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View Full Version : Trouble with chosing brand to use


JimLewis
09-25-2008, 12:42 PM
UNIQUE
I've been pretty much a Unique Lighting guy for years. I just love the quality they put into their product. And with everything we do (irrigation, landscaping, lighting, hardscapes), I pride myself on using the best quality products I can find. So Unique seemed to be the obvious choice. Recently, I am having conflicts with my loyalty to that brand and I just wanted to brain storm a little with you guys and make sure I end up making the right choice.

First, I don't do lighting every day like some guys here. It's just part of what we offer our landscaping clients. But we do a decent amount of lighting every year. Enough that I consider myself more educated and experienced than most of my competition (landscape contractors). The reason I mention this is because for those of you who do it every day, brand may be less important. It might be easy for you to have and even memorize price lists for several different brands. For me, it is not. I am giving 3-5 bids every day - all kinds of bid, not just lighting. I don't have too much time to look up prices and monkey around looking through several different catalogs finding fixtures from several different brands. I want something that I can bid quickly and simply and feel good about it's quality too.

One thing I really love about Unique is their list price is the same for almost every fixture. That saves me tons of time right there.

The one downside to Unique Lighting is the price point. They are quite a bit more expensive than most other brands on the market. And that makes my bids almost always higher than my competition's bids are. It puts me in the position of being the highest bid, typically. Now I am no stranger to selling quality over price. I still land a decent percentage of bids, despite being the highest. But it does get discouraging knowing that I am often losing jobs just because another contractor comes in with a cheaper bid because he's using Kichler or Focus or some less expensive material.

KICHLER
So that's what's got me thinking. Plus, I am being pressured by suppliers like crazy to look at other brands they sell. One brand I always get pressure about is Kichler. I don't know what I think about them. But overall, I am not a big fan. Their prices vary WILDLY from one fixture to another. Some are under $50, others are over $500. And there are just SOOO many fixtures it's kind of a circus. Then, to show the customer their brochure and have to look up prices on every single fixture they chose just drives me crazy. I don't have time for that crap. Plus, I have questions about Kichler's long term quality. It's obviously not as sturdy as the brass and bronze fixtures by Unique and Cast. Finally, I don't understand the crazy lamp thing they got going on. Some lamps are 12.4 watts, others are 17.2, others are 15.4. WTF, man? Ever heard of just using a regular 20w lamp or 35w MR-11??? But Kichler's prices are lower, on average, than other brands. And that would make me more competitive. So that's one good thing.

FX LUMINAIRE
Another distributor is encouraging me to look more at FX Luminaire. And I've always liked that company. To me, they are like Unique but not quite as sturdy, not quite as long of a warranty, and not quite as expensive. But I've been favorably impressed with FX. Good quality for a little less buck. Plus the support I get from the distributor and local FX rep. is pretty awesome. I could switch to FX and still be selling a good quality product, still be offering a good 10-year warranty, but just be a little more competitively priced. That's something I'm considering.

CAST
Then there's CAST. The main supplier I buy 90% of the stuff we use just started carrying CAST and have been pressuring me to take a look at that brand, knowing I am a big fan of Unique. They don't sell Unique so they know I'm taking my lighting business elsewhere so they're trying to get me to add lighting to what I already buy from them. So I've been researching CAST lately. Seems to be pretty high quality. Sturdy fixtures. I love that. I don't like the original color they come in, compared to the nice brass Unique lights I usually use. But I guess they'll patina fast so initial color won't matter so much. I like their transformers. I like the No-Ox wire. I like the way the transformer powers up slowly to help prevent power surge. I like the fact that they don't try to make 500 different fixtures. But they seem to be even MORE EXPENSIVE than Unique. So why would I switch to CAST when I am already happy with Unique??? Seems like almost the same thing, just a little more expensive and a few more added features. It would make my bids even higher than they already are.

But the distributor is offering to set me up with a demo kit for CAST for next to nothing. Just to get me to switch. So that's tempting. We don't currently have a demo kit. Currently, if we do a demo., I just call our FX Rep. and he comes over and loans us his kit for the night and helps us set it up.

Anyway, I am just confused now. I am pretty happy with Unique. But not happy always being the high bid. So I've been considering looking at less expensive brands to make myself more competitive.

For those of you who have experience with all these brands, what do you recommend I do?

