1. Ask the Expert: Fertilization Strategies for Success: Dec. 12, 2017
    Learn how to do more with less when it comes to your fertilization services. Join the live Ask the Expert event hosted by Koch Turf & Ornamental: Dec. 12, 12-2 p.m. ET in the Fertilizer Application forum .

LED beam question and more.

Discussion in 'Landscape Lighting' started by Jeffsun21, Jan 20, 2014.

  1. Jeffsun21

    Jeffsun21 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 5

    Is it better to buy a wider beam angle 60* or 38* and then use the glare guard / funnel to control the spread or try and buy the correct beam right from the start. Also having hard time finding LED soffit recessed lights to just pop in instead on new construction can type? Juno makes one.
    Hub or not to hub with LED ? (5 or 6 3watt no daisy chaining)
    Pricing wise versus layout work what do most find as a better solution 2 small transformers or one larger. ( wire , connections , labor,etc.)
    I appreciate all your opinions and posts.

  2. Lite4

    Lite4 LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,186

    See comments above
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2014
  3. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,872

    I agree with Tim on the beam spread question. I would never try to use a cowl to narrow my beam spread. I always order the correct beam spread for the item I am trying to illuminate.

    Hub or no hub? This is where I will differ with Tim. I haven't used hubs in 3+ years now. I used to swear by the hub system. I always did it with every system. It took a lot of convincing for me to try a system out without hubs. But once I got used to it, we never went back. You just need to make sure you maintain enough voltage to power your fixture properly. Most fixtures on the market will illuminate properly in the 10v-15v range. So if you start with a 15v tap and use 10g wire, you can usually go several hundred feet before you get down below 10g. With most of the Kichler fixtures I install, you can actually go down as low as 8v or even 7.5v and still get full illumination. So we're able to stretch that even further.

    I don't worry about the issue that Tim mentioned of someone cutting a wire and cutting off a lot of lights at once. First, that's never happened yet and we do a lot of lighting installs each year. So I just see it as a really low risk. Second, if it did happen, it's pretty easy to tell approx. where it happened. Because all the lights will work up until that point then they won't after. So I know which area it's in. Third, we have a great wire tracker. So we can track it down to exactly where it runs out of amperage before we even dig. To me, this is a real easy fix, if it ever did happen.

    I love not having to use the HUB system anymore and not having to worry as much about voltage as I used to. It was annoying and even though I was good at it, I found that I always struggled with teaching employees how to do to do it right. Now, voltage is almost never an issue for us. To me, the daisy chain method has made installs SO much easier, quicker, and more simple for my workers to understand.

    On the question about 1 vs. 2 transformers; typically we just use one. I prefer one. Just simpler to program one timer, have one power source, etc. It's less expensive too. One 300w transformer can handle quite a lot of LED lights these days. So usually I don't have much need for a larger or 2nd transformer. If I can place the transformer on the side of the house - about halfway between the front and back yard, then it's perfectly located for me to send one run into the front yard and another into the back yard. We did one today just like that. It required maybe 50' more trenching. But the cost of that trenching was way less than if my customer had paid for a 2nd transformer.

    There are times we need 2 though. Sometimes there's no way to get into the back yard because the side yard is all concrete from house to fence. Other times, I cannot get to the other side of a driveway without running 500' of wire all around the entire house so it's just easier to install a 100w transformer to get the 3 lights I want on the right side of the driveway. Other times, like with an HOA we recently did, it was just cheaper to have 2 transformers rather than hire a directional boring company to make a 40' bore underneath the street. But I always try to use only 1 transformer, if possible. That's another reason I love LED. I rarely HAVE to use 2 transformers these days. Back when we were doing halogen/incandescent systems I would often find we needed 2 transformers and 2 timers.
  4. Lite4

    Lite4 LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,186

    Hi Jim,

    You are correct about the daisy chaining, it is a fine method for LED's. Perhaps I should clarify, I am not "hubbing" groups of fixtures for the sake of voltage conservation and calculations- that is not an issue anymore with LEDs as long as all of my fixtures are operating in the nominal voltage range specified by the manufacturer. I would say I "group" fixtures similar in fashion to a hub (I don't worry about all of them having the same lead length) primarily for the purpose of speed. For myself personally and my installers, I have found that cutting the number of connections by 2/3 generally saves us a lot of time and gets us in and out of the job faster. Simply personal preference though, whatever system works best for your crew.
  5. Lite4

    Lite4 LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,186

    The more I thought about this I felt I left a large hole in my answer above. I failed to elaborate in regards to Daisy chaining. (It may be an acceptable method for some on short wire runs with low consumption LEDs) as I stated above, you are most likely not going to see wide voltage swings on short runs with low consumption LEDs. Volt testing all of them within 50' of the transformer is probably not a huge issue provided they are operating well within the specified voltage range. However, it is always a good practice to simply test in case of a short in a cable or a fixture.

