Licensing and certification

Discussion in 'Landscape Lighting' started by steveparrott, Jan 21, 2008.

  1. steveparrott

    steveparrott Sponsor
    Posts: 1,182

    Billy made a comment about wishing for licensing of our profession. I think this merits discussion. I sent a survey out to all NJ lighting professionals to elicit their opinions on landscape lighting and the law. About half were in favor of some sort of low voltage licensing - the other half were not.

    Half of the 50 states require some form of low voltage licensing. These licenses were put in effect primarily to protect the public from electrical shock, fire and deceptive business practices. In my opinion, all three factors are non-issues for landscape lighting.

    Electrical shock: no risk under 30 volts - never caused a serious injury in human history.

    Fire: slight risk due to three things - undersizing wire, running wire through a structure with no conduit and burying fixtures in mulch. That takes about 10 minutes to learn.

    Deceptive business practices: most states already require some type of contractor registration, or at least make some effort to protect consumers from all types of business fraud. This is an issue for all professions - no need to have a separate license for each industry for this protection.

    Then we have the desire for our professionals to distinguish themselves as leaders in their profession - to give them advanced skills and a selling advantage. In my opinion, this advantage is best gained by seeking out the various types of education, certification and degrees already available (and yet to come). There are manufacturer certifications, the AOLP, PLANET's certification. There are also more advanced programs for lighting designers that focus more on commercial work such as offered by the IALD, PLDA, LRC and IESNA. There's also lighting design programs at a number of universities. These are all optional opportunities for landscape lighting professionals. To imagine that any of them would be mandatory in any state (or every state) is to imagine an unnecessary burden on those who can do great work without them.

    Let's remember that our profession is primarily an artistic profession. Do fine art painters need a license? Do sculptors? Do illustrators? Filmmakers, photographers?

    For a great read on the epidemic of over-licensing in this country read the following report (featured in the NY Times): http://www.reason.org/ps361polsum.pdf.
     
  2. pete scalia

    pete scalia LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 960

    Your goals are the same as any other distributor which is to get as many contractors involved in installing YOUR product as possible. I call you a distributor because in essence that's what you are since your company does not own 1 stitch of manufacturing equipment. You cannot teach all there is to know about this profession in a 1 day seminar or in a 1 week seminar for that matter.
     
  3. Pro-Scapes

    Pro-Scapes LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,181

    Steve to be clear on why I think we need regulation or licensing on a national level.

    I have seen some landscapers perform rather unsafe practices when performing landscape lighting. I think a proper training program or certification program should be in place. The aolp has the idea but needs national recognition before its worth anything to states.

    I think you forgot some other unsafe practices. I have seen bad connections melted down which could indeed result in a fire. Face it wire will light up just like a filament if the connection is down to a few strands and the amperage is high enough. We NEED to control who does low voltage lighting.

    Manufactures and dist worry about limiting it too much or want to make sure its so easy to get certified my 4 yr old nephew can as long as lights keep going in the ground. I have seen REPUTABLE landscapers leave well lights to be kicked over in public... use regular wirenuts underground... wire a trans to another trans on the other side of the house in a giant loop and other very dangerous practices such as tucking wires in sidewalk cracks in public.

    We need some regulation but not the same regulation as line voltage electricians. Its still electricity and commands respect. I gotta agree with pete on the fact. Yes we are artisits but Picasso would not burn your house down or create a fire hazzard.
     
  4. INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting

    INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,102

    Steve.

    I am in favour of licensing, however I think that it is only something that should come about after we have a proper Code for this industry.

    I am proposing that the LV outdoor lighting industry develop a separate piece of code to be adopted by the NEC/CEC. Once this is in place, then we can focus on the necessary and required licensing of installers.

    In so doing we would finally standardize this industry, and bring it back 'home' into the realm of professionals. I am tired of seeing trunk slammers, caretakers, property maintenance companies and the like installing sub-par systems and ultimately giving this industry a bad name.

    Will this direction result in a smaller market for manufacturers and distributors? I don't think so, you might ultimately have fewer contractors purchasing but volumes should stay the same.

    By developing a proper Code, having it accepted and adopted into the CEC/NEC we will gain legitimacy, understanding, and the respect of the rest of the electrical, and electrical safety industry. This will remove many of the regulatory hurdles that many of us are running into now.

    Regards.
     
