comes to transformers and their fixtures are garbage, pure and simple. Their transformers fry regularly. I replace them all the time. I have yet to replace one of my Kichler (MDL) transformers. Quite simply stated, Malibu is made to be used by the general public and not professionals who know what they need to do a good job.

05-16-2007, 02:31 PM

I agree with you on the basics and the quality issues to a point. Consumer grade is just that. It's meant to not last forever. However, I don't agree when you say they "fry". All these products are cULus listed and meet stricter safety guidelines for Canada than the USA. If you come across transformers that are excessively hot or overheating, then its most likely due to the initial system being installed with low wattage lamps and then being replaced with higher wattage lamps then the system can handle, a possible short or a combination of all of the above.

05-16-2007, 02:40 PM
When I say "fry" I mean that they no longer work. Transformers are really not more than a coil of wire and should last a very long time. They could have been over loaded, who really knows? I can say that thanks to Malibu, I replace a lot of transformers and fixtures. They create a lot of business for me.

05-16-2007, 05:32 PM
Im not even going to start to compare malbus with MDL. While intermatic makes some high quality electrical components Thier transformers with the exposed terminals on the bottom and old fashioned analog dials are unsafe in my opinion. Yes they maybe UL listed. UL listing does not make something instantly safe tho. It makes sure its rated for its intended use. Homeowners with no clue go stringing lights along and overload them or come close to thier rated capacity make then fail.

Get a quality unit with an astronomical or digital timer and photocell and you will be much happier. Another key point not mentioned is DO NOT try to install a lighting system without a good volt meter. JKass email thru my website and I may sell a preowned quality unit to you.

05-16-2007, 06:29 PM
Thanks for all the responses...Sounds like my issue for installing the transformer inside the garage is where the low voltage cable runs outside the foundation and up the walls to the other side of the garage. I thought low voltage cable was really really SAFE because the system is "low voltage"?? When the wire and leads are hot you can touch them and I believe if the wire gets a cut in it, the system still works fine and there is no risk of electrical shock. Whats the problem with running the wire right through a small hole drilled into the siding? Again thanks for all the great info. Jkass636

05-16-2007, 06:32 PM
The problem is the unit is NOT rated for indoor use. Also any wires that pass thru a dwelling wall must be in a conduit. Be sure and check your local building codes FIRST about this. They are designed for your saftey. If the wires get hot you got some serious issues. The transformers themselves will get warm when operating.

05-16-2007, 08:20 PM
But under normal conditions when everything is working correctly, the low voltage wiring should not be hot or pose a threat running thru my garage attic?? Thanks

Chris J
05-16-2007, 08:31 PM
Just so you will know, if your connections at the fixture are not tight, this will cause arcing which is going to cause the wire to heat up significantly. If your transformer does not have a secondary breaker, your wire could have a melt down. Again, please learn a little bit about what you are doing before you start running wires through an attic!

05-16-2007, 11:46 PM
Another issue here may be when the main wires were striped and attached to your transformer, check to make sure none of the strands have been cut - reducing the wire gauge. Also, no matter what transformer you use, the insulation should be stripped 1/8" away past where it connects to the terminals.

05-17-2007, 03:14 AM
(chuckle chuckle chuckle) :laugh:

David Gretzmier
05-17-2007, 03:33 AM
A tranformer is a coil of wire. I think malibu just uses less of it. they get hotter, and don't last as long. Intermatic my make them, but mailibu has given a bad name to low voltage lighting industry.

because of malibu- Everyone's first thought of landscape lighting is pagota lights in a runway on the drive and sidewalk. Thanks maulibu. Now I have to re-educate every potential customer on what good lighting looks like.

05-17-2007, 04:40 AM
Actually... they run warmer because of the ABS Plastic housing. The all steel ones or stainless steel for that matter help dissipate the heat. I agree with you on the pagoda light. Anyone for golf? haha.