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View Full Version : Kichler LED - No Great Option for Down Lights


JimLewis
10-13-2011, 04:02 AM
Well, some of you may recall I had quite a lot of trepidation earlier this year trying to decide whether to finally make the switch over to LED or not - and if so, what brand. After gathering a lot of info. at the I.A. show last year, doing a lot of research, and many discussions here on Lawnsite and also privately with very respected members of this forum, I finally concluded I would start installing Kichler LED fixtures this year.

After having installed hundreds of them this year and installing 3x as much lighting than any previous year to date, I have to say I'm very happy with my decision. My customers have been happy with every install we've done, I've been very impressed with the results of the installs, and the support I've received from Kichler since I committed to using their product has been outstanding. They really go above and beyond.

My only problem is that, within the Kichler LED series, they really don't have any great options for down lights. I'm wanting something like the Quasar1 from Unique Lighting (http://www.seagulllighting.com/91113-147.JPEG) or the Trellis Solare by FX Luminaire (http://www.sprinklers4less.com/images/products/detail/TS_50_BZ_MJ.jpg). Something where the lamp is hidden back in a socket a little bit, to protect people from glare as they walk or sit around in a patio setting. Typically, I'll use these around the corners of a pergola that we have just installed, as in the pergola pictured here (http://www.lewislandscape.com/photos/gallery/albums/album114/P1050607.jpg). The goal is to down light the patio with a soft glow (frosted lens, typically) to create a nice ambiance / glow over the patio area below.

I've been happy with the Kichler LED products in terms of spot lights for uplighting trees, step lights, path lights, and wall wash lights. But in terms of a good down light with a deep socket (like the ones mentioned above) they really don't offer anything in their current LED line up.

Sure, you can take a spot light and put a regular cowl over it or one of the deep cowls over it. But that's not really the same thing. Those cowls don't even cover 50% of the area around the fixture. Too much glare comes off of these spot lights when pointed down from above. Partly because the cowl doesn't really cover all the way around and partly because their spot lights are so wide, compared to the other down lights I mentioned above.

I don't want to take a traditional light fixture and just throw an after market LED MR-16 in there. I'm concerned those aren't really going to last long. I like the fact that the Kichler LED lights should last 15 years. The best I've been able to get anyone to commit to on an LED MR-16 is that it might last 3 years. Part of the whole benefit to the Kichler LED system is the fact that you don't have to change lamps for over a decade. So I want something similar for whatever down light I install too. It's a major selling point to be able to tell a customer they won't have to worry about changing lamps.

The best I've been able to come up with is the new JubiléBijou by FX Luminaire (http://www.fxl.com/products/images/products/images/1299275433145995.jpg). And my supplier told me the LED lamp in there is warrantied for 10 years. So that's at least closer to 15.

So has anyone been able to come up with a good LED based down light that has a nice deep socket/cowl all the way around it to protect from glare, that is also not going to need to be switched out in 3 or 4 years?

shovelracer
10-13-2011, 08:10 AM
My feeling is in a few years the entire line will have the led option and at more competitive pricing. This doesn't help you now, but you can possibly mount them up more to get glare protection from the rafters. Otherwise you are limited to possibly retrofitting a bullyte or tulip pendant. It is possible that if you reach the right person that you can start the ball rolling on a new fixture. I also have switched strongly to Kitchler LED and could find the use for such a fixture. What about using the 15710 accent. Hideous yes, but puts out a nice soft light and is fairly small.

Steve Atkinson
10-13-2011, 11:45 AM
Jim,

I am working in the Portland area today (Thurs) and Friday. Do you have a few minutes to meet. I'd like to show you the Brilliance LED line. High-quality LED lamps to allow you use of your favorite downlight.

I just left a message on your website with my contact info.

Illumicare
10-13-2011, 10:20 PM
Hi Jim. I would like to encourage you to take another look at our line of LED lamps. Illumicare offers a great selection of MR16 LED lamps in colour temperatures of 2700K, 3000K, 4000K and even 5500K with beam spreads ranging from 15, 30, and 45 degrees.

