Manufacturer Warranties

Discussion in 'Landscape Lighting' started by klkanders, Aug 12, 2010.

  1. klkanders

    klkanders LawnSite Senior Member
    from Midwest
    Messages: 849

    I have to ask....why do some of the " best in the business " transformers only come with a 10yr warranty? Will they still consider repair or replacement after that time frame on an individual basis? Do some install brass fixtures with 15 to life warranty with 10 yr transformer? Isn't the transformer the heart of the system? Just curious.

    I would like to add I have used a few 10 yr transformers when others were not available.
  2. Alan B

    Alan B Sponsor
    Male, from tampa, fl
    Messages: 444


    I can only speak for Volt but there are numerous reasons;

    1. There are so many variables with a transformer that can cause it to fail prematurely that may not be the manu's fault (lightening, surges, overloading, shorts, improper installation, etc.).

    2. A transformer is more complex, has more parts and has items that simply cannot be made durable enough to warranty for life (eg example circuit breakers).

    3. There is greater exposure financially (than a fixture)... less risky to warranty 1 fixture than an expensive transformer.

    4. Manu's make their own fixtures, but use outside specialty manu's to custom make and private label transformers for them. Easier, safer, less costly to warranty your own product vs a product you buy.

    5. Expense of repair. Fixture goes bad it is easily sent back for repair or replaced (small, light, inexpensive to ship, repair, replace, socket). 2 way shipping (return and resend) on a 55 lbs trans is ~$60 just for shipping alone.

    6. A fixture can be made of solid brass with no/few moving parts. Everything can be made heavy and robust enough for a lifetime warranty. They can be made to be air/water tight to protect electrical components. Lots of little electrical components can go bad on a trans. Trans is mounted outside and exposed to the elements but is not as sealed as a moisture tight fixture. Internal connection/contacts, bare copper could eventually start getting some corrosion.

    7. Trans is closer to an appliance... pretty hard to realistically built/believe a trans will last for life... just not reasonable.

    8. 10 yrs is an incredibly long time for such a heavy duty electrical appliance that is stored outdoors.

    9. If u find a lifetime trans, I believe its more of a marketing play that a statement of quality.

    10. A simple item like a stapler can be warrantied for life a complex item like a TV cannot. Bottomline... not realistic, risky, $.


  3. wbaptist

    wbaptist Inactive
    Messages: 54

  4. Pro-Scapes

    Pro-Scapes LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,180

    I worry more about companies that go out of business with the way this industry is going.

    I know of at least 1 manu that went under this month and I hear another major trans manu is in trouble. How would you guys deal with this ? We all saw what happened with Nightscaping and the scare they gave us all. I have a local dist trying to get me to use NS but it scares me due to unstability.

    Most the major brands I have used have been pretty good about warranty issues but for small things like sockets it is rarley worth my time to contact someone and deal with it vs just fixing it and keeping my client happy.
  5. David Gretzmier

    David Gretzmier LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,645

    Alan, on your points, you make good ones, but I have to note a few things. I am not too sure these days trans have too many moving parts, if any. I remember installing more than a few nightscaping trans that had the old black and white analog clock, and the old green rainbird irrigation controllers that had tons of dials and gears. but these days, every timer is digital, the photocells are pretty much sealed photovoltaic units. A transformer is really a very controlled environment of wire voltage resistance. And torrodial units do a better job of managing that heat from that resistance. lots of wire, switches, and stainless steel, but not too many moving parts.

    I agree the many things that damage a trans are out of the trans manufacturors power. But realistically, in general, if you wanted your trans to have a much longer life, as a manufacturor you can basically either build a larger trans and de-rate it, or you can be better about cooling it, or build in more surge protection, or make your connections really strong inside it to handle the jostling of shipping and when it is knoocked off the wall by loose screws or zealous landscape maintenance folks.

    I may be wrong about this, but my experience tells me that outside of lightning and accidents/vandalism, if you take a 900 watt trans and put a 300w load on it ( 100w on each common), any decent trans should last forever. but load that same trans with a 900w load, and it may nearly burn your hand to the touch, and torroidial or not, will be done in 5 years or less. you can smell them dying by that wonderful old ozone electric train smell.

    HOW you load your trans and wires also affects life in my opinion. some trans seem to really heat up and hum when you load one tap or another ( not a common, a tap), or in the above example, on a 900w trans putting a 300w load on one common and leaving the other 2 blank still heats up one portion of the trans and decreases life.

    heat is the enemy of the trans, this is no secret, and taking a/c voltage from 120v to 12v creates heat, period, and as you add amps/watts that heat has got to go up.

    while I would love for all trans manu's to build us transformers that could handle 500 watts on each common and just tell us they do 300, money wise folks want a better deal. So I tend to do like most and oversize my trans on all jobs from the get go. This year in particular, I seem to oversize even more as I replace trans that myself and others installed 10-15 years ago that were oversized by 20-30% then and were "lifetime" warranty trans.

