Kichler LED - No Great Option for Down Lights

Discussion in 'Landscape Lighting' started by JimLewis, Oct 13, 2011.

  1. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,830

    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 or the Trellis Solare by FX Luminaire. 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. 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 Jubil├ęBijou by FX Luminaire. 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?
     
  2. shovelracer

    shovelracer LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,009

    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.
     
  3. Steve Atkinson

    Steve Atkinson LawnSite Member
    Posts: 94

    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.
     
  4. 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
     
  5. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,830

    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!!"
     
  6. indylights

    indylights LawnSite Member
    Posts: 166

    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
     
  7. Hi Jim. Let me try to allay your concerns and dispel some myths.

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

    Kind regards.
     
  8. RLI Electric

    RLI Electric LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 381

    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.
     
  9. indylights

    indylights LawnSite Member
    Posts: 166

    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
     
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2011
  10. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,830

    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....
     

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