JoeyD
09-25-2008, 02:52 PM
Jim thanks for you support. I do understand your situation as a buisnessman you are doing yourself a service to look around and see whatelse is out there.

I will throw this out there. We have introduced our new Brass Knights line and our Copper Knights line is always growing. Pricing is substantially less than the odyssey and signature series lines. Just FYI. Pelase let me know if I can help with anything!!

David Gretzmier
09-25-2008, 06:34 PM
I've used FX fixtures many times before and I don't get many service calls on them. good stuff. FX transformers are my main choice, although I continue to do a long term study on about a dozen Ryco's i've got spread around. i rarely have issures with FX tranformers. They hold voltage at the trans and at the end of the wire better than the charts predict. The FX folks claim you can run thier trans at 120% of rated watts with no adverse effects. I've run my first trans at 100% ever a few weeks ago and I'll let you know how that works out.

I have used others that you mention here and there, but not enough to reccomend or not.

INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting
09-25-2008, 07:26 PM
There are probably as many responses to this inquiry as there are contributors to this forum.

Since the beginning of my business I have always tried to use the best fixture choices available for the application, without giving much thought to things like being loyal to a certain manufacturer. As such, it is not uncommon for me to install 5 (or more) different manufacturers products in a single system.

In order to streamline my design, specifications and quoting phases, I have built an extensive database of the manufactures, part numbers, and prices of the equipment I most respect and use. I update the database every spring when my distributors release their new pricing schedules. Using this, I am able to accurately specify every component required for a job in very short order. I just call up the info from the database and insert it into my system spec. matrix. The spreadsheet calculations take over from there.

Jim: using this technique for spec'ing jobs also allows you to change products on the fly and offer instant cost comparisons. A great tool for offering your client Good, Better, Best package pricing.

Hope this helps a bit.

Mike M
09-25-2008, 07:46 PM
Yeah, I do the same thing James does with the matrix database thing.

Mike M
09-25-2008, 07:50 PM
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention the giant wall-size screen and the military and civilian leaders I invite to cross-analyze the data.

Tomwilllight
09-25-2008, 08:05 PM
Best thing you can do is to go to LightFair and look at all the product out there. It will be in NYC this spring, but will be back in Lost Wages next year.

Tom

S&MLL
09-26-2008, 12:16 AM
To each their own. That is what I have to say regarding manufacturers. I use primarily 4 different companies. But I do have catalogs to so many and have used close to 15 different companies. Standard jobs in landscaping you i primarily use Kichler fixtures in AZT. If client wants to pay for brass or copper. Thats when I bring in CopperMoon. Tree down lights either Coppermoon or Cast. Path lights......all over the place. Have put in crazy price hinklys with tiffany glass to your average china hat copper light. I only use mdl transformers. Doesn't matter what company it is. But I do like the hinged door. I never use a photocell. I always use a etc-400. Unless its remote automation. Then that's where x-10 comes into play. I haven't used any zone control system yet. Fiber optics is IlluminFX all the way. Ushio makes a great mr-16 but dont put prism on the back burner like most do. Dont be afraid to use conduit.


btw Joey

I have some augustas on order when they come in and installed I will give you my feedback on them.

Chris J
09-26-2008, 12:56 AM
Wow, I could answer this post with a book! To keep it short, you should find a high quality manu that your comfortable with for using brass/copper, then find a quality company that has a quality aluminum. Give the customer a choice; two prices if you will. I would lean toward the highest quality for your client, but give them a back up plan if they hesitate at your price. As you said, you always want to sell yourself and your quality; not the fixture.
As far as manus with a lot of choices, that's a good thing. But you should'nt be handing your customer a catalog. That will just confuse them and lead to indecision. With any manufacturer, there are only a hand full of their products that I use on a consistent basis. If you want to show a catalog, then have your own brochure printed with the fixtures you like most. That way you can offer numerous manus and choose the best products from each. One other note: there are different lamps for different applications. When you learn what all of them do, you will be able to fine-tune your installations to perfection. Unless your using lenses, I would never attempt to light everything with the same lamp. (even with lenses I wouldn't do that).
In order to solve your problem, your simply going to have to put more effort into learning what's available and at what cost. The spread sheet is a good idea, but your still going to have to put in the hours to develop it and update it as necessary.
Good Luck to you.

irrig8r
09-26-2008, 01:15 AM
I've used FX fixtures many times before and I don't get many service calls on them. good stuff. FX transformers are my main choice, although I continue to do a long term study on about a dozen Ryco's i've got spread around. i rarely have issures with FX tranformers. They hold voltage at the trans and at the end of the wire better than the charts predict. The FX folks claim you can run thier trans at 120% of rated watts with no adverse effects. I've run my first trans at 100% ever a few weeks ago and I'll let you know how that works out.

