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LED's Fixtures or Aftermarket

Discussion in 'Landscape Lighting' started by Faulted1, Sep 4, 2012.

  1. Faulted1

    Faulted1 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 12

    Any thoughts regarding LED's on a new lighting project...

    Is it best to buy "ordinary" (non-led fixtures) and use aftermarket bulbs?

    Are OEM LED fixtures compatible with most aftermarket LED's?

    Are OEM LED fixtures different than "standard" fixtures?

  2. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,872

    It's always going to be best to use a fixture that was specifically designed to be used with an LED lamp (bulb). That's the simple answer.

    Where you go from there, you'll find there is a lot of debate about.

    I am convinced that it's best to go with fixtures where the LED lamps are fully integrated into the fixture and the driver is fully potted. Kichler is the brand I like that is like this. Their Design Pro LED series is what I use. But I believe Vista LED also offers some fixtures with these features.

    I'm fairly well convinced that Kichler has the best LED fixtures out there. But again, you'll find a lot of debate on that. Everyone loves something different. It's like coke vs. Pepsi or Ford vs. Chevy vs. Dodge. No consensus.

    Hopefully that helps you a little.
  3. starry night

    starry night LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,263

    I don't know where you get some of your stuff, Jim. There's no way that Pepsi is as good as Coke.
  4. Picture Perfect Landscape

    Picture Perfect Landscape LawnSite Member
    Messages: 176

    Also depends on what is available at your local suppliers. We can get Hadco, Vista, and FX Luminaire at the local EWING branch. Plus we get 1-2% back at the end of the year on our purchases!

    I like FX - really solid but slightly overpriced however they are on the leading edging with technology. For example they just released a transformer that has zone control and individual lighting control for dimming among other things.

    Vista is slightly cheaper and a great product. We have installed a lot of their LED fixtures with great success. Also vista has a larger selection of LED fixtures.

    The kicker here is Hadco. Definitely a lesser product but not by much and their pricing is awesome if you and it has a lifetime warranty. Because of this we primarily use their 7w uplight for most narrow to mid-width spot applications. We also use their transformers for most of our installs. ZERO problems out of anything.

    In regards to your question. LED is the the direction to go and its soooo easy to sell your client. In the end you make more off the lights because of the higher pricer and they get a MUCH MUCH better product. The light is so much clearer we next to no if any hotspots. The you have the energy savings, lack of maintenance, etc etc.

    No reason to install halogen anymore. And honestly, if your installing a nice system say with copper spread lights and uplights that are anything but composite and you go and quote both the led and halogen will be similar. The lights are more but you use a lot less wire, less labor, smaller transformer etc.

    Hope this helps.
  5. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,872

    I'll have to disagree with that. If they are the leading technology how come their LED lights look so blue? Did you ever stop to realize that the only reason their lights look halfway decent is because they come STOCK OUT OF THE BOX with an Orange lens on them?? To me, that's not leading technology - that's cheap LEDs covered up with a lens. Do you understand that as soon as you put a lens over an LED lamp you decrease the output by 5-15%?

    Also, if they are leading technology, why do they only have a 10 year warranty? Kichler is a full 15 years and (under certain conditions) Philips / Hadco is Lifetime. If they were the best technology, why aren't they willing to back it up?

    Next thing that comes to mind is why do their spot lights only come in 2 different brightness and only 1 arc? With Kichler, there are 3 different brightness levels and each of them have 3 different arcs (10 degree spot, 35 degree flood, and 60 degree flood). So I get 9 different options for effect using Kichler but only two with FXL. And they are the leading technology? You're kidding, right?

    If they're the leading technology, how come they aren't very water resistant? I did a test. I have one of Kichler's spot lights in a pool of water. Not their underwater light mind you - their regular spot light. It's been going for weeks at full brightness fully submerged in water. No shorts. No decrease in performance. 100% water resistant. Anyone care to guess how long the FXL spot light lasted????

    And let's talk Transformers. Last I knew FXL transformers were all magnetic core. Now, I don't know. The new ones may be toroidal core. But even if they are, that's a very recent change for FXL. For the entire time I was installing FXL light fixtures (many years) all they made were laminated/magnetic core transformers. The advantages to toroidal core transformers include 10% more efficiency, runs cooler, weighs less, vibrates less, and makes less noise. I'm not sure FXL even makes a taroidal core transformer. In general, the best transformers I've seen have been Unique, Cast, Volt and the Kichler Pro Series. FX isn't even in my top 5.