    This is not always going to be the case though, with the new, higher powered LEDs we see emerging on the market it is ever more important to ensure they are all operating in the optimal voltage range. Some of the new, higher powered LED's that are 12-15 watts, are going to require a more tightly controlled wiring method to ensure they are all running near the optimal voltage levels on longer cable runs. "Hubbing" or "fixture grouping" along with the use of a digital multi-meter is still necessary to verify the range with these higher consumption LEDs. You will not be able to accomplish this competently with the Daisy chain method for long runs with a wide spread of fixtures. The disparity in voltage will be very high from the fixtures at the beginning of a run compared to the ones at the end. High powered lamps are still going to effect voltage drop fairly rapidly, so employing the same failsafe techniques we do when wiring a halogen systems is still a safe way to design and install your system layout. The other option would be to increase the wire gauge of your cable to minimize VD across the span. I think it was Steve Parrot at CAST that said they did some testing and found that LEDs operated more efficiently at the higher end of the specified voltage range which tells me it is a good practice to try to get all of my LEDs as close to that range as possible for maximum component life, (hopefully I am not misrepresenting Steve or CAST with that statement) so correct me or clarify if I'm wrong please.
    We are most certainly dealing with components that are more forgiving than halogen, however, I don't believe we should necessarily abandon proper, thoughtful and professional installation techniques for the sake of ease. Just my .02

    I'm not trying to stir a pot, just looking for thoughtful interjection and discourse on this topic from the forum in general- Feel free to disagree (I won't be offended). Provide your reasoning why you feel daisy chaining is a "technically" superior wiring option to fixture grouping or "hubbing".
  6. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,872


    I don't disagree with any of that. Makes good sense. But a lot of that depends on the brand you're installing and if you're installing any of those "high powered" LED fixtures that you're talking about. I'm using Kichler so these issues aren't as big of a deal with our installs. I break the Kichler accent lights into 5 catagories (Xsm 16000-16002, Sm 16003-16005, Med. 16006-16008, Lg. 16009-16011 and Xlg 160012-16014). For the vast majority of our installs, I don't have to ever use anything larger than a Med. And those are not "high powered". They will work at the same illumination down to 8v or less. Once in a while, if I have a ig 100' fir tree to illuminate or something else really big, I'll use a Lg or Xlg fixture. But we've only done that a handful of times. In those cases, we just have to watch and keep the voltage at the point of connection at or above 9v. And if I'm starting at 15v tap on the transformer, I can still run a few hundred feet out and be above 9v. So again, not too much of an issue. But it is something I watch for if we are doing a job with those higher power fixtures.

    The main reason I'll do the daisy chain instead of hubbing or fixture grouping is because it's the easiest method to teach my installers. I'm not the one out there doing it myself. I'm relying on my installers. And depending on the job, it could be one of our guys on enhancement crew (very limited lighting experience), it could be an landscape/hardscape install crew (good with the basics of lighting installation, but not experts) or it could be one of our service technicians (advanced). So I just want to keep it as simple as possible. I still layout the systems. So it's just easier for me to say, "Run one 10g main line into the front yard, going this way. And run another one throughout the back yard this way." Then I place the fixtures where they are going and I'm done. I know, based on doing this hundreds of times, where my limits are in terms of voltage loss. So as long as I lay out the basics, then it's easy for them to just run one trench all through the beds for the main run of wire and then splice in as needed to add a fixture 10' away.

    We have a lot of employees (35) and we always have new ones every year. I always want to keep it as simple as possible for all off them. This, to me, is really simple. Then all I really have to train them on is burying the wire to the proper depth, how we make a solid connection/splice, and proper fixture placement/installation. The rest I can take care of once all the hard work is done. I can do the fine adjustments, program the timer, etc. Works well.

    It's not THAT hard to grasp the concept of hubbing, checking voltage, etc. But in our area, the industry is dominated by migrant workers who don't speak the language real well and maybe had a 8th grade education. We could have a huge discussion about that alone. But that's the reality of how business is done here. I can't make it too complicated or it just wastes too much time trying to explain it all to them and every new guy who we hire. To me, this is really simple and that was one of the reasons I switched to LED several years ago. I had done the hub method for years and it was always challenging for my workers to grasp. Nowadays, installs are much easier.
  7. emby

    emby LawnSite Senior Member
    from Ontario
    Messages: 380

    Hi all, just getting caught up reading threads and thought I would comment on this particular one.
    Wiring methods for integrated LED fixtures will be different than those methods used for LED replacement lamps. One thing that most forget is that all the halogen fixtures that you are using with LED replacement lamps, still have a UL or CSA etc. Max. lamp rating. That being said you must wire them for that rating even though you are installing a LED lamp. The reason, well if you install and then the home owner or who ever replaces that LED lamp with a 50 watt halogen, there will most likely be issues that could arrise and could become an insurance headache for you the installer.
  8. Lite4

    Lite4 LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,186

    Huh, that's a good point that I hadn't considered, but is a definite possibility for sure. Especially if they don't agree to a maintenance contract.

Share This Page