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GreenLight
04-09-2009, 11:08 AM
Landscape lighting seems to be the trickiest for service/maintenance and I am stumped on some things. Im trying to develop something that gives me a little more long term security with keeping customers and something that protects me a bit more for every service call for a bulb, etc. Theoretically I would love to do a quarterly service for all lighting customers and simply have a fee based off of job size, detail and special circumstances...That being said, a quarterly system seems to leave me with gaping holes as far as bulbs blowing out and most people are certainly not going to wait 3 months for a bulb replacement. (Many times they want it done asap). I guess that is the situation that im stumped on the most. How do you properly service and manage something with guaranteed failure, yet that failure rate can hardly justify the expense needed to cover cost of fixing. It's a given that lamps will blow and unfortunately when that begins to occur you are generally looking at many more blowing over a short period of time if they have reached the end of their life cycle.

Obviously the lamps are guaranteed for a certain amount of time (1 year, 2 years in some cases) but after that I have found myself having to charge a customer $40.00 to go out and change a 20 watt bulb on a path light once every few months. That figure certainly doesn't make me rich and im not trying to take advantage, but it obviously can rub a valued customer the wrong way. Anyone have any good advice on this topic, maybe a more strategic plan?

Tomwilllight
04-09-2009, 05:58 PM
If you haven't, check your delivered voltages. You should NEVER exceed 11.5 volts delivered to the lamp when under load.

Then make sure your clients knows how to turn off the lights when they are not needed.

Other advice: stop using cheap lamps, stop dropping them and put your clients on a "Group Relamping" program. If you are "daisy chaining" your fixtures, stop that and learn how to keep your voltages consistent using a Spider or Hub method.

Buy a quality meter too.

Tom

GreenLight
04-09-2009, 08:02 PM
If you haven't, check your delivered voltages. You should NEVER exceed 11.5 volts delivered to the lamp when under load.

Then make sure your clients knows how to turn off the lights when they are not needed.

Other advice: stop using cheap lamps, stop dropping them and put your clients on a "Group Relamping" program. If you are "daisy chaining" your fixtures, stop that and learn how to keep your voltages consistent using a Spider or Hub method.

Buy a quality meter too.

Tom

Tom I understand voltages, wiring methods and all the other landscape lighting 101 advice (not trying to be pompous, just seems you were trying to talk down to me more than actually reading my question). The "group relamping" part is applicable and I certainly try to use this and think it is sound advice. Yet, in reality, no matter how great the lamps are, generally you will have a fewthat burn out on a 30 fixture system well before their expected life capacity (even with very balanced voltages). This isn't a big deal if you are only installing lights every few months, but it adds up with 40-50 customers fairly quick if they pay close attention to their lights. I will certainly group relamp at every opportunity if all lights are close to the end of their life cycle, but im just trying to see if anyone has any suggestions based on that random lamp that burns out on a system well before it should. What is the service practice? Charge, replace free , etc?

The Lighting Geek
04-09-2009, 11:25 PM
I would just double check any fixture that has a premature lamp failure. I think what Tom was getting at was that you should not have those problems provided you did the things he stated.

I always find a missed voltage problem or something is out of whack. Something as simple as banging your lamps around a little or using cheaper lamps can have hugh impact in lamp life. He was spot on when it comes to your meter. A good meter can save and make you money.

INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting
04-09-2009, 11:48 PM
Greenlight: You should be getting at least 1 full year's operation out of any installed LV lamps. Even the cheapest MR16s will give you 2000 hours if installed properly. Using quality lamps will extend service intervals greatly. (as long at Tom's advice is followed!)

If you are having to change the same lamp multiple times a year, you are doing something wrong. If you design and install things properly, your clients should be getting 2-3 years service out of a GE MR16 lamp, a Uship Q20X (xenon) etc etc.

Mr. Quik electric
04-10-2009, 12:06 AM
Keep the voltage on your T-3s in the high 10s to low 11s. Use quality lamps (Ge constant color). You might also consider drawing an as built drawing with the lamp type and wattage and then leaving a small "emergency kit" of a few spare lamps they can replace if necessary. Saves you a service call and them having to wait. I know this may not work for some customers.

