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Old 01-17-2015, 11:41 AM
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Island Lightscapes Island Lightscapes is online now
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Do you renovate?

Do you do restorations?

Initially, I would rather do zero, since I can't see what is underground. I don't want to inherit the call backs for someone else's bad connections or improper repairs on the main cables, and, I don't think it's fair for the consumer to build on a system without a decent, thorough inspection. Probably best to just put in a whole new system, ideally. But in every case?

The upside: there are a lot of people in need of restorations and design revisions, and this part of the business will be growing. So I am looking for the best way to approach them.

I think the best solution is to offer a fee-based inspection package. This is appropriate for my time, opens up a new specific type of service which I can promote, and it is something that could be in the homeowner's best interest if they are considering a restoration.

To do this right, I could use some ideas. For one, just using my meter on every fixture is not enough to see all the marginal connections and repairs. And "sampling" doesn't work to find how connections have been made. I might find a good underground connection for a fixture, only to find another nearby made with indoor wire nuts or just electrical tape. And what about the T's and the repairs on main cable runs?

I am assuming I need to buy a very good wirefinder and to use it for following every run, to every fixture.

I would be interested in hearing how others are approaching restorations.

Thanks,

Mike
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Old 01-17-2015, 11:53 AM
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INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting is offline
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Mike. I am asked to look at existing systems all the time. I handle this by advising the prospective client that I will come out and do an assessment of their current system and provide a summary report of what I find along with a budget for any repairs or renovations that may required. I charge a fee for this work that is agreed upon before I head out. At the same time, I will also provide them with a proposal for an entirely new system from INTEGRA.

Eight times out of ten, the existing systems I am looking at are either so poorly conceived or installed or require such massive repairs and renovations that they are literally not worth the money required to fix them. Once in a while, all that is required to make the customer happy is to reset a breaker or timer, or replace a couple of lamps. No biggie, as you now have new fan.

I generally don't see the need to trace wires and check every connection on an existing system. You can get a really good handle on what you are dealing with simply by looking at how/where components are installed, the quality of lamps used, and revealing one or two connections. If the power system does not meet your installation spec. then simply quote them on re-doing that completely. Similar with lamp specs, fixture specs, etc. It doesn't take long before the client sees the futility of throwing good money at a bad system.
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Old 01-17-2015, 12:20 PM
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Island Lightscapes Island Lightscapes is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting View Post
Mike. I am asked to look at existing systems all the time. I handle this by advising the prospective client that I will come out and do an assessment of their current system and provide a summary report of what I find along with a budget for any repairs or renovations that may required. I charge a fee for this work that is agreed upon before I head out. At the same time, I will also provide them with a proposal for an entirely new system from INTEGRA.

Eight times out of ten, the existing systems I am looking at are either so poorly conceived or installed or require such massive repairs and renovations that they are literally not worth the money required to fix them. Once in a while, all that is required to make the customer happy is to reset a breaker or timer, or replace a couple of lamps. No biggie, as you now have new fan.

I generally don't see the need to trace wires and check every connection on an existing system. You can get a really good handle on what you are dealing with simply by looking at how/where components are installed, the quality of lamps used, and revealing one or two connections. If the power system does not meet your installation spec. then simply quote them on re-doing that completely. Similar with lamp specs, fixture specs, etc. It doesn't take long before the client sees the futility of throwing good money at a bad system.
I like how you approach this. Basically, it's a free consultation for a new system, but a fee if they want me to inspect and consider their pre-existing system for a renovation, which also includes a quote for a new system.

The second part I highlighted, is how I did it for the last three renovations, just looking at a few connections at the fixtures to get an idea of the original installation, and checking each fixture with my meter to insure continuity and appropriate volts (the last one was all over 15V, some over 20 and they were halogens?!). I think the problem might be more in my region, with high turnovers in residents and landscape companies at each home. Many landscape companies here do complete landscape services, from lawn care and power-washing to design-build. So many different people touching each system. I had done the sampling idea, which told the story of the initial install. But then while replacing fixtures, I found inconsistencies immediately. Electrical tape, indoor wire nuts, etc. Some wires buried, some under the mulch. Some main cable runs under the mulch. And there is a lot of on-going digging in our region for everything from annual color to changing out plants, constantly.

