In deference to anyone blaming Malibu's "desire to provide a cheap, low end garden lamp product" as the cause of the terrible performance and reliability of their products, the truth is that the real problem is poor design, no quality control and no concept of customer satisfaction. Specifically:
1) In addition to being a fundamentally none-ideal connection solution, Malibu’s implementation of the “pierce point” connector has two major design flaws -
a) The wires from the pierce-point connector to the bulb holder are connected at the pierce-point connector using a "pressed -on” connection versus a metal-to-metal bonding, (such as soldered joint or other permanent bonded electrical connection). This pressed-on assembly easily allows water to enter the connection interface area, and because there is no solid electrical connection, the resulting metal corrosion rapidly causes the connection to become a high resistance point and the light fails. In my experience this is the number one point of failure in the Malibu products-it has eventually happened in every one I ever installed!
b) The frail and flexible (“wobbly”) structure of the plastic “latching” prongs on the Malibu pierce-point connector makes it very difficult to consistently press in the points so that they enter near to the center of the wire, (where there is access to the full diameter of the overall wire lead). Consequently, on installation, each entry point on the connector is often at one or the other side of the feed wire. This decreases the penetration depth into the wire’s insulation and reduces the size of the metal-to wire electrical contact, thus increasing the likelihood of letting water enter the electrical contact with resulting corrosion, and/ or causing an intermittent contact between the point and the conductive wire inside the insulation. Consequently the lamp fails.
2) The ground spike is a poorly re-enforced plastic part which quickly breaks if accidently kicked (even gently!) or pushed in some other way.
3) On the spotlights, the water seal for the glass-centered twist-on or screwed-on “hood” has an appalling history! On the early models this hood was screwed onto the body of the lamp with 4 screws. Beneath the hood was a glass plate and a rubber sealing ring. Once the hood was removed (to change a bulb or clean the glass) it was difficult to accurately re-align the rubber sealing ring so that it actually sealed. Thus, after changing the bulb, water was often more easily able to enter the lamp enclosure. To compound matters, at that time there was no drainage hole in the bottom of the lamp enclosure, thus allowing the water to rise up inside it. Once it covered the bulb holder, (which was a very fragile item with thin, easily damaged metal sockets for the bulb pins), lamp failure followed quickly.
Somewhat later this situation was slightly improved when some genius decided it might really be a good idea to put a drain hole in the bottom of the lamp after all! As a general design feature this was a good idea from day one, but looked at as simply a solution to the water problem it was an ineffective move! It was not a solution. Instead it was a poor, but easy to implement, ineffective partial workaround, and thus the interior of the lamp still frequently became damp and once again rapidly corroded the bulb socket and eventually caused failure.
Malibu’s next step was to exchange the “4- screw” hood design for a complete, partial-turn screw-on hood. However, with this version, incredibly, on the lamp enclosure there was no “platform” to support the bottom of the rubber seal ring. Thus after replacing a bulb, the seal had to be first balanced on a very thin metal ledge and then, when the hood was twisted on, the seal promptly fell down into the lamp enclosure and thus provided no water seal at all, thereby making water exposure damage to the lamp holder even more likely than before. (In my opinion it was very clear that this approach could not possibly have been intended to be a final design. However, I believe that while Malibu was in the process of completing the “screw-on hood” change, they chose to continue to ship their inventory and work-in-process of lamp enclosures, knowing full well that it then became almost impossible to reseal the hood after replacing the bulb. But, (consistently) they shipped them anyway! This continued until they were able (and willing) to start to produce a redesigned lamp enclosure.
Finally, after what seemed to be several years, the lamp enclosure was redesigned with a solid ledge to support the rubber seal ring and this finally solved the sealing problem.
All in all it took over 10 years to resolve the sealing problem. During this time millions of lamps were sold and quickly failed and were junked. Malibu should be ashamed.
4) The lamp holder on the spotlights was extremely flimsy. The metal lamp socket contacts were thin and the surround for the contacts was plastic. This plastic quickly became damaged and weakened by the intense heat of the halogen bulb and eventually it cracked and broke or caused an intermittent contact. In either case the lamp became useless.
5) Also on the spotlights, the swivel mechanism for positioning the light beam included metal parts on some models. These parts inevitably eventually corroded and seized up, rendering the product impossible to position correctly.
The bottom line is that the design was terrible. Quality control was zero. Concern for customer satisfaction was none-existent.
Yes, I agree that to do things right may have cost a little more, but not sufficiently more as to significantly damage sales in a this huge low-end market with practically no major competition. I am now convinced that everything outlined above was done deliberately to increase sales. The lamps needed to be replaced frequently, producing new revenue. Spare parts were scarce and, even if available, cost almost as much as a new lamp, generating more revenue at enormous gross margins. I find this whole situation disgusting and the management of the company should be duly ashamed! They wasted millions of hours of their customers' time over many years. I hope the senior management does not sleep well – they shouldn’t.
So, as proof that such products can be made reliable and profitable, take a look at the “Paradise” family of lights which have recently appeared in the marketplace. This company has cost-effectively addressed ALL the problems that Malibu had and (and in many cases still have), as follows:
1) Their version of the “pierce-point” connector is much improved over Malibu’s. It is a much more solid design and it is easy to close it tightly and to accurately align it in the center of each of the power feed wires. While this generic type of connection employed by both Paradise and Malibu is still fundamentally flawed, largely as a result of their version of the pierce-point connector, I have yet to experience failures in this area with the Paradise lights (as opposed to experiencing eventual failure of this type of connector on every Malibu lamp that I have ever installed). I can just about guarantee that if these were the Malibu equivalents they would have already failed by now! In addition, on the installation instructions for the Paradise product they actually tell you to wrap the connector with electrical tape “for additional protection.” While this doesn’t give full protection, it is a reasonably good, if not perfect, idea (which I personally opted to do with Malibu lights some time ago). However, it is something that Malibu never ever suggested to help their generally non-technically-minded customers, even though they must have been aware for many years that this area was a major problem! Go figure?
2) The ground spike is metal and does not break. The construction also allows you to choose not to use the spike and allows the lamp to instead to be screwed directly onto a wooden or other permanent surface.
3) The hood is a partially-screwed-on solution with an excellent seal. There is a drainage hole in the bottom of the lamp, just in case.
4) The bulb holder is a much more solid construction than even the latest Malibu products. It has lots of ceramic surrounding the bulb pins, thus eliminating the Malibu halogen bulb heat problem.
5) The beam positioning mechanism is all plastic and thus does not suffer from the Malibu corrosion and seize-up problem.
All this, and Paradise’s prices are around the same as Malibu’s! It can be done. Shame on you Malibu.
The Paradise products were briefly on sale a couple of years ago in Home Depot or Lowe’s (not sure which it was) but shortly thereafter they were removed from the shelves. One can’t help wondering if there was some sort of “threat” from Malibu that caused this sudden withdrawal of the product). Paradise products now seem to only be available (in California at least) from DeNault’s Hardware. Does anyone know of any other retail outlets for these products? Meanwhile Home Depot and Lowe’s continue to ship the Malibu junk. Get a life you guys, if you want to satisfy your customers.
OK I’m done. Glad I got it of my chest at last!
Buy Paradise, (no I do not have a financial interest in the company!)