Rather than compromise your design and installations using fixtures that almost provide you with the look and effect you want, by using quality LED lamps you are able to confidently rely upon all of the tried, tested and trusted fixtures you have come to know and love using. Illumicare LED lamps have been designed and engineered specifically for low voltage outdoor lighting applications.

Their combination of optical performance, thermal management, proprietary driver design and adherence to ANSI lamp dimensions set them apart from the competition. All of Illumicare's LED lamps carry a 4 year warranty and are available from a large and ever growing network of distributors throughout North America.

I am confident that if you give them a try you will be impressed with their performance and output. The LED lamps of today cannot be compared to those of only a year or so ago.

If you have any questions regarding the technology or applications, please don't hesitate to fire off an email to sales@illumicaregroup.com and one of us will be happy assist you. Please be sure to register on our website at www.illumicaregroup.com ,log in and download full specifications and photometrics as well as receive our monthly newsletters and updates. We have some very exciting new lamps in production now and will be ready to launch to market in the very near future.

Kind regards

JimLewis
10-13-2011, 11:12 PM
I have two reservations about your product. The first is the warranty. You guys offer a 4 year warranty. Brilliance LED has what looks like a very nice, well designed product as well. And they claim the lamp will last 50,000+ hours. But they are only willing to warranty it for 3 years.

Compare that to Kichler who's confident enough in their product to not only offer a 15 year warranty. But they'll actually give me a whole new fixture if the product fails within 15 years. That's a big risk for them to take. But what that tells me is that they are so confident their LED lamps will last that long that they are willing to offer an amazing warranty to back it up. Similarly, FX Luminaire is now offering a 10 year warranty on their LED fixtures and LED Board. So one my first issue with the aftermarket LED lamps like the ones you guys sell is; why aren't you guys as confident in your product as Kichler or FX Luminaire are? If you really believed it would last 50,000 hours, then you should be able to warranty it much longer.

My second reservation is I'm concerned that whatever fixture I put your product into might not really be designed to dissipate the heat that comes off of an MR-16 LED lamp. From what I've heard, heat is the enemy of LED lamps and is what causes them to fail before their time. So if I throw one into a FXL or Unique spot light that was never really designed to dissipate that kind of heat, isn't that going to mean less lamp life?

I'm selling these systems - telling clients they're not going to have to change a lamp for over a decade. And if they do fail in the first 15 years, I'll replace the entire fixture for them for free. But I can't say that if I'm just going to take a regular fixture and drop a LED MR-16 into it. Because that may very well fail in 5 years and then the next spot light down the line fails 3 months later, then another one.... on and on. Then my clients are looking at me saying, "Hey! I thought you told us these would last over a decade and never have to change lamps." Then I'm coming back to you, frustrated. And you guys would probably just tell me, "Well, Sorry. We really thought they were going to last 50,000 hours. But turns out those ones we were making 5 years ago couldn't handle the heat inside those kind of fixtures. Sorry. But hey! These new ones we got now (in 2017) should REALLY do the trick!!"

indylights
10-13-2011, 11:37 PM
No manufacturers' current LED technology is going to be relevant in 3-5 years. Ask a manufacturer why their LED fixture is so freaking big. Ask another why the LED lamp they sell says "rated for interior use only" right on the box. It goes on and on. What is being sold right now will be so outdated in a very short period of time, and if anyone tells you they know their product is going to last a certain period of time, they aren't being honest with you or themselves because no one knows. Lab testing, no matter how rigorous, doesn't even come close to real world environments and circumstances. Use whatever you feel comfortable using now. That's the downside of LED. Like all electronic technology (cellphones, computers, televisions, etc.), technology quickly becomes outdated. That's why I take all the LED warranties with a grain of salt. As a side bar, think of all the electronic waste that is being created right now by manufacturers who just tell you to throw away their products and we'll send you a new one (not to mention how much money they're making on each one in order to be able to do that).

Scott Maloney
Sunflower Landscapes

Illumicare
10-13-2011, 11:59 PM
Hi Jim. Let me try to allay your concerns and dispel some myths.

I have two reservations about your product. The first is the warranty. You guys offer a 4 year warranty.

If you really believed it would last 50,000 hours, then you should be able to warranty it much longer.

