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Kichler LED demo at their booth at the I.A. show

Discussion in 'Landscape Lighting' started by JimLewis, Dec 8, 2010.

  1. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,854

    Well, I was pretty impressed with the LED lighting demo. that I saw at the I.A. show in Phoenix earlier this week.

    Also, I wasn't aware that the upper end transformers made by Kichler had a toroidal core in them. So that was cool to learn.

    Anyway, the LED light demo. went like this; They had installed 3 LED spot lights about 12" in front of a wall, all about 12" apart from one another. All 3 lights were powered from the same wire, all on full power. The first light fixture was an FXL LED, the second was a Kichler LED and the third was a Vista Pro LED. I didn't note anything at this point other than the FXL one was noticeably more of a bright white light rather than a soft yellow glow like most halogen lights. But then the turned down the voltage with a dial. Once they reached about 10v, the two FXL and Vista Pro lights began to fade. You could see the circle of light on the wall start to get smaller and a little less bright. But the Kichler one remained just as strong and beam spread just as wide.

    Once they reached 9v, you could see an even more pronounced difference. The FXL and Vista Pro units were barely on but the Kichler unit was still exactly the same. At right about 8v, both the FXL and Vista Pro light fixtures went completely out. Kichler really didn't even start to dim until almost 6v. Then it pretty much just went totally off really quickly right around the lower end of the 6v range or maybe just below.

    Point is; the Kichler unit stayed pretty much totally bright, kept it's beam spread, and kept functioning just fine at anywhere from 7v-15v, while the others didn't have nearly that much range.

    Which is pretty cool. Because that means you could install quite a few of these on a daisy chain set up on a little smaller gauge wire (e.g. 12g) before you're voltage would ever get low enough for them to not perform properly.

    Anyway, I was pretty impressed. I'm thinking twice about delving into the LED market. I've still been sticking with mostly Unique Lighting fixtures with Xenon lamps. Just your regular LV lighting. But I'm seriously thinking that going Kichler LED could really start to lower my bids and get me more jobs. No more hubs, smaller wire, a return to the daisy-chain method (as much as I hate to say that), and much smaller transformers.

    I was also impressed with their 15 year warranty. I wondered if the lights might start to dim half way through their lifetime. They said if I ever [within the first 15 years] felt one of their fixtures was dimming even a little bit I could take it right back to my distributor and get a new one, no questions asked. I like that kind of warranty.

    The only thing I wasn't impressed with is the look of their spot light fixtures. I've never liked the look of them. When you compare it to the Unique Lighting 'Pulsar' spot that I'm used to using, they don't look anywhere NEAR as nice. Even the brass LED spot didn't look that nice. But I guess the focus shouldn't be on the fixture anyway, right? Focus should be on the effect. So maybe I need to quit worrying about how the fixture looks.
  2. Illumicare

    Illumicare Inactive
    Messages: 148

    Hi Jim. Did you happen to drop by the Illumicare booth at the IA show?

    If you adopt the use of LED lamps instead of fixtures then you will be able to use all of the tried and tested fixtures you have come to rely upon, you will be able to effectively and efficiently upgrade all of your existing customers to LED systems, and you will be able to easily adjust the output and look of the system as the landscape changes over time.

    These LED lamp advantages are not easily matched by sealed LED fixtures like the ones you were looking at. There are a number of other disadvantages to non-serviceable LED fixtures too. For instance, what happens at the fixture's end of life? Will your clients be ready to do a complete system replacement after 12-15 years? What happens to all of those fixtures? Do you just toss them out at the end of their lifespan? Seems incredibly short sighted and wasteful to me.

    As for the voltage dip test you saw... I don't know what real world application such an example has. If you build your systems properly, and you are using LED, I cannot imagine a situation when you would have less than 10Volts on any given circuit, even in a daisy chain scenario.

    A lot of people talk of the savings of being able to use smaller gauge wire with LED systems. It is a nice idea, but you will find that 12Ga. wire is so plentiful and so commonly used in the market that its price is still lower than sourcing 14 or 16Ga wire in volume. This may change over time, but I don't think it will anytime soon.

    Being able to use fewer and smaller output transformers is a reality and a place where there is significant savings to the client. I think you will see a number of new, smaller 60, 100 and 150 watt transformers coming to market in the near future to support the prevalence of LED systems.

    Don't dismiss the use of LED lamps... We have come a long way in a short period of time. Illumicare LED lamps are optimized for use in LV outdoor lighting systems, we have a large variety of outputs, optics and sizes, and with our new line of Miniature LED lamps, we have a solution for most landscape lighting fixtures.

  3. bcg

    bcg LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Tx
    Messages: 1,861

    Jim, the pictures I showed you of my large job at dinner were about 80% Kichler fixtures. I've been really happy with their output and, as you saw, it's really difficult to distinguish between them and halogen when mixed together.

