Should I rewire this client's system?

Discussion in 'Landscape Lighting' started by starry night, Nov 2, 2012.

  1. starry night

    starry night LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,317

    I've learned a lot over a couple years but I'm still able to come up with stupid questions. So here goes.

    I was called to check a system that was installed by someone else 7 or 8 years ago. Vista 600 watt transformer with two home runs (12 gauge) both on the 12v tap.
    Primary voltage is 123v. At the 12v tap under load, I read 11.5v. Two well lights only 4-5 ft from transformer read 10.3 v under load of 35w pars. Only four feet farther are 20w spots that read 9v. There are other spots and area lights so (without seeing the wiring underground) it looks like the total wattage on home run #1 is 220 watts.
    The home run #2 apparently goes to the opposite side of the front entrance, at most, 30 ft away. There apparently is not as much fixture load on this side and yet the two well lights here measure only 8.6v and a couple other fixtures on this side show 8.4v. The simpleton's answer would be to move up on the taps to whatever voltage provided the desired voltage (11.2-11.4) at the fixtures. Without digging up all the wiring, I have no way of knowing the wiring method or the quality of connections.
    But I would feel a lot safer rewiring everything. Actually, I would like to scrap the professional (but cheap) fixtures, too, but I don't think the client would approve the budget.
    I hope I explained this well enough for your suggestions.
    What's your opinion on the wiring? How about the transformer?
  2. Lite4

    Lite4 LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,187


    I run across this all the time too. Some landscaper just threw in some vista lights without any thought towards a good design or using solid connections and wiring practices. I give the customer the option both ways. 1. a price on a new system using the existing transformer with new wiring and fixtures, or 2. simply rewiring his existing lights and possibly repositioning some of them to make it look better. I'll reuse the transformer and fixtures, but I completely re-wire and usually put new sockets in the fixtures with a fresh lamp and a full cleaning. I charge time and material for this at my standard hourly labor rate. With solid wiring in the ground, they can simply upgrade their fixtures when the budget allows.

    Vista's alluminum fixtures may not be the highest quality, but we all know it's the quality lamp and not the fixture that does the lighting. So, there is no reason to walk away from work staring you in the face going into winter. besides, when you are done it will look 100% better and they will be thrilled.
  3. starry night

    starry night LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,317

    Thanks Tim,

    When I referred to "cheap" fixtures, I was talking about the way they fit together: how the lens caps attach; how the fixtures are sealed; how easy to get lamps in and out; etc.
    These fixtures definitely could use new sockets. The lamps wiggle in the sockets and there is a little corrosion from not being greased. In my limited experience, I have not ever replaced sockets. Any tricks? And how about a source for good quality sockets?
    Weather is getting a little cold for the hands but I am definitely interested in "putting away a few more nuts for the winter."
  4. muddywater

    muddywater LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,813

    I lost my BUTT on a job that I thought we could just replace bulbs and make waterproof connections. It really stung, there were so many bad connections and long wire runs I finally quit and told them what we had got working so far was free, and to let me know if they would like a quote on rewiring the entire system. From now on, I am quoting rewiring.
  5. Lite4

    Lite4 LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,187

    Phil, I just sent you an email with a link for the sockets.
  6. INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting

    INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,102

    In situations like this I provide the client with an objective assessment that documents all aspects of the existing system. I then provide them with two scenarios. One is a complete system replacement (obviously my preferred option) and the other is a full system overhaul that includes re-wiring, new connections, new sockets, new/upgraded lamps, upgraded controls and replacement of fixtures on an as needed basis. Often times the cost of overhauling the old system is so close to the cost of new that the choice is obvious. The thing to remember when repairing an old or unfamiliar system is that once you have touched it, you own it. In the client's eyes; the longevity, performance and condition of the system after you have worked on it directly reflects upon you and your company.

  7. Lite4

    Lite4 LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,187

    Couldn't have said it better myself James. Exactly
  8. starry night

    starry night LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,317

    Thanks James. All good ideas. I started estimating the job and found the above to be true.

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