Yes we offer a 4 year warranty. The L70 rating of our LED MR16 lamps is 40,000 hours. Our warranty was arrived at by simple math. You see, it is virtually impossible for us to monitor or dictate how our lamps will be used (they can easily be used in any type of MR16 fixture including commercial and display lighting that typically operates between 16 and 24 hours per day) So if you divide 40,000 hours by 24 hours you get 1666.66 (days), divide that by 365 and you get 4.5 (years).

My second reservation is I'm concerned that whatever fixture I put your product into might not really be designed to dissipate the heat that comes off of an MR-16 LED lamp. So if I throw one into a spot light that was never really designed to dissipate that kind of heat, isn't that going to mean less lamp life?

The answer to your question is quite simply "No". The longer explanation is that Illumicare LED lamps have all been designed and manufactured with unique thermal management 'systems'. From the finned heat sinks to the driver architecture, to the thermal bonding between the chips and board and the board and heat sink. We have beat the heat. In fact the current line of Illumicare LED MR16 lamps are the coolest operating LED MR16 lamps on the market while still offering high light output, tightly controlled colour temperature and exceptional optical quality. All of our LED lamps have been designed from the onset to be installed in fully sealed and enclosed fixtures.

Take our 3000K 45 Deg. LED MR16 for example. Even when installed in a small, compact, sealed Lumiere 203 bullet and operated continuously for 100 hours, the lamp temperature does not rise above 50 Deg. Celsius. This is much lower than most other LED MR16 lamps and well within the operation specifications of the LED chips themselves. Great care has been taken in our design process to produce LED lamps that will operate within heat specifications while installed in fully enclosed fixtures. A position that very few other LED lamp manufacturers can take.



Please let us know if you have any other concerns or questions and we will do our best to respond.

Kind regards.

RLI Electric
10-14-2011, 08:44 AM
Jim, I think it's all relative. A halogen may tell you it is going to last 10000 hours and fails after 200, it happens. I used a Kichler LED (can't remember which one but it is the one we all know) and it failed on me after 2 years. Water intrusion. From a bullet light with heat shrink connectors. It was not due to wicking but water coming in elsewhere. While they replaced the fixture, it was not without me and my client having to wait to see if the insurance adjuster, I'm sorry, the rep determining that it was product failure. So you can see that while they did replace it, my project had a black hole in it. I use LED lamps a lot. Probably on 90% of my work. A couple have failed but so have the halogen. I have extra on the truck, if it fails, I replace the lamp and the client is back in business. If I return the lamp and it was product failure, I get a new one. If I return it and it was full of water, then I will address that with the fixture manufacturer. I have used the FX JB integrated fixture and it is wonderful. The reality is I am concerned about integrated fixtures and the reality that the technology is going to change quite often. Speaking of integrated fixtures, the new CAST CWL9LED is one of the nicest fill lights I have ever seen.
You have to do what you are comfortable with but both Illumicare and Brilliance have great products that I am comfortable with using any day in almost any fixture.

indylights
10-14-2011, 09:41 AM
I would also read that Kichler warranty very thouroughly if I were you. If you are buying the aluminum LED fixtures, the housing of those fixtures only has a 5 year warranty. If that fixture fails in years 6-15, try convincing them it was the fault of the LED and not the housing. Plus, it's an integrated unit, so if the housing fails and it's no longer under warranty, in order to protect the LED component and have a working fixture you have to pay out of pocket for a whole new fixture to have a proper system. In my mind, that fixture has now become a 5 year warrantied fixture.

Scott Maloney
Sunflower Landscapes

JimLewis
10-14-2011, 01:09 PM
Jim, I think it's all relative. A halogen may tell you it is going to last 10000 hours and fails after 200, it happens. I used a Kichler LED (can't remember which one but it is the one we all know) and it failed on me after 2 years. Water intrusion. From a bullet light with heat shrink connectors. It was not due to wicking but water coming in elsewhere. While they replaced the fixture, it was not without me and my client having to wait to see if the insurance adjuster, I'm sorry, the rep determining that it was product failure. So you can see that while they did replace it, my project had a black hole in it.