I have used others that you mention here and there, but not enough to reccomend or not.

I have never heard that about the 120%... I have two FX 600s and two 300s on a job and all are running at 80% or less except one 300 that is at 98%.. I was thinking I'd switch it out to a 600, but maybe now I'll just wait and see.

I had heard they were temperaturee sensitive, but it went through some nights in July were ambient temperatures started at over 85 F w/ no problems. It just happened to be the one closest to where the client wanted more lights added.

Mike M
09-26-2008, 08:11 AM
One interesting thing I noticed here on lawnsite, is that finding the best fit for each job is an ongoing process. It can be overwhelming, so just simplify: find the go-to bullets and floods and paths you like, keep your eyes and ears open for others as time goes by.

For now, I have no problem sticking with companies like Unique and Cast, since I know every product they make is what I feel comfortable putting in the outdoor environment. I will look to others for special applications.

I like Tom's idea to attend Light Fair. That would accelerate the process by years of chance encounters, random referrals, samples, etc.

I will mention one thing I don't like: big companies that have a mix of some great stuff and some unreliable or not-so-great stuff and having to figure out which is which. What kind of company philosophy is that?

JoeyD
09-26-2008, 09:48 AM
I have never heard that about the 120%... I have two FX 600s and two 300s on a job and all are running at 80% or less except one 300 that is at 98%.. I was thinking I'd switch it out to a 600, but maybe now I'll just wait and see.

I had heard they were temperaturee sensitive, but it went through some nights in July were ambient temperatures started at over 85 F w/ no problems. It just happened to be the one closest to where the client wanted more lights added.

Something is wierd about that....the only thing I can figure out for them to claim 120% is that they are de-regulating their units. Either way, even running the units at 100% leaves you no room for upsizing lamps or adding fixtures.

But bottom line is what you are doing running your units at 80% is the right way to set a unit up. It is a rule across the board in electrical that you never exceed 80% of a the wire, device's capacity. It may even be an NEC rule which I will look at.

irrig8r
09-26-2008, 10:41 AM
I like Tom's idea to attend Light Fair. That would accelerate the process by years of chance encounters, random referrals, samples, etc.



I've not been to Lightfair, but I went to Contractor's Day when the ASLA had their convention here in San Jose a few years ago. It was my first exposure to brands like Vision3 and Winona... nice stuff, but manufacturers in that segment tend not to have MSRP/ list prices, and you go through reps to get them, and from what I was told the orders can take a while to arrive.

If I compare that to the distribution system set up through irrigation houses by FX, Nightscaping, Unique, Vista, etc. then I have to consider convenience and turnaround time.

irrig8r
09-26-2008, 10:51 AM
Something is wierd about that....the only thing I can figure out for them to claim 120% is that they are de-regulating their units. Either way, even running the units at 100% leaves you no room for upsizing lamps or adding fixtures.

But bottom line is what you are doing running your units at 80% is the right way to set a unit up. It is a rule across the board in electrical that you never exceed 80% of a the wire, device's capacity. It may even be an NEC rule which I will look at.

I know Nightscaping's Powercenters are derated.

Just do the math.

25 A fustat and a 250 W Powercenter... and I've easily loaded them up as high as 23 A at 11.5VAC.

(and 80% of 300 is only 240.)

JimLewis
09-26-2008, 11:26 AM
Wow, I could answer this post with a book! To keep it short, you should find a high quality manu that your comfortable with for using brass/copper, then find a quality company that has a quality aluminum. Give the customer a choice; two prices if you will. I would lean toward the highest quality for your client, but give them a back up plan if they hesitate at your price. As you said, you always want to sell yourself and your quality; not the fixture.
As far as manus with a lot of choices, that's a good thing. But you should'nt be handing your customer a catalog. That will just confuse them and lead to indecision. With any manufacturer, there are only a hand full of their products that I use on a consistent basis. If you want to show a catalog, then have your own brochure printed with the fixtures you like most. That way you can offer numerous manus and choose the best products from each. One other note: there are different lamps for different applications. When you learn what all of them do, you will be able to fine-tune your installations to perfection. Unless your using lenses, I would never attempt to light everything with the same lamp. (even with lenses I wouldn't do that).
In order to solve your problem, your simply going to have to put more effort into learning what's available and at what cost. The spread sheet is a good idea, but your still going to have to put in the hours to develop it and update it as necessary.
Good Luck to you.

