a hadco transformer test.

Discussion in 'Landscape Lighting' started by David Gretzmier, Sep 6, 2010.

  1. David Gretzmier

    David Gretzmier LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,646

    used a phillips hadco 600w last week, and did a few tests and thought I would share my thoughts.

    I purchased the 12-15v unit from my local Ewing irrigation distributor at a cost above what I have been paying for garden light 600w and a few others, it is about the same as copper moon and most jefferson clones, and less than fx, gambino, and other higher end 12-15v trans. This unit feels different than a jefferson unit, but I am not sure who truly manufactures it. The photocell that can be purchased for the unit has a slightly different plug and was about 20% less than I have paid for other units. unit comes with photocell bypass plug and photocell came with cap. I like the getting the cap, many photocells don't come with them.

    It is UL listed and canadian UL listed. I failed to write down the number of the listing, But I know it is UL rated for wet locations according to the website.

    The case is a bit smaller than I am used to for the jefferson clones, not quite as tall, and felt slightly less wide and deep. the area for wiring felt adequate, but I only fed 4 wires into it and that is usually easy on any unit. stainless was a heavy guage, felt expensive and has nice raised hadco label on removable door with strong clasp and no screws to deal with. stainless door came covered with typical sticky plastic. lockable on clasp. 1 1/4" hole for threaded pvc male adapter, that one has plastic knockout, 4 other dual 1/2and 3/4 knockouts that are stainless. door has insulating gasket. edges of main knockout of 1 1/4" and 1/2" photocell were dulled, not much danger of finger cuts. others were true knockouts and did not test those.

    negative- unit only has one mounting keyhole on the top center of the unit. I would prefer 2, even though the unit only weighs around 25 pounds. It does have a centering leveling screw rest on the center of the bottom, and I utilized that as well. I would definetly use 1/4" tapcons for only one screw to hold the weight.

    pro-rather than using a split locknut for the photocell or a drilled side locknut, somehow the plastic photocell connector that hadco uses allows a normal 1/2 locknut to go over it. no worries if you drop it in the grass and lose it .

    secondary circuit breaker switches are located at the very top, which is another reason why I think someone else other than jefferson makes this. nice thing about top location is the internal cord for the timer never accidently turns off a common tap.

    pretty sure this is a magnetic unit and not torroidial, but I noticed no hum at all at the low load at the installation site. The 12-22 volt version is torrodial and...heavier?

    comes with seperate loop to test amps on primary, so you can test true load with photocell cap on.

    measured unloaded voltage at taps on 112 volt imput voltage:
    12v - 11.45
    13v - 12.55
    14v - 13.6
    15v -14.5

    amps on loop unloaded with either or both commons on: .35 amps
    commons off unloaded: .2 amps

    taps loaded with 180 fixture watts, split between 2 commons ( 9 fixtures )
    12v- 11.35 ( no wires )
    13v 12.4 ( 3 wires )
    14v 13.45 ( 1 wire )
    15v 14. 4 ( no wire)

    primary imput voltage dropped to 111 v under load.

    lugs held 3 12g wires easily, probably could easily do 4, maybe 5 or 6 with patience.

    primary loop amp reading loaded 2.45. max rating label is 5.5 amps ( I am used to 5 ) or 5.5*120 volts is actually 660 watts. this may be a typo, but hadco also lists that on thier website.

    given the low load the .1-.2 drop was about what I would expect from a good magnetic unit. I have seen similar drops from a torroidial units however.
    I know this is a low load and not really a fair hot rod like test to see what they can do. I will use a few of these and load them higher on future jobs to see how they turn out

    while I could have purchased a 300w hadco unit and pushed it harder than the 600, the homeowner wanted to add some tree lights and also some additional house lighting in the future, and I wanted to give him options. I also seem to rarely install 300's these days. I am not sure if I have put in one all year.

    overall, at least for low loads I am currently impressed with the hadco unit.

    Phillips/hadco offers a limited lifetime warranty on the unit, but I have no experience with thier warranty service, so I am not sure what that means. I got no real info on the warrranty with the paperwork, and I dug through the hadco website and found nothing.
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2010
  2. extlights

    extlights LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 439

    I have heard a lot of people say that Hadco is kind of a low middle of the road unit. With that said though, we have probably somewhere between 7-800 or more of those transformers out in the field. My guess is that we maybe had a problem with 2 or 3 of those transformers over the years and had no problems with the warranty....in fact we just dropped off the problematic ones and they gave us a new one no questions asked. It's hard to change to another brand when you have that kind of success rate.

    On top of that we have alot of them installed on the North shore of Chicago on some lake Michigan homes where the winters are extremely harsh. We have never had 1 problem with any of those and most of them were installed 6-7 years ago. Another thing I noticed is that we have used in certain instances some of their powder coated units and to this day they still look like they did when we took them out of the box. Until we start having major problems with them, or they are no longer available we will continue to use the Hadco transformer.
  3. David Gretzmier

    David Gretzmier LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,646

    I noticed the powder coated units on the website, and probably would consider one for a customer that intends to paint the unit to match the home. I install stainless unless asked otherwise. My ewing distributor only stocks stainless, which is fine. good to know they hold up over time. You have certainly installed a lot of them !
  4. Pro-Scapes

    Pro-Scapes LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,180

    My thoughts on this were in the article I wrote in Landscape and Hardscape Magazine on selecting transformers. By choosing transformers based on price you often are sacraficing quaility or performance. When a unit does not put out the rated voltage or falls flat like many low cost units do you lose capacity and ability to make longer runs forcing you to either add wire runs or run a larger gauge wire. All of a sudden where did your cost savings go ?

