Blowing out PAR 36s left and right....

Discussion in 'Landscape Lighting' started by fakie99, Feb 11, 2013.

  1. fakie99

    fakie99 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 16

    Good morning -

    In the fall of 2010, we installed a 30+ fixture system for a very good client. The system is comprised of 3 transformers, roughly 14 well lights (PAR 36), and the remainder are MR16 bullets and path lighting. The PAR 36 fixtures have never been right; I've been through about 30 bulbs now (for being old headlights, these things aint cheap as most of you know....). Each time I get the system up and running again and replace the fixtures, they all test at 10.6 -11.6 volts. Then, they start blowing within 2-3 days. The prob is mostly on two transformers, one especially.

    The loading on it goes like this:

    Transformer 1 (300W), run 1 - 13V tap (on circuit 1), 3 lamps, 11V, 11.3V, 11V
    Transformer 1 (300W), run 2 - 13V tap (on circuit 2), 3 lamps, 11V, 11.1V, 11.2V

    Again, it's always the well lights - everything else is fine. I have installed good, GE bulbs. All wiring is 12 ga, and connections are silicone nuts. One thing - because the fixtures have been moved / bulbs changed so often, the wiring where it meets the lamp is worn and probably not clean - not sure this could be causing burnouts so quickly though.

    So, I'm at the end of my rope on this one - any thoughts on what might be happening? My feeling at this point is that it's fluctuations in primary voltage, but how the heck do you prove that... I have toyed around with getting some direct burial voltage regulators just to see if that fixes it. If it does, then primary voltage is likely the problem.

    Thanks for your help
  2. Lite4

    Lite4 LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,187

    That's odd. Your voltage range is fine on the pars. I have always had very good luck with GEs. Some I have in my yard are going on three years usage.

    Your thought on primary power fluctuations could have merit. You might install surge protection in the panel to smooth out spikes, this will help protect their home electronics too. That's probably where I would start.
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  3. steveparrott

    steveparrott LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,276

    Some utilty companies will respond to this type of complaint by temporarily installing a device that records voltage fluctuations over time. If the power problems come from the utility (and not the home) they are required to fix it.
  4. LLC RI

    LLC RI LawnSite Member
    Messages: 149

    You didn't say specifically what PAR36 lamps you are using. The lamp life on those varies considerably. I don't use too many PAR36's but I do like the Halozene ones.

    Also worth asking is if your fixtures are open top - ie the lamp is exposed to the elements, or is there a plastic cover or some other lens on top?

    Another thought would be to convert them as they burn out to a quality PAR 36 LED retrofit. I've seen many and they pack quite a punch for the watts used. Make sure what you use are damp location rated or better.

    RE what steve says... yes.. the electric co can come in and put a voltage meter on the house line to track the voltage level over a couple of days on a graph. Keep in mind, however, that a 10 volt surge or fluctuation on the line voltage side, only results in a 1 volt differential on the 12 volt side.

    How long are those wire runs? what is the total wattage on each of the runs? With load, those lamp readings are where they are. If you were to take one lamp off line, see what the voltage jumps up to. If you have 35-36 watt PAR's, I'll bet the reading will go up at least a volt. What this means, is that as soon as one lamp burns out, the delivered voltage to the rest of the lamps increases and so on. You might be better served to drop the taps down to 12 volts, or at least on the line with the PAR's. You could rewire a home run that feeds the 3 par lamps and drop the tap down is one other suggestion I'd offer.

    GOod luck.. let me know how you make out

  5. alsam116

    alsam116 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 21

    did you get this figured out, im having the same problem on par 36 35 watt bulbs. im at a loss and don't want the customer super pissed. thank you
  6. Lite4

    Lite4 LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,187

    That is so odd that you guys are having trouble with those lamps. They have been the most stable of all the halogen ones I used to install.
  7. ERAM

    ERAM LawnSite Member
    from Texas
    Messages: 6

    I, by far think that GE makes the absolute best halogen PAR today. I don't think there is anything wrong with your system or the lamp. I think it's your connectors at the lamp. I would cut back a couple of inches as perhaps the connections have probably heated up and caused damage to the wire internally. Replace all of those inexpensive connectors but make sure you apply contact grease to them before you install them. Another thing I have to through out there and it might sound like Duh, but just encase you don't know the lock washer goes on top of the connector between the screw head and the connector.
  8. fakie99

    fakie99 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 16

    oh i solved the problem alright. i went out to the job, cut the PAR 36 fixture out of there and installed a Kichler LED 35 degree spot. then i left, got up to 45 MPH and threw that PAR 36 out of my passenger side window.

    for the life of me, i cant figure why anyone in their right mind would install incandescant fixtures anymore. i, for one, will no longer be held hostage by their ridiculous sensitivity to voltage fluctuations, connections, etc.

    it's all LED now, or i pass on the job. word.
  9. Zohan

    Zohan LawnSite Member
    Messages: 136

    Word .......
  10. BrandonV

    BrandonV LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,629

    come on now I love a par36 cheap and run for years

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