    I am in agreement that warranty does not necessarily connect with quality.

    But I promise you Alan and other manu's know and track their warranty costs and price/design/update thier trans and their warranty time based on thier warranty costs. over time, they either price the cost of warranty repairs and returns into the unit, or they update/upgrade the units sold currently to not have these problems.

    I have had more than one FX rep tell me FX trans are de-rated by about 10% and have been tested 10 years plus out to 110% of thier load with no problems. but of course that would be inside in a lab, in a relative bug and dust free environment, probably at a near constant 68 degrees. Put it outside in Las Vegas at 115 degrees, or up in canada at -20, may be a different story.

    I believe during testing UL measures heat levels on trans at greater than 100% load to determine whether they award ratings, but am not sure how much time or load they put on the units. Thus, a UL listed trans may last longer than a non-listed one, but many manu's choose to not do UL testing that build a good trans.
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2010
  6. INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting

    INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,102

    Simply put. You should not and in fact can not legally install an unlisted transformer or electrical product into a system or onto a customer's property. To do so contravenes local, state and national regulations, codes and laws.

    You may think you are saving the customer some money by doing so... but you are opening yourself up to all sorts of issues and ramifications if there is a ever a problem or even a simple electrical inspection.

    Personally, I don't understand why anyone would want to sell "cheap" products or use them in their business. Your reputation and longevity is dependent upon you using quality components that function, endure and do not require undue amounts of maintenance or repair. If you want to increase your business's reputation and longevity while at the same time increasing your revenue and your bottom line, then simply use better quality components in your systems. Besides all of that, it is much more fun selling Ferrari than it is selling Dodge
  7. David Gretzmier

    David Gretzmier LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,645

    james, I installed transformers and irrigation controllers before there were UL listings for them specifically. even now, I understand, If I wanted to install the gambino unit, which by all accounts, it is a very well built unit, it cannot be UL listed simply because there is no category for it. by using 1/2 volt taps, There are no UL tests for it or listings for it. That may have changed in the last 12 months, but that was the case the last time I checked.

    Further, In my state, county and cities I work in, I am not aware of any building codes for my low voltage system requiring me to install any UL listed items unless they are 120V and up. The only thing my local code inspectors check me on new construction is if I have a master electrician pull a permit to set outlets, switches, or seperate remote photocells, and did I pierce the home by running 120v or 12v wiring through the wall. They have never checked any UL label that I am aware of. I asked them specifically about this a few months back when there was another thread on this when you were pretty vocal about legality and UL, and they said it is not thier responsibility to approve or deny any job to check any low voltage item for UL, be it an alarm panel, irrigation, or LV lighting.

    Try to remember Intermatic transformers sold at your local Lowe's and Home Depot are UL listed. it does not make them a good transformer, and the lack of UL listing on well built units does not mean it is a bad one. And in the Gambino case, it certainly ain't cheap or damages your reputation.

    I do however, replace "cheap" transformers and lights all the time that lasted 20 years plus. I have also replaced expensive, name brand lights and transformers that were UL listed and were done in 5 years or less.

    I do think trans should be UL listed if possible, but UL has always been behind the curve on LV transformer ratings, and to this day the UL stamp does not mean anything other than it passed thier tests and won't cause a fire. Show me a UL rating that really puts a long term heavy load on a trans, and UL rating that truly rates the quality of a light, and I will join you in calling for UL on everything.

    and for the record, I would rather drive the ferarri, but the dodge truck engine will in reality log more miles before needing to be rebuilt.
  8. Pro-Scapes

    Pro-Scapes LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,180

    David. No where in the UL code that I can find (or anyone I have spoken to including 2 master electricians who contract to and for me) does it state you cannot have half volt taps. Why on Earth would it matter so long as you are below the limit of 15v(assuming your speaking of ul1838) ? After all how many times have you checked voltage at your taps and come out right at 12 or 14 or whatever. Its always so variable. You can also add dimmers to your systems altering the output voltage as well and this certainly complies with codes if done right.

    Oh and I almost forgot. It IS in fact UL listed :laugh: so I guess that would void your statement that it cannot be.
  9. David Gretzmier

    David Gretzmier LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,645

    I am glad it is finally listed. the last thread talking about it, maybe 3 months ago stated it was not. I am not so sure about adding dimmers to drop voltage at taps. dimmers I have tried don't work on the low voltage side, and dimming the 120v side results in lower voltage across all taps, more heat and greater hum from the trans. torroidial and magnetic both seem to be more efficient at 120 volts than at a dimmed 110 or 100.
  10. INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting

    INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,102

    David. If you want to dim the secondary side you should look to ZANE dimmers. Just give Gerry a call at Terradek and he will get you all sorted out. Great product.

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