    I had to buy 3 kichler photocells a few months back. Cost was nearly 3 times of which I could have purchased a universal hardwire photocell. While these were existing transformers I was curious. I measured the 12v tap under 75% load and it was 11.2v. Now that you would need to run a higher tap than a better unit and also buy an expensive photocell and be limited to timers/controls that fit do you really have any cost savings ? Are you really doing yourself or your client a favor ?

    Just a bit of thought. The lowest price materials are not always the most cost effective in the end. Most of the dedicated pro's wont use cheapie fixtures. Why skimp on the heart of your system.
  5. sprinkler guy

    sprinkler guy LawnSite Member
    Messages: 223


    Are you saying the existing Kichlers dropped that much? I recently installed a 100 watt Kichler at a little job I did. I installed (6) FX Rotunda Luna washlights which take a G4 bi-pin, and (2) Focus brick size steplights. I put LED bulbs in all of these, for a combined total of 21 watts. I had a hard time reaching for my usual 300 watt FX or Unique 360 watt trans. My supplier of choice had recently started stocking the Kichler models, because of Kichlers big push with LED, so I grabbed it just because of the low power demand. I only dropped a tenth of a volt on the tap.

    Doing more predominately LED installs is pushing me towards smaller transformers. It's not a cost thing, it's a 'justify-to-the-client' why he is paying for a larger transformer. And not just the wattage size, but the physical footprint. I was interested in reading about Dave's test results, mostly because the Hadco 300 watter is very small, but still looks professional. I've twice had to explain to a client in recent weeks why his electrician installed an Acme buck-boost transformer, and why I'm switching him to a physically much larger Unique transformer. The small Hadco helps alleviate some of that issue. Plus, both the Hadco and the Kichler have room for timers or control modules.
  6. extlights

    extlights LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 439

    We really haven't used many other brands of transformers. We have replaced alot of existing transformers on tear-outs and I'm not sure that even 1 of those were Hadco (Maybe it's because not as many people use them). We have replaced alot of other brands though. To me it's more of a preference thing. I honestly don't know what the difference in price is between the different transformers out there. We use so little of other brands that I really don't keep up with the costs of them. All I know is that if I find something that works well....holds up over time and has a fair price then I will stick with it.
  7. David Gretzmier

    David Gretzmier LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,646

    Billy, the price of a unit is just another spec to me. the important issues are how it works and how long it lasts. I used a hundred or so sentences describing all the relevant numbers, specs, and features of a unit, and 2-3 were dedicated to price.

    I have spoken on the issue of price many times. I will repeat. if you can install products that last a long time, do not require repairs, and perform well, it does not matter what they cost. While buying the most expensive transformer out there may make you feel like it is the best thing for your business, or by using the most expensive fixtures, then go for it. I continually seek out quality fixtures and transformers, and I test them to see how they perform. If they fail me, I report that here and I feel my record backs that up. If they work well, then I report that too.

    I have searched the threads on hadco and there is very little info on here about them, so I am giving them a test and fair shake. if you have experince, info on the failure or issues with any of these units, then by all means share it here. That has value.

    sorry, but stating you have a problem with another brand of photocell putting out voltage has no bearing on Hadco.
  8. Thoren

    Thoren LawnSite Member
    Messages: 3

    The Hadco transformer is really a relabeled MDL Transformer which used to be made in Ohio. MDL makes transformers for Kitchler, and Cast also. If you bought 3 of them and placed them side by side you would notice the only differnence is in the way the door opens. Same shell, painted or powder-coated, the screw holes are in the same spots, even the bottom holes are the same. Photocells and the plugs are specified by the the person that labels the transformer, they can decide what they charge for this component. In my opinion which ever one of these three is cheapest is the best that day because for the most part they are all the same! I guess Kitchler has the magnetic door?

    Also in my opinion they used to be the best around, however they moved their production to India 2 years ago and have had production issues ever since. Back ordered on 900 for 3 weeks this year, they were probably made and caught up in a week but had to sit on the boat for 2. Is a volkswagon that is made in mexico the same as one made in germany? Not by a long shot.

    You guys should look into pantech- they make a toridal transformer that looks and smells the same as the mdls, except it is quiter and get this, its cheaper!
  9. jshimmin

    jshimmin LawnSite Member
    Messages: 99

    It was my own fault, but after 12 stitches in my thumb taking out a knockout, I've never touched another PanTech. Worst part was being 2 hours from anything but a North Georgia witch doctor.

    I've also had problems with rivets on the PanTech case rusting after a couple months in the field.
  10. David Gretzmier

    David Gretzmier LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,646

    Thought I would bring this thread back to life and do a quick update. we have continued to install the hadco unit in small installs for the 300w and 600w size. we have had absolutely no problems with them over the last 20 months or so. They continue to be sold by ewing here locally and they still have a lifetime warranty. I probably have 35 or so out in the field and will update this again when I see someone mentioning them.

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