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Lights don't work after we left

Discussion in 'Landscape Lighting' started by Mike Fronczak, May 18, 2013.

  1. Mike Fronczak

    Mike Fronczak LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 301

    We installed 12 Kilchner pathway lights into an existing Kilchner 100watt transformer, using 12/2 wire., 4 on one wire, 8 on other. All worked when we left. Client just called to say all are non-functional. My guess without going out the draw is to much for the transformer or the lights had a bad batch of bulbs & the bulbs blew ? Other things to check ? the client isn't the type to mess with the wiring.
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  2. Lite4

    Lite4 LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,104

    Your basic wedge base lamp is 11 watts for the Kichler fixtures. You have 12 lights at 11 watts each, I'm guessing you don't do much lighting because you have overloaded the transformer with 132 watts on a 100 watt transformer, not even to mention the power consumption in the wire resistance. You should have no more than 80 watts of lamps on that transformer. It probably got very hot and an internal thermal breaker tripped in the transformer or perhaps you smoked his transformer altogether by overloading it. Your lucky it didn't catch on fire and burn his house down.

    There is nothing wrong with wanting to do lighting for a client, however I would suggest you study up on the proper installation techniques so you don't get yourself into trouble and lose credibility with your clients.

    If the transformer doesn't reset itself by tomorrow night you are probably looking at buying him a new tranny. I would suggest just buying a 300 watt unit to keep yourself out of trouble. You may just have to chalk this one up to lesson learned.
     
  3. Mike Fronczak

    Mike Fronczak LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 301

    I had suggested a new transformer (additional) was needed, the landscape architect overruled me & said it was fine. So as far as I'm concerned im not buying anything. But thank you for the wattage info, that was what I had figured, he has crazy amounts of lights under there running off two 100 watt transformers.
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  4. Mike Fronczak

    Mike Fronczak LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 301

    I just looked up the wattages the fixtures max wattages (probaly the number to use) actually call 16 watt. I already sent client a text, going to get a light count & add up total wattage, for everything to make sure it's proper. He got back to me & is totally impressed how quickly I'm addressing the issue. Is there anything special about a Kilchner transformer I should know ? I have a close friend (award winning landscape designer/contractor)that utilizes an online place for his landscape lighting because it is less
    expensive. I assume a transformer is a transformer....within reason...I wasn't impressed with Kilchner stuff we installed to be honest for what it cost it was Chinese junk (box said made in China too), that's what was spec'd that's what we used.
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  5. Lite4

    Lite4 LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,104

    Volt is a sponser on this site. They sell good torroidal core transformers. I have used them for years and they work great, price is also right.
    (I'm not a big Kichler fan either unless you like spending more for a name and slick looking marketing brochures. The equipment is sub-par in my opinion but to each their own).

    I would take that architect to task on that transformer.

    Good luck
     
  6. Lite4

    Lite4 LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,104

    Wow, that is truly scary. I'll bet the homeowner has no idea what he actually has running on those. He probably just keeps adding and "assuming" he is fine.
     
  7. Mike Fronczak

    Mike Fronczak LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 301

    The ones I was looking at were Volt by coincidence sold by site friend recommended a 1200 watt Volt is about the same price as a 100 watt Kilchner.
    Of course the architect is retired this was his last project.
    I will straighten it out either way client needed a new transformer, if I listened to the architect & stuck with Kilchner for the money it would still be to small a transformer (JD landscapes told me a 100 watt was what I needed too & there were more lights in original quote too ($485), aparmtly they were wrong too. I guess you just have to do things yourself if you want it figured out correctly.
    Now he will get a transformer that will acomadate growth of the landscape once I add up current needs I'll figure future plans in too (at worst a 1200 watt Volt is $ 497). Just don't know if its going to be easier /better to put every thing existing (from both transformers) into one large transformer or just take the one out we tapped into & trace those wire out (they should be deck lights). My guess is the other transformer is overloaded too, when I looked at which one to use I took the one that had less wires into it.
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  8. Classic Lighting

    Classic Lighting LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 481

    It's KICHLER!!! Sounds like you are in over your head. What is the voltage at the lamp? Are these lights daisy chained? There is a highly respected lighting designer in Rochester that I would recommend that you contact- Lightscaping by Niggli Associates.
     
  9. starry night

    starry night LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,535

    Mike, With all due respect to a fellow landscaping businessman.
    Some jobs are better left alone. Several statements you have made indicate that you don't have enough experience or knowledge of low-voltage lighting to be doing this job. I don't understand why this client would hire a landscape architect (very expensive) and not hire a lighting professional.
    First you didn't know the wattage of the lights you installed (and still don't?)
    Then you had the client count up lamps for you. Unless you just didn't mention it, you never checked the draw at the fixtures. You chose which existing transformer to use based on how many wires were running into it (which may or may not have any correlation to the number of fixtures / lamps on the wire(s.) You and the landscape architect and maybe the JDL guy do not appreciate the potential danger in low-voltage lighting. As someone said earlier in the thread, you are lucky you didn't start a fire. Not that it would save damage to the client's home, but I hope you have liability insurance which covers you doing electrical wiring.
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2013
  10. Mike Fronczak

    Mike Fronczak LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 301

    I went out myself, I never asked client to count fixtures, this am counted all fixtures looked at where everything went. The transformer I chose based on how many wires, yes these were/are simple 100 watt single port transformers, the one i passed on already had 6 12 ga wires cramed under the screws, based on the wattage I added up today my quick math (without accounting for drawdown says that one is already over the 100 watts (or real close), as was pointed out by Lite 4, Kitchler uses 11 watt bulbs in fixtures rated to a max of 16 watts, so I'm assuming they do the same with the other lights, I'm adding based on max wattages. There was no way we were getting more wire into it to start with.
    We came up with a plan that allows for expansion for additional landscaping as well. I feel have a pretty good understanding of electrical systems, both home & automotive, ussually I find the problems before my mechanics. This isn't rocket science you add up the wattage of each fixture, account for draw down due to wire resistance (all done by a great online table I found by cass-lighting) and that gives required required wattage of transformer required. I didn't do all this before because I trusted others had done it & knew the systems in place (landscape architect).
    To alll you guys being critical I have been a member of the lawnsite /plowsite communities for in excess of ten years, it is here to help each other, its a learning tool, thats why its here. telling someone "call a pro" isn't teaching anything. This bussiness requires vast amounts of knowledge on multiple areas from contractors from pesticides/fertilizers to use , which plants, soil structure knowledge, the list goes on & on (& thats just the summer side), plus business knowledge additionally. I have offered plenty of great advise to others over the years in my areas of expertise, made some great friends even that I have gotten to know real well.
    FYI your insurance policy will cover whatever you do as a contractor, they will drop you after (probably would no matter what it was), straight from the insurance agent. But yes I have 4 million in proper coverage.
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