Blowing Light Bulbs

Discussion in 'Landscape Lighting' started by JimLewis, Feb 7, 2007.

  1. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,876

    Got a call the other day from a lady. She lives a few blocks away from my home and had noticed my landscape and lighting and was impressed. So she called me because her previous landscaper had recently gone out of business and she wanted a new one. Specifically, right now, she needed someone to replace a light fixture that had been broken.

    So I went over and I was in the middle of replacing the fixture and she mentioned that she is always having to replace the light bulbs in her fixtures. So I said, "Hmmmm. That shouldn't be happening. Lemme check it out." I went and got my Fluke and hooked it up. And what'd'ya'know.... 17.6 Volts!!!! "

    "Holy smoking lightbulbs, Batman! Yah, I bet you were replacing some bulbs!!!"

    Needless to say I corrected the situation. Unfortunately, the yahoos who installed the system installed a transformer that was a little TOO large for this job. They had installed all of the circuits on the 18, 19, and 20 taps. The lowest tap was a 12V tap. Even on that tap, I was getting 11.6, at the fixture. Which is acceptable. But I bet with a 11V tap I could have got it down to the 10.6-11V range, which I would have preferred.

    Anyway, that was hilarious. Thought I'd share the story.
  2. NC_Irrigator

    NC_Irrigator LawnSite Bronze Member
    from NC
    Messages: 1,455

    I tested a fixture yesterday running at 16v.

    Do people really not use a volt meter these days?
  3. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,876

    I think part of the problem is that suppliers are trying to push lighting on every yard monkey out there, without ever educating them on how to properly install them. I went to a lighting class at Ewing the other day, and I was amazed at how many guys were there from maintenance companies (In Oregon, you're basically either maintenance only or All Phases Landscaping). These guys weren't even licensed to do outdoor lighting and it showed. Just by the questions they were asking about wattage and voltage and other questions I could tell they had no clue. I could also tell by the end of the class they still hadn't got the concept. But they were all excited to start throwing out a bunch of lighting!!!
  4. NiteTymeIlluminations

    NiteTymeIlluminations LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 367

    This is the problem with manufacturers holding seminars all over the country and telling the contractors..."this is a transformer it will hold this many a wire to this thing, its called a junction...hook your lights up to this and you are done..." they dont even go into voltage drop, maintenance, what happens if the customer wants to add a light or take a light away or doesnt want 22 feet of wire buried under the well light...most mfrs are worried about selling as many lights as they can and not the industry...there are guys out there giving the landscape lighting industry a bad name and we as distributors and contractor who care need to make sure these yahoos are out of business asap...
  5. Pro-Scapes

    Pro-Scapes LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,180

    thats about the norm here. All the landscapers use the malibu method and daisy chain it all. 16 to 17 v at the first light then 9 at the last night if they are lucky.

    Sucks too because many of them are reputable companies who people are going to trust
  6. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,876

    Well, in this case, I think the manufacturer had good intent. They went over some of the key important stuff. But it lasted only 2 hours. And I don't blame them for that, because how many contractors would have signed up for a 8 hour class? Not many. But in that little time, there was just no where close to enough time to give someone a good intro. to the lighting. They left us with some good handouts and charts and so forth. And they even went over a lot of the basic stuff about voltage, how to run the lights in hubs rather than loop or daisy chain, they even educated us on how to hook up the controller, how to chose the correct tap and how to use the common taps equally, etc. They went over bulbs, different angles and degrees on bulbs, went over different fixtures, different lighting methods, etc.

    All this was great for those of us who already had a decent amount of experience. But for those who were total rookies and had never even done or read about lighting, I could tell all of this was just going over their heads. Just from their questions, you could tell they didn't get the concepts. Their questions were like, "Ok. So each light needs to have between 10.5 and 11.5 watts?" ..... "No. We're talking about Voltage here, not Watts." or they'd ask, "So the things you attach the wires onto on the controller, those come in different Amperage?" ....."Um... No. We're talking about Voltage." (they scratch their heads)......"" or they'd ask "So how many lights can I get on a 900 Amp controller?" and at that point I was just shaking my head.

    I think the manufacturer had good intentions. But they should have structured the classes progressively. That is, make the first class for beginners and explain all the basics over and over and over again until they start to get it. Then, next week, have a second class, going over the previous info. and then going on to some more advanced training. Then a third class, and a fourth, etc. Then by the end everyone would have a much better understanding.
  7. Freshcut Lawn Care

    Freshcut Lawn Care LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 393

    Hello Jim,

    You make some excellent points, but I find some of your comments are quite insulting to "every yard monkeys out there".

    I guess I would have to consider myself, to be one of them! :confused:

    However, you don't have to be so condescending towards people who have been invited to learn something new. I am sure you didn't know everything at the beginning and you likely asked a lot of these same questions!

    Again, you make some excellent points, particularly regarding the progressive training. I agree with you on that one for sure. I know I have tons to learn before I tackle my first job!

    All the Best! :waving:

  8. klkanders

    klkanders LawnSite Senior Member
    from Midwest
    Messages: 849

    An 8 hour class on lighting? Sign me up! How many can I take on how many different aspects?

    I agree that a couple of hours for a "Seminar" is not nearly enough time. The seminars I have attended were different distributors, one selling a single line and the other one multiple lines. Neither class was under 7 hours and both discussed Ohm's law, how to check voltage, amps, wiring methods, taps, bulbs, lighting methods, fixtures, etc. and the importance they all play in a great system.

    The one seminar I drove 3-4 hours to attend as I was eager to absorb as much knowlege as I could. It was scheduled as a morning session on Intro to Lighting. After finding out how far I had driven and my desire to attend the technical session the owner offered to teach it as well that afternoon after having lunch delivered for all who were staying!

    Good discussion everyone! I myself am a landscape monkey trying to let the younger ones take on more of the manual labor.
  9. ChampionLS

    ChampionLS LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,066

    Well, your half right.
    There's not really a "Malibu method", rather a system that's actually been designed by the NEC and Underwriters Laboratories to allow quick installation and re-location of lighting fixtures without cutting the supply cable. The system is safe, and it does work, however as we all know, durability is obviously the issue here as the cheaper tap connectors loosen and eventually loose contact, causing dim lighting.

    Our method of wiring with Evening Star uses the better Hadco brand connector which is much more durable and screwed together (vs. press fit). The main reason the daisy chain is still in use, is to keep the cost down. Our lighting system uses very low 4 watt lamps, and that daisy chain will work fine on long runs (up to 200' with less than 1 volt drop) as long as the cable is looped back to the supply. Now with higher wattage lights , the only way to reduce this was by using the hub for wiring. This adds long lengths of wire to each fixture, which is not cost effective on our type of system (since the wiring is burried during paver laying) The hook up needs to be addressed after the pavers cover the wire.

    Each system has it's pro's and con's, but the main reason was keeping costs down from a manufacturing standpoint.

  10. Pro-Scapes

    Pro-Scapes LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,180

    Anthony I dont think I have ever installed a 4w light. For the wattages traditionally used in proffesional lighting the daisy chain is unacceptable in MOST cases.

    There are some lights that come with internal voltage regulators. We have used them on one job that was a special favor for our distributor.

    A hub... a T.... a loop (in some cases) are all better choices. In alot of cases uneducated landscapers are chaining 10 or more lights at 20w each it becomes unsafe and the system is unstable.

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