GreenLight
04-10-2009, 12:36 AM
Apparently I was very misleading in my post and if that is the case I apologize. Im not talking about replacing lamps multiple times per year. Let me layout an example...

1) Job 1 - You do a 30 fixture job with lamp life being guaranteed for a year. Now obviously if I have a lamp or two of the 30 that fails then I am going to replace them for free. I generally use USHIO lamps and if these are cheap lamps then I will complain to John Deere about it.

Apparently where the confusion sets in is im talking about after that first year when I have multiple customers calling and saying "I have a few lights not working" for which I will generally add up their general run time per night of a full calendar year and in most cases all lights on the system are due for replacement. At this point I am no longer under warranty so I charge for this..I guess what I am asking is are you warrantying replaced bulbs on a system? If so, obviously full system replacement is the best option. So at this point I would basically be doing a simple annual bulb replacement service agreement or tri quarterly.

INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting
04-10-2009, 02:54 AM
I do not warranty any lamps that I install in maintenance operations. I provide a full 2 year warranty on newly installed systems / zones.

That being said, I also DO NOT bill my clients for simple service calls of replacing a lamp or two. If they are patient, and can wait a week or so until the next time I drive by their home, then I just drop in and take care of any small details for no charge. In return, I ask for their continued refferrals, which are much more valuable than any $50 or $75 service call revenue. There are ways you can even account for this service as a promotional expense.

I would recommend that you institute annual maintenance agreements that would see you return each year for a full re-lamp & service. For high maintenance clients or properties you could bump this up to semi-annual.

David Gretzmier
04-12-2009, 10:56 AM
I agree with james. On new systems, we warranty everything for 1 year. we do a full bulb replacement on all fixtures every year after that and charge for this service, typically 10% of the installed job. when they buy this, they get full warranty coverage on all items for another year. we also clean lenses, trim back foliage that is in the way of fixtures, clean bugs and cobwebs out of trans, change battery in any digital timers, and re-aim. I call ahead and ask if folks would like to add any fixtures, and usually one out of 4 wants another or 2.

GreenLight
04-12-2009, 11:13 AM
I do not warranty any lamps that I install in maintenance operations. I provide a full 2 year warranty on newly installed systems / zones.

That being said, I also DO NOT bill my clients for simple service calls of replacing a lamp or two.

Thanks for your reply James.
The quote I took from your post is precisely the catch im in. You say you do not warranty any lamps installed in maintenance, yet on the other hand you do not bill the client for replacing them if you have one or two lamps that fail. Im not trying to put words in your mouth, but how is that different then giving them a warranty?

If you have 75 lighting clients and you are doing full system replacements once a year without a warranty, if you only have one bulb with premature failure per system then that is 75 service calls for free. I did a horrible job of explaining that in my opening post, but that is what I was trying to get opinions on. Theoretically I agree with everyone's posts about lamplife and taking care of the lamps, but reallistically I have no idea how the lamps are handled from the day they are made until the day I purchase them. They could have been battered around in shipping, stocking,etc before I even touch them.

Personally, I am not a big fan of doing anything for free. It's not because I am cheap, it's just because I have gone down that road many times in the past with customers and you begin to compromise yourself and them between what is free and what is not. I guess ultimately my easiest solution would be to warranty my replacements only in group installs, yet I would have to incorporate some extra cost in the warranty for my own protection.

GreenLight
04-12-2009, 11:20 AM
Thanks David

It seems like the majority are doing some type of annual group replacement and maintenance agreement so I better get on board quick. Also David, I really like your idea about calling customers about additions before coming out. That is an easy upsell! Thanks for everyone's responses, very helpful info.

Lite4
04-12-2009, 11:31 AM
On new installs we have been warrantying the system for the first year (with the exclusion of lamps). We are selling our service contracts accordingly based on initial system cost. 12% annually for one year contract, 10% for a 2 year, and 8% for a 3 year. All warranties are extended with the purchase of the "system protection package".

GreenLight
04-12-2009, 12:55 PM
Thanks for your insight Tim, greatly appreciated.

Tomwilllight
04-12-2009, 01:26 PM
I'm glad this got sorted out.

Tom