Trouble with chosing brand to use

Discussion in 'Landscape Lighting' started by JimLewis, Sep 25, 2008.

  1. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,841

    I've been pretty much a Unique Lighting guy for years. I just love the quality they put into their product. And with everything we do (irrigation, landscaping, lighting, hardscapes), I pride myself on using the best quality products I can find. So Unique seemed to be the obvious choice. Recently, I am having conflicts with my loyalty to that brand and I just wanted to brain storm a little with you guys and make sure I end up making the right choice.

    First, I don't do lighting every day like some guys here. It's just part of what we offer our landscaping clients. But we do a decent amount of lighting every year. Enough that I consider myself more educated and experienced than most of my competition (landscape contractors). The reason I mention this is because for those of you who do it every day, brand may be less important. It might be easy for you to have and even memorize price lists for several different brands. For me, it is not. I am giving 3-5 bids every day - all kinds of bid, not just lighting. I don't have too much time to look up prices and monkey around looking through several different catalogs finding fixtures from several different brands. I want something that I can bid quickly and simply and feel good about it's quality too.

    One thing I really love about Unique is their list price is the same for almost every fixture. That saves me tons of time right there.

    The one downside to Unique Lighting is the price point. They are quite a bit more expensive than most other brands on the market. And that makes my bids almost always higher than my competition's bids are. It puts me in the position of being the highest bid, typically. Now I am no stranger to selling quality over price. I still land a decent percentage of bids, despite being the highest. But it does get discouraging knowing that I am often losing jobs just because another contractor comes in with a cheaper bid because he's using Kichler or Focus or some less expensive material.

    So that's what's got me thinking. Plus, I am being pressured by suppliers like crazy to look at other brands they sell. One brand I always get pressure about is Kichler. I don't know what I think about them. But overall, I am not a big fan. Their prices vary WILDLY from one fixture to another. Some are under $50, others are over $500. And there are just SOOO many fixtures it's kind of a circus. Then, to show the customer their brochure and have to look up prices on every single fixture they chose just drives me crazy. I don't have time for that crap. Plus, I have questions about Kichler's long term quality. It's obviously not as sturdy as the brass and bronze fixtures by Unique and Cast. Finally, I don't understand the crazy lamp thing they got going on. Some lamps are 12.4 watts, others are 17.2, others are 15.4. WTF, man? Ever heard of just using a regular 20w lamp or 35w MR-11??? But Kichler's prices are lower, on average, than other brands. And that would make me more competitive. So that's one good thing.

    Another distributor is encouraging me to look more at FX Luminaire. And I've always liked that company. To me, they are like Unique but not quite as sturdy, not quite as long of a warranty, and not quite as expensive. But I've been favorably impressed with FX. Good quality for a little less buck. Plus the support I get from the distributor and local FX rep. is pretty awesome. I could switch to FX and still be selling a good quality product, still be offering a good 10-year warranty, but just be a little more competitively priced. That's something I'm considering.

    Then there's CAST. The main supplier I buy 90% of the stuff we use just started carrying CAST and have been pressuring me to take a look at that brand, knowing I am a big fan of Unique. They don't sell Unique so they know I'm taking my lighting business elsewhere so they're trying to get me to add lighting to what I already buy from them. So I've been researching CAST lately. Seems to be pretty high quality. Sturdy fixtures. I love that. I don't like the original color they come in, compared to the nice brass Unique lights I usually use. But I guess they'll patina fast so initial color won't matter so much. I like their transformers. I like the No-Ox wire. I like the way the transformer powers up slowly to help prevent power surge. I like the fact that they don't try to make 500 different fixtures. But they seem to be even MORE EXPENSIVE than Unique. So why would I switch to CAST when I am already happy with Unique??? Seems like almost the same thing, just a little more expensive and a few more added features. It would make my bids even higher than they already are.

    But the distributor is offering to set me up with a demo kit for CAST for next to nothing. Just to get me to switch. So that's tempting. We don't currently have a demo kit. Currently, if we do a demo., I just call our FX Rep. and he comes over and loans us his kit for the night and helps us set it up.

    Anyway, I am just confused now. I am pretty happy with Unique. But not happy always being the high bid. So I've been considering looking at less expensive brands to make myself more competitive.

    For those of you who have experience with all these brands, what do you recommend I do?
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2008
  2. JoeyD

    JoeyD LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,933

    Jim thanks for you support. I do understand your situation as a buisnessman you are doing yourself a service to look around and see whatelse is out there.