    Kichler is releasing a Gen2 LED fixture in the next few months that is supposed to be more attractive and have integrated cowls. I haven't seen them yet but honestly, you should only be able to see about 10% of the fixtures in a good install, I think, and if you have a really picky customer on the aesthetics of those, there's no reason you can't mix some traditional MR-16 fixtures in with either halogen or LED retrofit lamps.
  4. bcg

    bcg LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Tx
    Messages: 1,861

    I did look at the Illumicare products at the show. My biggest complaint about LED retrofit lamps right now is that they're only available in a 20W equivalent. This is where the integrated fixtures like Kichler offers really outperform because they offer both multiple intensities and multiple beams. The question about what happens down the road is a fair one but we have to remember that LED lamps don't burn out and the 40k hour rating means the lamp is only 70% as bright as it used to be. That may still be acceptable, or it may not. I think most systems are going to need a major rework within 15 years anyway. I know I haven't seen any that were more than 10 years old with fixtures that were still in good shape, especially installs using powder coated aluminum fixtures.
  5. Illumicare

    Illumicare Inactive
    Messages: 148

    Hello BCG. Not sure if you were told or not, but we are on the precipice of putting our new, brighter ("35W equivalent") LED MR16 into production. It will also come in multiple beam spreads as does our current line of very warm white, warm white and cool white ("20W equivalent") MR16 LEDs.

    As for end of life, yes there will come a time when the LED lamp needs to be replaced, but it is a whole lot less material and cost to replace only the lamp then it is to replace an entire fixture.

    Even when using field serviceable LED fixtures like the Vista and others, there is a significant inconvenience and cost associated with stocking different optical units in order to provide you with the flexibility you have come to require in the field. LED lamps don't have the same hurdles...AND you can use them to easily update your existing client's systems, instantly increasing both your sales and profits.
  6. Elegant Outdoor Lighting

    Elegant Outdoor Lighting LawnSite Member
    Messages: 60

    Great info Jim. I usually use Unique too, but use these Kichler when LED is requested. They say at the trade show to just bring it back if it get dim. Would love to see this in writing. Also, I have talked to folks at the factory and it turns out the 15 year warranty is for the LED, but 5 year warranty on the housing! (AZT architectural bronze-read aluminum). Their BBR (brass) line of these fixtures have a 15 year warranty on the LED AND fixture. Kind of confusing.

    If Kichler made their written warranty more clear, I know I would feel much more comfortable using them.
  7. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,854

    I did! Well, I think I did. You guys were the one at the end of the last isle, right? The same isle that Savio was on, but on the opposite end?

    Yah, I came by and talked with you guys for like 20 minutes on Sunday right before closing. I had you turn the lights on and off for me and we talked about lifespan of the lamps, and I had asked how you know they last so many hours. I must say I definitely was really really impressed with your lamps. I'm just not sure what to do with your lamps.

    I figure there are two choices.

    1) Retrofit existing lighting systems. But with the limited variety I saw I am not sure how useful that would be. I'll use my own from yard as an example. I have a good 30 light fixtures in my front yard. Many of them are 35w, and currently you don't have any of those available. One of my fixtures (for the flagpole) is a 50w MR16, with a very narrow beam and I doubt anything LED would replace that. I still have some older Unique can lights with PAR35 lamps in them and I don't think there is a LED fixture to replace those. I have some fixtures with MR11s and no current option for those. That leaves only my pathway lights that could currently be replaced with your LED path lights. Once you have 35w equivalent MR16s, I could use about 12 of those. But half of my yard would still be halogen. This is similar to many jobs I've done. So a true, full retrofit is not really possible in most cases - limited by the current availability of lamps.

    2) Use your LED lamps in new fixtures (e.g. unique, cast). There are several problems here too. First, all the problems above still apply. If my job included anything other than 20w spots and pathway lights, I'd be out of luck. Even once you did have your 35w spots available, I'd still not be able to do any fixtures that use a PR35, and nothing bigger than a 35w lamp (I often use 50w spots to climb big 100' fir trees we have here in Oregon). Also wouldn't be able to use anything that employs an MR11 (like the FXL MP20, that I use a lot of).

    Plus, there's the bigger problem of cost. It already costs a fortune for a Unique spot light (list price = $165. Price I sell to my customer = not much less than that.) So now I am going to add $35 to each fixture??? That's quite a lot more. And I'm aiming to go the other direction with my prices. I know using LED means I'd need a smaller controller and less wire and no hubs. But still, the expense of $35 per fixture I don't think is offset by these things.

    So I'm left wondering exactly how to implement your lamps effectively.

    The alternative seems more appealing. Just use Kichler spot lights (which are already less list price than the unique fixtures I am usually installing). So then I actually save money on fixtures. Plus, then I can also save money on less wire, no hubs, and smaller controller. So overall, this means I can bid systems at considerably less than I have been.
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2010
  8. Illumicare

    Illumicare Inactive
    Messages: 148

    Hi Jim and thanks for visiting our booth. I was not personally at the IA Show, so we did not have the opportunity to meet.

    We have worked very hard (and continue to!) to build and offer the LV Outdoor Lighting Industry with a broad range of LED lamps products. Obviously we have to start with those lamps that are the most popular and will satisfy the majority of the market. As our business continues to grow, you can expect to see more options, types and categories being introduced. It is pretty hard to break out of the box with a product to satisfy every need for every customer!

    Please keep checking back with us, as our product line continues to develop. There is a lot more coming down the pipe in the near future.

  9. bcg

    bcg LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Tx
    Messages: 1,861

  10. Illumicare

    Illumicare Inactive
    Messages: 148

    Hello BCG. By all means you can try one of those lamps, but I am quite certain you will be unimpressed by it. That lamp used indicator style LEDs, clustered together to create a 'blob' of light. The LEDs it uses were not developed or intended for use in general illumination applications. They are not HB (High Brightness) LEDs and typically have very low output, very low CRI, and are not all that efficient.

    If an LED lamp/fixture does not have full specifications, photometrics and spectra-analysis data available, there is no way for you to know or understand the type of light it will produce.

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