I appreciate the feedback. The first installation I did with Kichler LED was Feb. 2010. And they are still working great. But then I went back to using Unique for the remainder of 2010 and didn't start installing the Kichler en masse until this year. I haven't had that issue. But it may be too early. I appreciate the feedback.

If I had one fail, I wouldn't wait for them to check it out. I would just take it to my supplier, have them give me a new one (they keep them in stock) and then let my supplier worry about trying to get it warrantied. They might put the new fixture on my account in an "on hold" status, until they were sure that Kichler would warranty the one I brought back. But I wouldn't be charged for the fixture. The customer would have had the new fixture installed within an hour. And then Kichler could take all the time they wanted to determine whether they agreed it was a failure or not. And I would make sure they found on my side.

See a product is only as good as their warranty / reputation. One reason I love Unique Lighting is they have a true lifetime warranty, no questions asked. My experience with Volt products has been the same. You can return a fixture and unless it has tire markes indented in it, they're going to warranty it, no questions asked. So far, Kichler seems to be the same way. I haven't had to test them on that. But they've been GREAT so far with customer service. I had one of the top guys at Kichler over at my house a few weeks back and he assured me they stand behind their warranty. So, so far, I have every reason to believe it's not going to be a problem if a product ever fails. But we'll see....

JimLewis
10-14-2011, 01:32 PM
I would also read that Kichler warranty very thouroughly if I were you. If you are buying the aluminum LED fixtures, the housing of those fixtures only has a 5 year warranty. If that fixture fails in years 6-15, try convincing them it was the fault of the LED and not the housing. Plus, it's an integrated unit, so if the housing fails and it's no longer under warranty, in order to protect the LED component and have a working fixture you have to pay out of pocket for a whole new fixture to have a proper system. In my mind, that fixture has now become a 5 year warrantied fixture.

Scott Maloney
Sunflower Landscapes

As I said above, I had one of the top guys at Kichler at my house a few weeks ago. I asked him about that. It was a concern of mine as well. He replied (paraphrasing), "That's only on the finish. And the reason we don't warranty the finish for longer is because some people install these near the coast and with the salt water in the air, it can corrode these finishes over time. But the fixture itself will still keep working just fine. It's just we're not going to warranty that the finish will hold up to every kind of weather condition. But we'll back the fixture itself for 15 years."

That seemed like a pretty good explanation to me.

Indeed, their website says the they're going to cover the entire electrical system in the fixture for 15 year, as well;
Low Voltage Outdoor Products Design Pro LED used for single family residences for fifteen(15) years or 40,000 hours, whichever comes first, on the Light Engine and all other electrical components. These same Products for commercial use for ten (10) years or 40,000 hours, whichever comes first, on the Light Engine and all other electrical components.

Listen, it's taken me a long time to become a believer in Kichler. My impression of their fixtures, company, etc. in the past hasn't been very good. Especially when I compared them to Unique Lighting, who I've always loved. I'm sure I've said some disparaging comments about their products here over the years about Kichler. It took me a long time and a lot of careful thought to switch over. It wasn't a change I made easily. And I talked with several contractors here in this forum and other guys around the country that had been using them for years and swear by them.

But I also have a great relationship with my local supplier of them. My supplier really goes to bat for me if there's ever a warranty issue on products they sell. And I've got a great relationship with the local rep. from Kichler and even with one of their guys at corporate. So far, they have just really impressed me and have assured me the warranty is solid. As long as they stand by it if and when a product fails, I'll be a believer.

On the other hand, if I start to see a lot of product failure in years to come and they don't warranty them for me, you can bet I'll never use their brand again in my life. I think they understand that too. Not from me. Just in general. They're putting a lot on the line here by offering such a bold warranty. Their reputation will either be great or go down in flames based on this product and how well they support it.

indylights
10-14-2011, 03:01 PM
Jim, I'm not trying to discourage you from using any product. It's your business and you should use whatever product you feel comfortable with. But the fact is, their warranty clearly states in writing on their website that on aluminum fixtures it's five years on the housing and the finish. Unless that "top guy" from Kichler put it on paper that the housing is warrantied for 15 years, what he told you is worthless. Just make dead sure so you don't get stuck. And your distributor, as good as relationship as you have, isn't going to keep eating product cost if it does become a problem.