    I will throw this out there. We have introduced our new Brass Knights line and our Copper Knights line is always growing. Pricing is substantially less than the odyssey and signature series lines. Just FYI. Pelase let me know if I can help with anything!!
  3. David Gretzmier

    David Gretzmier LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,645

    I've used FX fixtures many times before and I don't get many service calls on them. good stuff. FX transformers are my main choice, although I continue to do a long term study on about a dozen Ryco's i've got spread around. i rarely have issures with FX tranformers. They hold voltage at the trans and at the end of the wire better than the charts predict. The FX folks claim you can run thier trans at 120% of rated watts with no adverse effects. I've run my first trans at 100% ever a few weeks ago and I'll let you know how that works out.

    I have used others that you mention here and there, but not enough to reccomend or not.
  4. INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting

    INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,102

    There are probably as many responses to this inquiry as there are contributors to this forum.

    Since the beginning of my business I have always tried to use the best fixture choices available for the application, without giving much thought to things like being loyal to a certain manufacturer. As such, it is not uncommon for me to install 5 (or more) different manufacturers products in a single system.

    In order to streamline my design, specifications and quoting phases, I have built an extensive database of the manufactures, part numbers, and prices of the equipment I most respect and use. I update the database every spring when my distributors release their new pricing schedules. Using this, I am able to accurately specify every component required for a job in very short order. I just call up the info from the database and insert it into my system spec. matrix. The spreadsheet calculations take over from there.

    Jim: using this technique for spec'ing jobs also allows you to change products on the fly and offer instant cost comparisons. A great tool for offering your client Good, Better, Best package pricing.

    Hope this helps a bit.
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2008
  5. Mike M

    Mike M LawnSite Bronze Member
    from usa
    Posts: 1,946

    Yeah, I do the same thing James does with the matrix database thing.
  6. Mike M

    Mike M LawnSite Bronze Member
    from usa
    Posts: 1,946

    Oh yeah, I forgot to mention the giant wall-size screen and the military and civilian leaders I invite to cross-analyze the data.
  7. Tomwilllight

    Tomwilllight LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 284

    Best thing you can do is to go to LightFair and look at all the product out there. It will be in NYC this spring, but will be back in Lost Wages next year.

  8. S&MLL

    S&MLL LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 751

    To each their own. That is what I have to say regarding manufacturers. I use primarily 4 different companies. But I do have catalogs to so many and have used close to 15 different companies. Standard jobs in landscaping you i primarily use Kichler fixtures in AZT. If client wants to pay for brass or copper. Thats when I bring in CopperMoon. Tree down lights either Coppermoon or Cast. Path lights......all over the place. Have put in crazy price hinklys with tiffany glass to your average china hat copper light. I only use mdl transformers. Doesn't matter what company it is. But I do like the hinged door. I never use a photocell. I always use a etc-400. Unless its remote automation. Then that's where x-10 comes into play. I haven't used any zone control system yet. Fiber optics is IlluminFX all the way. Ushio makes a great mr-16 but dont put prism on the back burner like most do. Dont be afraid to use conduit.

    btw Joey

    I have some augustas on order when they come in and installed I will give you my feedback on them.
  9. Chris J

    Chris J LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,830

    Wow, I could answer this post with a book! To keep it short, you should find a high quality manu that your comfortable with for using brass/copper, then find a quality company that has a quality aluminum. Give the customer a choice; two prices if you will. I would lean toward the highest quality for your client, but give them a back up plan if they hesitate at your price. As you said, you always want to sell yourself and your quality; not the fixture.
    As far as manus with a lot of choices, that's a good thing. But you should'nt be handing your customer a catalog. That will just confuse them and lead to indecision. With any manufacturer, there are only a hand full of their products that I use on a consistent basis. If you want to show a catalog, then have your own brochure printed with the fixtures you like most. That way you can offer numerous manus and choose the best products from each. One other note: there are different lamps for different applications. When you learn what all of them do, you will be able to fine-tune your installations to perfection. Unless your using lenses, I would never attempt to light everything with the same lamp. (even with lenses I wouldn't do that).
    In order to solve your problem, your simply going to have to put more effort into learning what's available and at what cost. The spread sheet is a good idea, but your still going to have to put in the hours to develop it and update it as necessary.
    Good Luck to you.
  10. irrig8r

    irrig8r LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,535

    I have never heard that about the 120%... I have two FX 600s and two 300s on a job and all are running at 80% or less except one 300 that is at 98%.. I was thinking I'd switch it out to a 600, but maybe now I'll just wait and see.

    I had heard they were temperaturee sensitive, but it went through some nights in July were ambient temperatures started at over 85 F w/ no problems. It just happened to be the one closest to where the client wanted more lights added.

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