  5. irrig8r

    irrig8r LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,535


    Steve, I'm not going to knock you or CAST, but I think this is one are where contractors and manufacturers/ distributors have different insterests and part ways.

    You have a need to sell product. It doesn't matter as much to you who installs that product, as long as you can convince them to keep coming back to you for more.

    I have a need for quality products to install, because they reinforce my reputation, cut callbacks, and generally improve the bottom line.

    However, I also have an interest in preventing work by unqualified installers, who are often unlicensed, undercut my prices, and don't know enough to stay in business very long. These guys leave a wake of messes for other professionals like myself to clean up, often with customers who resent having to pay twice for a job.

    Some of them are even guys doing "side jobs" who have "day jobs" with other contractors or even distributors (Don't believe me? Ask Mike Gambino about the guy we exposed a few years ago after doing a little detective work.)
    and get discounts on their materials that way.

    BTW, I was even on a job this past year where I discovered that a distributor (who I knew sold to homeowners, but didn't know did service work too) was competing with me for work. I was there doing sprinkler toubleshooting and repairs and noticed a few broken lighting fixtures. I asked the homeowner whether they'd like a quote for repairs or upgrades. They informed me that the distributor had already sent someone to check out the job and had replacement fixtures on order and would install them too. (The distributor is NOT a licensed contractor. They won't be getting any more of my business. But I digress.....)

    Anyway, there are already three contractor license categories that LV lighting falls into in California:
    C-27 Landscape (where it's been for at least 40 years),
    C-10 Electrical (same time frame, but not as many bothered with LV) and
    C-7 Low Voltage Systems (which is more recent and includes alarms, phone, sound systems, satellite dishes, CCTV, etc. as well as LV lighting and goes up to 91 volts-???)

    IMO this ought to be fixed so a category exists for LV systems up to 30V just for sprinklers and lighting and be a subcategory to Landscape...

    Anyway, despite all these licenses, there is little enforcement. The CSLB isn't funded enough. Unlicensed operators abound. Homeowners get ripped off, and the whole industry gets a black eye.

    The answer IMO, is not less regulation, not more regulation, but better, more consistent, common sense regulation.
     
  6. Pro-Scapes

    Pro-Scapes LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,181

    Gregg thats just california where you need a license to sneeze too hard. I would love to see a low voltage license and test here like in fla or cali.

    There is landscapers here sticking in Kichlers as part of a package and screwing transformers to trees as a mounting post.
     
  7. Mike M

    Mike M LawnSite Bronze Member
    from usa
    Posts: 1,941

    Steve, some guy painting portraits has no effect on me. That comparison is like saying auto manu's shouldn't be required to follow emission control regulations because that would be like making an artist use a smaller paint brush.

    IDA aka Dark Sky has evolved out of the need for some serious light control. Also, LV lighting is complex enough that consumers have no way of knowing they are making a bad investment if the installer is poorly trained.

    I always say I hate regulations, but you know what, I love those labels on food items. I like that my dentist had to go to school and get credentials before sticking a power drill in my mouth.

    The only draw back I can see for CAST is that all those irrigation suppliers may lose interest if their unlicensed/uncertified installers have to revert back to other add-ons.

    When I used to do lawn care, I was upset that I couldn't use weed-n-feed. It was harmless enough for consumers/DYI's, why not me? But after I studied the materials for an applicator's license, it made good sense.

    I've been in lv a short time, but the mess I see in the field is ubelievable. The local JDL distributor is telling 'scapers they don't need trenches for lv cable, and mature properties are littered with failed aluminum fixtures.

    My 2 cents.
     
  8. INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting

    INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,102

    A good post there Mr. Murphy.

    Now if we can only get you to edit that signature line of yours to beef it up to "industry standards" you might actually have some legs in this biz!:laugh:
     
  9. Mike M

    Mike M LawnSite Bronze Member
    from usa
    Posts: 1,941

  10. Pro-Scapes

    Pro-Scapes LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,181

    alot of dist if not all will tell guys how easy the money is. I guess it is easy if you slap fixtures down. Dont check voltage...dont own an amp meter... put wires under mulch or 0-6 inches and anywhere in between is ok.

    There needs to be a trend away from 1 day seminars to "launch you into the low voltage lighting industry". Regulation would help this alot. I think the quality of lighting and the industry as a whole would come up considerably
     

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