I guess the key thing is rampant inconstancies throughout each property. That's why I am thinking of tracing the wires. It was explained to me by an irrigation distributor that those better finders give a lot of precise data about underground splices. I never used one, but I see the benefit of having one for service calls.
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Old 01-17-2015, 02:03 PM
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starry night starry night is online now
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Mike, When you are asked to look at existing systems, is it because there is a specific problem or are people thinking about a new system? Occasionally, I will do a quick fix such as lamps out or a transformer acting up. But usually my clients are looking to install a new system and merely ask if any of their existing system is worth salvaging, often the wiring. I don't like the idea of using someone else's wiring job and it's usually easy to find bad connections and corrosion running well past those connections. Not hard to convince the client to replace it. On a couple jobs, I have used existing transformers that check OK especially if they are high quality and mounted inside and out of the weather.
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Old 01-18-2015, 11:18 AM
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Island Lightscapes Island Lightscapes is online now
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Originally Posted by starry night View Post
I don't like the idea of using someone else's wiring job and it's usually easy to find bad connections and corrosion running well past those connections.
This is the core problem. I would like to know how others approach this.

We are now entering a time when many pre-existing systems which went up quickly in the last decade or two are either failing altogether, or failing in particular elements, or just failing because even good things don't last forever, especially if left unserviced.

Restorations are unique from repairs, and unique from building on new zones, or putting in all new systems. They may involve replacement fixtures, of course, but immediately you see the need for some subtle or radical repositioning, or adding or removing fixtures; i.e., re-design.

My thoughts are similar to James, that we need to charge for an inspection, and then offer the client a comparison between restoring and renovating the current system up to certain standards, with risks involved vs. installing a new system altogether.

A landscape lighting inspection package could also be marketed to homeowners as such, as well as to home inspection companies and realtors.
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Old 01-19-2015, 06:18 AM
Chris J Chris J is offline
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These situations are difficult because upon arriving for the service call, I frequently find the typical "Home Depot" system that was either installed by the homeowner, the previous owner or some hack like a handy man who didn't have a clue. Usually my first idea is to get in my truck and drive away, but obviously that wouldn't be very professional. Instead, I treat it like a service call. I charge enough for the first hour to make it worth the effort and a standard rate per hour thereafter. I will also give my professional opinion of the existing system and offer several options based upon what I find as well as what the client has for a budget. This could be converting the system to LED by simply replacing all the lamps, replacing all fixtures or starting from scratch with new wire, connections, control options and/or transformer. It is explained, however, that there will be no warranty whatsoever unless I completely re-wire the system and provide new fixtures. This should be made very clear..... once you work on it, some people will expect you to fix any problems thereafter, regardless of the reason for future problems. Basically, these jobs suck and sometimes it's better to just provide a proposal for a new lighting system and decline to get involved.
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Old 01-19-2015, 09:47 PM
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The Lighting Geek The Lighting Geek is offline
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If it is a legitimate system as James stated, i will discuss options. If it is box store lighting, usually they want new anyway, but I won't touch it. Professional brand, decent connections, proper wire size and run ok, i will check it out briefly and inform the client. If there any chance of problems, i will rewire with existing fixtures and tranny if it makes sense. You already know this Mike, call backs suck. I don't get them because I'm careful and thorough. Just be careful and check everything if you are thinking about a retrofit. I tell the clients that the only call I want is to share a bottle of wine and enjoy their space with them, which I do. :-)
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Old 01-19-2015, 11:09 PM
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Island Lightscapes Island Lightscapes is online now
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I like the idea that a renovation call should begin with a paid inspection, as opposed to a free consultation. That will help with the time involved.
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Old 01-24-2015, 12:23 AM
Chris J Chris J is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Island Lightscapes View Post
I like the idea that a renovation call should begin with a paid inspection, as opposed to a free consultation. That will help with the time involved.
Posted via Mobile Device
Definitely! You should always be compensated for your time, especially in these situations. Just be honest. If it's a cheap DIY system, just let them know that the initial service work may cost them more than the system is worth. However, don't shoot yourself in the foot because of arrogance. Even though I admit that sometimes I'd rather not touch it, I have to remind myself that sometimes people just can't afford the upgrade or a high end lighting system. Still, they obviously enjoy what they have and they just want it to work as it did the week before. Don't ever let your head get so big that you refuse to work on a lighting system just because you don't feel that it is worthy of your time. Money is money. If they only want to pay you for your time to work on what they have, then roll your sleeves up and charge accordingly. But, like I said, make sure to let them know that better options are available and give them a quote for the upgrade.
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Old 01-24-2015, 07:17 AM
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Island Lightscapes Island Lightscapes is online now
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Great info, Chris!

You capture the reality of the situation.
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