The REAL deal

Discussion in 'Landscape Lighting' started by Alan B, Feb 29, 2008.

  1. Alan B

    Alan B Sponsor
    Male, from tampa, fl
    Messages: 447

    We all know the difference between high and low quality fixtures, and can debate the country of origin, the components, price, splice technique, etc.. However I would like to hear other peoples experience on the end result(afterall that is all that matters). Lets keep cheap fixtures and pierce points out of the equation as I find they last 1-4 years.

    My question is: 1. How much MORE longevity do you get from mid-priced fixtures to high priced? 2. How long of a life span are you getting? (until you have to do a maintence item beyond bulb replacement). Lets "assume" that the splice, voltage, location and install was done properly.

    Yes there are lots of variables depending on your area and the installer, however the same installer should have similar variables. Accordingly, we should compare lifespans of mid vs high with-in each installers experience.

    I have kept brands and specific prices out, so much will be subjective as to mid vs high, but I believe that there is marginal difference in longevity between mid and high priced items to justify the doubling of cost. You may feel differently, but I think that once you get a cooper, brass or a quality powder coated aluminum body, combined with exc moisture seals, stainless clips, ceramic sockets, high temp braided wire, etc., that the difference between mid range and high range is more related to higher mark-up, lower volume, and paying for sales reps than it is to double longevity.

    I would like to hear specific experience from pro's who have installed a variety, not subjective opinions on why one is better. Most of us have our preferred brand, but I would like to hear numbers on longevity between your experience with mid vs high tier/priced fixtures. Part of this is to maximize profit while stillproviding a quality fixture, the second part is to see if it might be worth while to install a quality transformer, burial cable, layout-- spend less on the fixture, but replace more frequently. It has been my experience that even the best fixtures I've used need to be replaced after 10 years. If a fixture 1/2 the cost lasts 7, why not use it? Thanks.
  2. INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting

    INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,102

    Welcome to the group here. How about introducing yourself to us here?

    As for the best fixtures... I fully expect that a quality built, high end, spec. grade fixture will last way beyond 10 years. Pick yourself up a Hunza DL-COP or DL-SS and compare that to a Lumascape LS201 and then compare that to a Nightscaping Guardian. If you actually do this, you will find three different grades of the same basic fixture type, at three different price points. Guess which one is going to outperform the others in terms of longevity? Then look at the build quality, fit and finish. There are reasons why spec. grade fixtures cost much more.

    Similarly, pick up a Nightscaping Vermeer, a Vista 5260 and a Dabmar 4751. Go for it, actually go out and buy these three fixtures and compare them. Install them in at your home, subject them to the elements over time. Service them repeatedly. You will quickly understand why the spec. grade market exists.

    The age old rule applies. You get what you pay for.
  3. indylights

    indylights LawnSite Member
    Messages: 179

    Please don't take this the wrong way, but we need to visit what your defintion of "best" is. If the best fixture you use has to be replaced in 10 years, to be honest, it's nowhere near any of the top fixtures on the market. Every fixture I put in the ground has a lifetime warrranty, and if it has to be replaced, assuming what you said in your post about correct installation, voltage, etc., I'm not paying for a replacement fixture. I either warranty the fixture, or do a field repair. For the kind of client I install for, telling them I am using anything but the best fixture, transformer, wiring and installation practices is just not acceptable. If I had to go back every 7 years and change out systems, I wouldn't be in business more than 7 years because noone I deal with would put up with that. Don't sink to the bottom and sell on price only. Just my two cents.
  4. extlights

    extlights LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 439

    I can't say that we've ever installed mid-priced fixtures....I'm not even sure what is considered a mid priced fixture? I can say this though. Before I went into business for myself, I worked for my father in laws company. We have many systems in the ground that are over 12 years old with no problems. I can also say that I have torn out plenty of systems that were 4 years old in which I guess I could consider "mid priced stuff."...or lesser quality if you will.