Chris, thanks for your time and advice. I like this. This is kind of what I was leaning toward already. Giving the customer two different choices; one more expensive with brass or copper and one less expensive aluminum option. Then I'd push the more expensive one. But at least that would give them one bid from me that would compete with the other cheaper bids they were getting.

I also like the idea of creating my own catalog. I had considered that briefly but forgot about it. I have done that with irrigation. We have our own custom brochure explaining our components and how we install systems. I think I might put prices right on the brochure as well. Then it would be a good way for me and the client to know what their cost is on each fixture.

JimLewis
09-26-2008, 11:44 AM
One other note: there are different lamps for different applications. When you learn what all of them do, you will be able to fine-tune your installations to perfection. Unless your using lenses, I would never attempt to light everything with the same lamp. (even with lenses I wouldn't do that).

Yah, I understand that. I will regularly switch out lamps for other lamps with a wider degree of spread or more narrow spread depending on what I am trying to light up. But I was referring to all the whacky different lamps that Kichler uses in their fixtures. They are just all over the place with crazy lamps I've never heard of before.

Just looking through their catalog here;

24.4w 3156K lamp
16.25w 921X
18.5w 3155K
11.6w 912X
6.5w 918X
4w 901x

You telling me those are regular lamps you use when you are looking for a particular effect?

TXNSLighting
09-26-2008, 12:15 PM
Check your PM Jim

irrig8r
09-26-2008, 12:57 PM
I use 921s, 918s and 912s regularly for steplights, post/ deck/ rail lights and such.

JimLewis
09-26-2008, 01:02 PM
You use them because that's what Kichler fixtures come with? Or you actually remove the 10w lamp that most of the other brand's step lights come with and then go insert your own 11.6w 912?????

Almost all of the step lights I've ever bought from any manufacturer come standard with an 10w T3 bulb. A few come with a 20w T-3. You telling me that for some reason these odd 11.6w and and 18.5w and 16.25w lamps are better? Why are they better? Why would you use those in place of the standard 10w T-3 that most manufacturers use?

irrig8r
09-26-2008, 01:38 PM
Nope. Never used a Kichler product yet.

Nightscaping has those T-5 wedge bases lamps as standard issue in Postliters and Tuliters, and I've done special requests for wedge base sockets in some other NS fixtures where the old bayonet style was standard issue.

Both socket and lamp hold up to exposure from the elements better, and it makes lamp changes easy. And there are Xenon lamps in that style now too.

S&MLL
09-26-2008, 01:50 PM
24.4w 3156K lamp
16.25w 921X
18.5w 3155K
11.6w 912X
6.5w 918X
4w 901x


3156 and 3155 are the same style bulb just different wattages. Kichler uses this bulb in a ton of paths and wall washers. I really like the bulb. Its more of a s8 wedge base. Its a cross of a bigger bayonet bulb with the base of a wedge bulb. Look at your tail lights. Very common bulb in cars. then the rest you mentioned like others said are just wattages. when your voltage is correct you can visible see the difference in 2 watts. So depending on application depends on wattage of bulb.

JoeyD
09-26-2008, 01:55 PM
Jim I believe most of those random wattage lamps are actually incandescent.....someone correct me if I am wrong. I know I would always swap those lamps out for halogen counter parts......

irrig8r
09-26-2008, 04:25 PM
Jim I believe most of those random wattage lamps are actually incandescent.....someone correct me if I am wrong. I know I would always swap those lamps out for halogen counter parts......

Not sure if they are halogen or not. They're wedge base and last a while. And they're not as sensitive to fingerprints, sprinklers, etc as the bi-pins. A little grease when installed and they do very well.

JoeyD
09-26-2008, 04:45 PM
FYI, Xelogen lamps like our Astro Brites can be handled by bare fingers with no adverse effects. Grease is always a good choice on yoru bi pins and wedges as long as it ist no lox or ox guard which will harden once dried out and then it will limit continuity.


Jim,

I got a Brass Knights Intrepid in the mail to you!!

