Volt Trans installed and volt fixtures

Discussion in 'Landscape Lighting' started by David Gretzmier, Apr 16, 2009.

  1. David Gretzmier

    David Gretzmier LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,646

    Installed the new 1200 watt Volt trans from Landscape Lighting World today and thought I'd give you guys my results.


    1- Nice cabinet, very thick stainless steel, thicker than FX or Nightscaping.
    2- also on the cabinet- 3 exposed keyhole slots on top plus one open slot exposed on bottom of unit makes for easy install on outside wall of home.
    3- decent 6 foot cord for better flexability installing around the outlet. longer than the FX cord I am used to.
    4- Bottom comes as a removed piece with an easy to remove 1 1/4" plastic knock out in center . also 8 additional 1/2 or 3/4 inch stainless knock outs on bottom plate. I used 1 1/2 inch pvc ( grey ) pipe plus adapter for connection. bottom bolts in with supplied 4 self tapping screws.
    5- each common and 12 volt through 22 volt tap has block rather than lug screws. you cannot "miss" the wire.
    6- taps are large enough for around 6 12 guage or 4 10 guage, possibly more for more patient installers.
    7 built in primary loop for clamp meter testing. labeled not to exceed 10 amps. I'm currently at 7 amps with 1 common completely open, 2 full ( 80-85% ) and one other slightly over half full.
    8. good room and interior plug/cord for internal timer.
    9. all taps tested out at +.5 to +.7 volts unloaded and currently +.1 or so loaded. pretty dramatic drop from 0 to 300 watts or so and then held voltage up to the current 800 watts or so.
    10 a chart you can write on to label each wire run and load of commons plus load of primary plus reccomendations for maximum load ( 25 amps ) on secondaries is included on the door.
    11 door removes easily with a lift.
    12 after being on all day with a load varying from 0-65% it was stone cold with an ambient temperature of 65 degrees.

    1-to install a photocell you pretty much have to use thier photocell ( extra ) because of a proprietory photocell plug. I could not go upstream of the plug without disassembling entire trans. I neglected to order one, tried to use an aimable and adjustable shroudable 3 wire photo-cell, No go. I resorted to a external digital astrological timer. Fx, Nightscaping and others let you get to the primary wires to use an aftermarket photo-cell, or it comes pre-installed.
    2-no install literature included. yeah, I know how to wire/install a trans, but then, some folks don't.
    3 If you drop one of the screws used to put the bottom on, it is gone forever. they are tiny and I mean tiny. luckily they included 5 instead of 4, which is nice cause I needed it.
    4 This thing is HEAVY. yes, I know it is a 1200 watt trans, but make sure your mounting screws are in good. off the cuff, this thing is well over 50 , maybe over 60 pounds. isn't torroidial supposed to be lighter than magnetic?

    all in all, the pro's outweighed the cons, and I will put a few more of these out there and report on them on a timely basis for reliability sake.
  2. David Gretzmier

    David Gretzmier LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,646

    also with my order from Landscape lighting world were 2 "top dog" bullet lights .

    Pro's on the spot lights-

    1 supplied shroud is a separate piece, allowing you major( moonlighting) or minor ( glare) shrouding, thumbscrew adjustable without tools.
    2- also on the shroud, it has enough air space between it and the light body to allow water to wash off lens
    3- lens in convex to allow washing, but for some folks this is a con, as convex lenses tend to play with beam spreads on bulbs.
    4-entire body is unscrewable to back plate to get at bulb easily as opposed to trying to dig it out. also, can test voltage with mr-16 bulb in if careful.
    5 threads on above came greased
    6 very thick silicone o-ring on above threads was also greased.
    7 tight silicone at wire exit, but again, con when you need to replace socket.
    8 10 feet of 16 guage wire is more than many supply, but less than some others out there.
    9 Big thumbscrew for adjustable angle without tools, and solid mesh gears .
    10 very good click feel when inserting mr-16. "beryllium copper" socket, but I just like the click feel.
    11 weight with plastic stake and wire is 1 pound 11 ounces on my scale. about 12 ounces less than the 2 pound 8 ounce brass fixtures I use the most ( true, mine does have a brass stake ) , but probably in line with copper FX and other brass fixtures out there. felt very sturdy and yeah, you can run over it with truck and not change the shape. but it will scratch pretty bad if you run over it.
    12 finishes looked great- copper looks like brushed copper ( unclearcoated to my eye) and bronze looks like spun bronze. and made of brass ?
    13 supplied literature is one page, but adequate.
    14 supplied with 20 watt 36 degree Osram bulb, but was ordered without bulb. hey, free is free.
    15 stainless bulb clips are strong, almost too much grip. have to really look to push bulb in.
    16 pricewise in the middle of the road on professional spots.