Scott Maloney
Sunflower Landscapes

JimLewis
10-14-2011, 03:16 PM
I saw that on their website this morning. So I called just the main Kichler hotline and inquired about that. The rep. I talked to told me that part of the warranty (section 3) applied to regular low-voltage lighting fixtures. She said section one, the part that I quoted above in my last reply, was the one that dealt with the Design Pro LED fixtures.

I agree, it is a little unclear. I'm going to be discussing this with the guy I know at Kichler corporate. I think they need to be more clear on exactly what they are covering on the 15 year warranty. I agree they need to put it in writing if they are really going to be offering a warranty on the electronics AND the fixture (minus the finish).

As for my supplier eating product - no, that's not what I meant. I just meant that I would put the onus on them to get the product warrantied. Instead of me waiting for 2 weeks while Kichler fiinally agrees to warranty it, they would just give me a new fixture and not charge me for it while they sent the bad one off to Kichler. If it took a few weeks for them to agree that it was a product failure and then send a new one, then my supplier would be holding the bag during that time, not me or my client.

They've done this type of stuff for me over the years several times. That's what having a good relationship with a good supplier can do for you. Of course it helps that we're one of their biggest buyers in the region. Not with lighting, necessarily. It's a combination of everything we purchase from them - pavers, lighting, irrigation, fertilizer, tools, and other supplies. We buy well into 6 figures from them each year. So they have a big incentive to make sure that they take care of us and that their suppliers take care of us.

emby
10-14-2011, 05:00 PM
To get back to your first post in this thread, did you find a suitable down light to meet your specifications from Kichler?
I believe Tom Williams had a thread he started a while back about down lighting which he went into great detail on how it should be designed. He described things like shielding and options such as spread lenses and hex louvers.
In my opinion you really have to do your homework on all this new technology that is apon us. There are so many options and those options are changing every six months. Everybody has different warranties and with that being said you must read the specifications and the proper data sheets when researching as they are all different. Some test and show results in lumens, others in Center Beam Candle Power, etc. Its so dam confusing and overwhelming.
If your not into doing all this research than stay put and use the products that your comfortable using until your ready to spend some time looking at all these endless possibilities because there sure is a lot of them.
Thats why I like forums such as this one so that all of us can share our experiences so that we all can learn from one another. It saves some time for each and every one of us and "time" is money.
You are the designer and you should no what you want in a fixture and you should know what type of light source you are going to use for each and every project. Does that fixture have shielding, glare control options, room to add lenses, IP rating, easy adjustments using one tool when up 30 feet in a tree, is the colour temperture 2700k or 3500k, what about beam spread options and finally how long will it last? What a boat load of information.
I have a headache. :)

bcg
10-14-2011, 05:16 PM
I've got to stand up for Kichler and their warranty. I realize a lot of it has to do with my distributor but anytime I've had a failure, I've walked in, handed them the bad one and walked out with a new one. I've even had them deliver fixtures to me on a job site to replace fixtures that had failed (these were water intrusion failures as well).

Besides that, I recently had some 15700 fixtures that were installed about a year ago go bad in a fountain that required complete dis-assembly at a fairly significant cost to replace with the 15711. Not only did Kichler tell me to replace them all while I was there, even though only one had actually "failed" so far, they also gave me a product credit equal to the amount of the fountain dis-assembly and re-assembly. I can't ask for better support than that.

Jim, as far as the original question, I agree but I've also found that in practice, if I get the fixture at least 25' up (preferably 30') and install it with the long cowl where I can get a 45* or better down angle the glare from the fixture is almost entirely reduced. I've had to go higher a few times to get the effect I wanted (as much as 45') and in those case, the glare was completely eliminated so while not the best solution, going higher helps considerably, especially if you can get above foliage and use that as an additional shield.

JimLewis
10-14-2011, 05:26 PM
Thanks Bernie.

Yah, I agree. If I was going that high with the down lights, I wouldn't worry about it either. But as I showed in that photo of the pergola in my original post, usually we're installing these just 10' off the ground. So it's critical that the light is a soft glow, rather than something that is strong and has serious glare.