    I'm not going to install something that I know I'll have to replace in 7-10 years...doing that would be an injustice to my company and my clients. In a niche business like this your name and reputation is everything, so why take the chance and compromise with lower end or "mid priced" stuff?
  5. Alan B

    Alan B Sponsor
    Male, from tampa, fl
    Messages: 447

    Thank you, those are good answers so far.

    Don't want to de-rail...but regarding being a bottomfeeder, keep in mind, I can't change Tampa. The fact is that our market will only bear $150/fixture. You CAN be a market leader, an artist, the forerunner in absolute quality, but if the highest perceived quality lighting co's are at $150, you have a very tough time finding the "right" customers who will pay $250+.

    Secondly Tampa is infamous for its tough environment on fixtures--coastal, superstrong rainfall everyday from 4-5pm 6 months of the year (just in time to leave ground soaked all night), very high humidity, lightening captial of the world with power surges, the soil and the water supply is a corrosive as it gets due to the underground composition. Its like putting your fixture in the Lousianna swap.

    Going back to your responses-- it was great to hear that you were getting welll over 10 years with out anything but bulb replacement--I was enlightened. The only set-ups around here that I see last that long are line voltage set-ups, permenant outdoor fixtures/lamp posts and undereave lighting. With your results, I too would stick to the highend fixtures.

    FYI- regarding price I used mid as $40-$60, high as $70-$100
  6. Alan B

    Alan B Sponsor
    Male, from tampa, fl
    Messages: 447

    One other thing--regarding warrantees. Most warrantees have details. I don't care much about the body corroding through--its the electrical components, sockets, wiring that I get issues with. Most 10 year and lifetime warrantees I see tend to be on the fixture (body)/manufacturing defects with al sorts of exclusions about the wiring and the things that actually fail.
  7. Venturewest

    Venturewest LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 516

    In the mid-price range you describe, do you know of any manu's that have good warrantees. I know Vista only warranties the electrical components for 3 years.
    I guess I just need to go to the different catalogs and websites.
  8. Lite4

    Lite4 LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,187

    Even in a copper fixture which is what a lot of guys consider "mid grade", you will find vast differences. Pick up a copper bullet from 3-4 different manus and you will notice a difference in the guage of copper "thickness" of the body. Some out there are very thin and lightweight, while others are very solid and heavy. You also need to look at other components of that fixture. Are there any weak points that are going to cause this fixture to fail prematurely. Can the shielding be taken off and on many times for servicing over the years? What is the availability of replacement parts? What do these parts cost? What about the knuckle, is it made of a composite material or brass? How about the sockets? Easy to service overall? As you can see there are a lot of variables in the mid range class you have to weigh out. I used to consider my grades to be, Powder coated - good, Copper - Better, Brass- Best.
    To a degree this may be true, but I use some copper fixtures that I would take over some brass ones anyday of the week. You really need to base it on a fixture by fixture basis. I will say this though, the gap between a copper and a brass fixture for overall quality is a whole lot less than the difference between a powder coated alluminum and a quality copper product. IMO
  9. Alan B

    Alan B Sponsor
    Male, from tampa, fl
    Messages: 447

    I think body weight/gauge is overrated. More important to me is the corrosion resistance of electrical components, keeping moisture out of the fixture in the first place, and ability for connections to withstand heat. Like I said earlier a corroded body is not the problem, its the components. However-- a quality body (thicker gauge/heavier/corrosion resistant) is USUALLY an indication that the other components and craftsmanship are higher quality. So its a good indicator of the overall quality, but its not the guage or weight that determines the quality. Just my opinion.

    For this reason, and Tampa's environment, I don't like aluminum, and I copper doesn't have to be heavy although it seems the heavier ones tend to have better construction.
  10. NightScenes

    NightScenes LawnSite Silver Member
    Male, from Kingsland, Texas
    Messages: 2,214

    I would have to agree with this statement. If you have a farrari with a loose nut behind the wheel, you pretty much end up with a yugo.

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