Signs of lightning damage?

Discussion in 'Landscape Lighting' started by Zohan, Aug 22, 2012.

  1. Zohan

    Zohan LawnSite Member
    Messages: 136

    Got a call that a system installed last year isnt working...i get there and find the plug inside the vista hp transformer is melted into the Intermatic dtc-210 astro timer.
    Transformer plugged into gfci and also house has whole house surge suppressor.
    Groung lightning traveling back to transformer, or something else?
  2. steveparrott

    steveparrott LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,276

    Picture? Lightning leaves distinctive marks.
  3. Zohan

    Zohan LawnSite Member
    Messages: 136

    No picture, there were no marks..just the "legs" of the plug melted into the timer so i couldnt even separate them
  4. LLC RI

    LLC RI LawnSite Member
    Messages: 149


    Having had two instances where lightening was the culprit, I'd venture to say that it likely was. To have the plug blades fuse into the outlet, suggests that it was a very high voltage surge/spike, or a lightening strike. The transformer probably absorbed most of the strike, thus sparing the house.

    I had two cases, one where the transformers fried but the house had no damage/appliances etc that fried. Another case where both the lighting and the electronics in the house got cooked.

    You might inform the client that they can file a claim against their home owners insurance.
  5. S&MLL

    S&MLL LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 751

    Ditto on the home owners insurance

    Ive seen similar. Also seen serious black marks on timers. Have had every bipin lamp on property all blow. Have had a pathlight end up 2 feet over from where the stake was. Lightning is crazy stuff.

    Also when preparing your proposal for the client/insurance company be sure to site anything that looks out of place. Might also want to do some ohm checks on your home runs. 1 system got hit and the insurance company requested we do a complete tear out and reinstall. They didnt want to hear complaints 2 months down the road about lights not working
  6. Zohan

    Zohan LawnSite Member
    Messages: 136

    Guys, thanks for the heads up.
    Man thats some insurance co, to tell you to do a complete re-do.
    The builder of the home questioned lightning because there is a suppressor on whole house and a gfci the transformer is plugged into. I told him lightning can take many paths and most likely hit ground and came in to transformer that you guys agree on that?

    When I did the spring lighting tune up at the house there were 10 or 12 bullet fixtures out. When I took off the front to change the lenses they all had moisture in them, some had a little more than moisture..anywhere from a few drops to a little puddle(small). These were vista 2216 fixtures. The other day when changing transformer I went through system again and there are 3 more out. There are 45 of those on the project with 9 2133 path lights, none of them are out.
    Any one have this problem and do I have any recourse with vista? These were just put in last season, I shouldnt have to keep replacing them. I already did the first 10-12 on my dime because it was within the 1 year warranty on bulbs I gave them but if this keeps happening I will have unhappy clients.
  7. LLC RI

    LLC RI LawnSite Member
    Messages: 149


    Regarding the moisture... was it in fixtures with lamps that were out or working? If the lamps are out, there is no heat to 'burn off' any moisture that can wick into the fixtures, that usually leads to condensation on the inside of the lens.

    Having said that, it's quite possible that the fixtures are not well sealed either from the lens/cap and from the knuckle. This could be allowing moisture to wick up from the base of the fixture where it attaches to the spike.

    If this is the case and there is no sealant , gasket or rubber wire plug at the base, you might have issue with Vista. If there is too much moisture in the fixture, that can certainly lead to premature lamp failure.

    Also, I would check the voltages to the runs of bullets. Make sure that it's not too high.
    But based on the fact that the path lights aren't burned out.. ( not sure if those are bi pins or other lamps, but normally, MR16's last longer than those other lamps. The path light being open and away from the dirt and moisture, could be why they are still working.

    What kind of MR16 lamps are you talking about? what brand? Off brands might fail that fast...

    What kind of program are those lights on? how many hours per day are they burning?

    With regards to your questions about the lightening... yes.. you are on point... just because the house has the whole house surge protection,. that doesn't mean that a lightening strike outside won't still fry landscape lighting equipment. According to him, he thinks the lightening will hit the light or transformer, the surge will travel into the house and be dampened by the surge protector and all is well. WRONG.

    Further, the GFCI will do nothing to protect against lightening since the strike was after the GFCI not before. If anything, the gfci might have fried.. or should at least be changed along with the transformer because it's effectiveness might be compromised due to the lightening surge.

    Keep us posted.

  8. Zohan

    Zohan LawnSite Member
    Messages: 136

    Thanks for the great info George...the bulbs that burned out were the original ones in the vista fixtures, to be honest i dont know what make. The client is not in town and wont be for a few weeks, so im in no hurry to get back there. The moisture was in the lamps that were out, i only noticed the moisture because i opened them up to replace bulbs.
    The system was running from dusk to 3am, and i just lowered to 1 am.
  9. LLC RI

    LLC RI LawnSite Member
    Messages: 149

    Well.. that explains a lot then. The original lamps that came with the fixtures from Vista.. are probably not a top brand like Ushio or GE. The moisture is in the dead lamps because the lamps aren't burning it off.

    The previous time schedule was about 9 hours per night so about 270 hours per month, so if they are out within a close to a year, that's about a 3000 hour life.. which is kinda standard for cheap lamps.

    You still could unscrew the knuckle and check to see if there is any silicone sealant in there, mainly on the side of the knuckle that is attached/ to the fixture side. If there is no silicone, you could shoot a little in there which will prevent some of the moisture from wicking in.

    For the heck of it when you are there, check your voltages on those lines. Perhaps if that run is a straight run, the voltage to the first lamps is higher than the rest. They will burn out first, raising the effective voltage to the rest of the lamps down the line.

    If this is the case, split the line, and run a new home run so it becomes a T run instead of a straight line. That will prolong the lamp life a little by delivering a more consistent voltage.

  10. Zohan

    Zohan LawnSite Member
    Messages: 136

    Thanks again George.....the runs are all t's, so shouldnt be any voltage problem but when i go there i will check just for shits and giggles...:)
    I "think" vista used ushio, but could be wrong...
    I will check for silicone also...

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