Jim

bcg
10-14-2011, 07:08 PM
Try something like the Coppermoon CM.610 in the pergola's. I know it's going to need to be a retrofit MR-16 but if it's only 10' off the ground, it's not a big deal to change them. Just tell the customer there isn't an integrated fixture that really suits this application so you're going to use a different product that will create the scene you want but will require a little more maintenance. Even if you replace an LED lamp 1x every 4 years you're way ahead of the halogen. But, to be honest, I'd probably want to use a 10W halogen in that application anyway and plan on changing it yearly.

RLI Electric
10-14-2011, 08:53 PM
Jim, I didn't see the pergola picture until now. The 10 watt MR 16 LED lamp is the hard thing to find. I don't think anyone has it. Try FX's JB 1 watt LED fixture. It really is a nice fixture and a soft warm light. I used it on a walkway that was about 8 feet and it came out real nice.

shovelracer
10-14-2011, 09:32 PM
For everyone else that has chimed in. Kichler is the number 1 in our area. Of the systems I see previously installed, 9 out of 10 are Kichler. They are sold locally by the big electric and lighting supply house. I currently am waiting on an order to complete a job we have been involved with the last few months. The client had some regular Kichlers installed 13 years ago in the front. The finish looks good, not really faded much. The only complaint is there is some slight corrosion on the terminals. The terminals are also a little weak as they spread out on the path light fixtures near the area of construction due to the constant jackhammering that took place over the course of several days with the mason contractor. The fixtures arc'd and melted the bulbs. We got them repaired, but if they fail we are replacing the entire front with LED which is fine with me too.

For comparison we came to Kichler from Hadco. I have Hadco's out there that are 3 years or less and are noticeably faded. Not all, but some. All painted finish. The final dagger was caused by an order problem. We ordered a 300w transformer and we had to wait for 6 weeks. Not sure what the issue was, but I was told that 300w transformers are not common and that they had to wait to make some. Seems like BS to me, although not sure if it was coming from my supplier or the manufacture. They are not on top of things it seems. With LEDs coming up, 300w transformers will become more common, more so than these huge 1200w deals. We like having multiple scenes anyways so smaller units fit our needs better anyways.

JimLewis
10-14-2011, 10:33 PM
Jim, I didn't see the pergola picture until now. The 10 watt MR 16 LED lamp is the hard thing to find. I don't think anyone has it. Try FX's JB 1 watt LED fixture. It really is a nice fixture and a soft warm light. I used it on a walkway that was about 8 feet and it came out real nice.

In this case (job starting next week) we are down lighting an existing covered patio, along with a lot of landscape lighting. I gave the client the option of the 1-LED or the 3-LED FX JB fixture. She chose the 3-LED because they want to go out and be able to read a book in their Adirondack chair in the dark. So she wanted the brighter option. But yah, I probably would have chosen the 1-LED option in most cases. I'll see how it turns out......

tom.keller
10-28-2011, 12:26 AM
Hi Jim,

I can have a new style 6" cowl in your hands on Friday if you'd like to try it out on one of our 12.4W LED accent lights. Or we can make other arrangements. No sweat.

JimLewis
10-28-2011, 01:28 AM
Hey Tom! Welcome to Lawnsite. Yah, that would be nice to try out one of the new 6" cowl. I have plenty of your spot lights here to try them out on. But I'd also need a mount of some sort as well. Something that would allow me to mount one of the Kichler spot lights up high. The stakes they come with wouldn't work.

No rush. Doesn't have to be tomorrow. We already did the job in question using the FXL fixture I mentioned above (although I wasn't impressed with how that light performed at night time. Too narrow of a beam spread). So no rush. But I'd love to just hook one up at my house and see if it works like I want.

NightScenes
11-15-2011, 01:14 PM
I have and continue to use the Kichler 15087 down light with an LED MR16 lamp for a few reasons. First, the LED fixtures are serious glare bombs when used as down lights even with the cowls attached. They just look BAD! Second is that the aluminum down light with the screen front is perfect for heat dissipation to keep heat away from the LED MR16! Since it's a short cowl fixture it also allows for proper photometric dispersion of the LED lamp. So far, using the LED lamps from either Coppermoon or Illumicare in this application has worked great for us.