S&MLL
09-26-2008, 05:34 PM
Joey where are my Augusta's. In relation to the grease on the pins. I buy that stuff from Lowe's. Its a black sort of substance. I have been using it for a while and works good.

JoeyD
09-26-2008, 05:45 PM
yeah that stuff is the stuff that will harden over time....you should use a good Di_electric grease with a silicone base like NOVAGUARD.

When did you orders the Augustas....we are not backordered?

S&MLL
09-26-2008, 05:53 PM
Joey do you know where that stuff is available at? I was once told along the way if it is black it is the good stuff.

I ordered them the other day. Im sure they will be here soon. No big deal. But if you could post more info on that novaguard stuff I'm sure alot of guys could benefit from the info. I know I sure could.

JoeyD
09-26-2008, 05:57 PM
http://www.novagard.net/images/techspec/03g661.pdf

Here you go!!! Have a good weekend!

S&MLL
09-26-2008, 06:01 PM
Thank you mr joey. Have yourself a nice weekend as well

RICHLONGHORN
09-26-2008, 07:56 PM
S&MLL,
Why do you ask Joey? Should'nt your distributor be able to tell you?

Chris J
09-26-2008, 09:35 PM
Yah, I understand that. I will regularly switch out lamps for other lamps with a wider degree of spread or more narrow spread depending on what I am trying to light up. But I was referring to all the whacky different lamps that Kichler uses in their fixtures. They are just all over the place with crazy lamps I've never heard of before.

Just looking through their catalog here;

24.4w 3156K lamp
16.25w 921X
18.5w 3155K
11.6w 912X
6.5w 918X
4w 901x

You telling me those are regular lamps you use when you are looking for a particular effect?

This is kind of a trick question because I have used a LOT of Kichler over the years. These lamps numbers are almost like second nature to me, and I know what fixtures produce what effects. So, to answer the question, yes. These are regular lamps I use when looking for a particular effect, however; I don't much like the 3156 anymore. When I use it, I use the 3156LL (long life). The 912, 901, 918 and 921 are regularly swapped back and forth and I find it very usefull. But as you said earlier, lighting is all I do so it's not that difficult for me to know this stuff off the top of my head. If lighting was just an add-on service for me, I could empathize with your situation.

JoeyD
09-29-2008, 10:30 AM
S&MLL,
Why do you ask Joey? Should'nt your distributor be able to tell you?

I havent heard of one dist. that stocks or even really promotes NovaGard. Most of our own dist. dont even stock it. Most still promote Oxguard or Nolox or worse silicone filled wire nuts for irrigation.

The Lighting Geek
09-29-2008, 10:42 AM
I havent heard of one dist. that stocks or even really promotes NovaGard. Most of our own dist. dont even stock it. Most still promote Oxguard or Nolox or worse silicone filled wire nuts for irrigation.

[Tommy cracks his knuckles.] It took a little doin but my supplier now carries Nova Guard.

JoeyD
09-29-2008, 10:44 AM
Tommy cracks his knuckles It took a little doin but my supplier now carries Nova Guard.

LOL..........A little muscle always works!!!!

Hope things are well Tommy!!!

Dreams To Designs
09-29-2008, 11:19 AM
Jim, I find the design of the landscape and design of the lighting will most often specify what type of fixture to use. I give myself wide options, but the client may only see a few. Most often a quality uplight, downlight and a well light are standard, and color, style or finish is not as much an issue as quality, durability, serviceability and a reasonable price are. Path or area lights become part of the visible scene and should be coordinated accordingly. Step and cap lights will usually be dictated by their location as well. With many of the natural metals available, and of course basic black, you have a wide choice of fixtures to meet each individual lighting design.

The ability to change lamps and alter beams and affect brightness will truly deliver the lighting design you and your client envisioned.

I use Cast as a base for most of my systems and add fixtures from Coppermoon, Vista, Kichler, Focus and Evening Star. I am looking at Unique, quality, but my distribution network is not that strong. I have also been approached by Alliance, and will take a look, but like Cast, it is a one finish limited line. I understand Nightscaping has a devout following, but as of yet, have not needed something they made I could not get from a regular source.

Kirk

TXNSLighting
09-29-2008, 10:23 PM
Ya know Jim im going to start using FX as my second line. Id suggest looking into em.

TPnTX
10-04-2008, 09:39 AM
Anyone use Kim?

Talking to a few landscapers and architects it seems they are accepted as the product to use if you have to throw in a trusted name.