    FXL is the best technology? Give me a break. I'm sorry. Just the more I learn the more I am convinced FXL isn't nearly as nice as they and Ewing would like you to believe.
  6. irrig8r

    irrig8r LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,553

    Kichler LED uplights feel cheap. FX look and feel more polished, though I don't know if they are worth the additional cost.

    Vista LED uplights are decent, though the ones I have on hand require a minimum input of 10 VAC, they are about 18 months old and they may have changed since.

    Haven't seen the Philips/ Hadco ones yet.

    As for retrofits, I'm installing 10 Illumicare lamps later this week in new Nightscaping and FX fixtures. I will share my initial impressions next week.

    BTW, does where they are made matter to you or your customers at all? I think of those listed above most or all of Vista's products are domestic, as are most of FX's and Nightscaping's. Kichlers are Chinese. Not sure about Hadco.
  7. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,872

    No. That's not true at all.

    And do my customers care at all? Apparently not. It's never come up once.

    Just like in the irrigation industry, the electronics industry, etc - there aren't really any brands that are really made in the U.S. They may put the parts together in the U.S. in some cases. But all those parts are still made in China with most lighting brands. And since I've never been once asked where my lights were made, I'm not sure it's even an issue. My clients buy Apple I-Phones made in Taiwan, Sony computers made in Japan, BMWs made in Germany, LG TVs made in Korea, Rain Bird sprinklers made in Mexico, drink Stolichnaya vodka from Russia, and Citizen watches made in Japan. You really think they're super concerned about where stuff comes from?

    Don't get me wrong. I like to buy American. I have two nice American built vehicles in my garage and 15 of them at our shop. We can still make pretty good trucks here. But let's be realistic. Where an outdoor light is built isn't really on anyone's question list when we are discussing their outdoor lighting system proposal any more than it is when they purchase a cell phone.
  8. Picture Perfect Landscape

    Picture Perfect Landscape LawnSite Member
    Messages: 176

    Whoa whoa whoa!! lol. You over analyzed my statement. I guess I shouldn't have led with FX as it did make it sound like I was on that bandwagon. I don't use FX other than for a couple niche lights they have. However, I will still argue they have some technology they are tapping into that no one else has (this was my main point). I will also argue they have some great fixtures. Your underwater test is interesting, but out of the lights I have installed I haven't had a failure yet. I am not saying Kichler is bad. I have never used them, only perused their catalog.

    It appears as though you thought I was say FX is the best and you should install everything by them. I do not use their uplights. I use either Hadco or Vista's uplights.

    I will agree you do loose a little from the lens available, BUT those lens can add some cool effects otherwise not really being possible.

    This job used the Joli LED light with the lens and output was fine.

    Landscape Design & Renovation, Outdoor Lighting System, Irrigation System in Cordova.jpg
  9. irrig8r

    irrig8r LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,553

    Maybe that's because you don't bring it up :)

    I do, probably to explain and justify higher prices for some. I'm not married to any particular brand, and though I don't give the client brochures to pick from, I give them my opinion of two or three fixture alternatives for a particular task.

    For instance, not everyone likes the look of a patina on copper or brass. So then I show them the best powdercoated FXL (T-6061) aluminum or the Nightscaping stainless steel fixtures. And I emphasize that they are made in Southern California.

    With Vista, I usually got for the brass or copper.
    Now, are you saying that the following, from their website, is a lie?

    "All Vista products are manufactured at the company’s headquarters in Simi Valley, California in a vertically-integrated manufacturing process that custom-builds and ships each fixture in less than 24 hours from the receipt of the distributor’s order."

    FX doesn't emphasize US manufacturing since being acquired by Hunter. I'd bet the new transformer is made overseas, but I could be wrong.

    Nightscaping has always emphasized it, even when it wasn't completely true. Not sure what percentage is made in Redlands now.
  10. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,872

    Or maybe it's just because it's not that big of a deal to most people anyway. The fact that it never gets brought up by me or the client - ever - should be an indication that it's not really a concern at all for either party. Again, we're all used to buying things made oversees. Particularly electronics. So I think most people just assume that they're probably going to be made somewhere else like 98% of everything else we buy on a regular basis.

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