    1- like any fixture with a longer shroud, it brings attention to the fixture itself. and longer shrouds always seem to diminish floody beam spreads. they should offer a shorter shroud for ground apps.
    2 the thumbscrew for above shroud has about one full turn and 1/4 of threads in shroud. I dropped it more than once, but luckily was able to find it.
    3 plastic stake ( 8 inches ) is just barely adequate, I prefer 9-12 inches to handle kicks from landscape maintenance folks and to allow light to rise above 3 inches plus of mulch.
    4 landscape lighting world is currently showing sale prices on these fixtures but Alan tells me this will go away in a few weeks. The customer currently will know what you pay for fixtures.

    again, pro's out weigh cons and I will put a few of these out there in moonlighting app's and let you know on reliability.
  3. David Gretzmier

    David Gretzmier LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,646

    I also got in a china hat bronze path light and conehead copper path, I'll review them later. 1st impression is very good path.
  4. INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting

    INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,102

    David, exactly what listing was on the sticker of the transformer.

    I.E.: UL - complies with UL standard xxx.x

    It is very important to check these listings. It is not good enough to note that the product carries 'some sort of listing or approval sticker'. You want to ensure that what you are installing has been tested and approved "for the application for which it has been installed"
  5. David Gretzmier

    David Gretzmier LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,646

    James- I know this is important to you, so I'll check when I do final walk through with client today.
  6. David Gretzmier

    David Gretzmier LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,646

    james- It is UL 2108 on the sticker for the trans.
  7. irrig8r

    irrig8r LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,553

    I Googled UL 2108 and found this article. Thirty years, eh? Try 50!

    See the section I highlighted on Landscape Lighting below.

    UL 2108 (apparently) is not about landscape lighting....


    A new Code article covering lighting systems operating at 30V or less will modify some and help standardize other low-voltage lighting designs. Additional requirements, however, apply if wet contact is a factor.

    Low-voltage lighting has been in use for about 30 years, with widely differing acceptance by local inspection authorities due to its ambiguous coverage in the NEC. Now it has its own article, the new Art. 411. Underwriters Laboratories (UL) is now writing a new standard (UL 2108) to cover these systems. When the standard is complete, probably within the year, we will see products listed accordingly.

    There are, however, products available now that are listed and happen to comply with the new article, although not expressly listed to those terms. At present, they are being listed to the general incandescent lamp standard (UL 1571), although when the new standard is finalized, these listings will change over to the new standard. These products are being listed under Art. 725 of the NEC by incorporating power supplies that work under either Class 2 power limitations [by using a listed Class 2 power supply per Sec. 725-41(a)] or power-limited Class 1 circuits meeting the 1000VA, 30V limitations in Sec. 725-21 (a). The requirements in the new article are summarized in Fig. 1.

    The new requirements

    The most important thing to remember about these systems is that they are exactly that, systems. Although these may be assembled (and disassembled) in the field, each of the components will be listed as part of an overall system. Be careful of Sec. 411-6, which imposes a 20A branch-circuit restriction. The restriction applies to what the systems as a whole are connected to, and not to the ratings within a given lighting system.

    These systems use an isolating power supply that must not exceed 30V (42.4Vpk) under any load condition, even while open circuited. The secondary circuits must have some form of current limitation such that the current cannot exceed 25A. Note that this creates an effective power limitation of 750VA (30V x 25A). This is less than the power4imited Class 1 threshold of 1000VA. The restriction is based on practical concerns involved with the desired physical flexibility for these systems; if the current went up above 25A, the wire size would increase to No. 10. Many manufacturers didn't think that was practical. For this reason, the 25A limitation applies even at lower voltages where the resulting VA is lower; at 12V for example, the VA limitation would be (12Vx25A) = 300VA.

    Nevertheless, some manufacturers have been producing listed systems in the range between 750VA and the 1000VA maximum in Sec. 725-21(a), particularly for 24V indoor applications. They have been willing to pay the price in cumbersome conductors for being able to get longer runs, particularly for aisle pathway systems in large movie theaters, for example. Note that at 24V, the VA differential is even greater; 24V x 25A = 600VA.

    It now appears that after the new UL 2108 standard takes effect, these listings will no longer be able to continue. This may have a significant impact on lighting layouts that extend long distances in only one direction. In some cases, it may be possible to center-feed these layouts with multiple circuits originating at a common power supply. Sec. 411-2 clearly allows for this, recognizing one or more circuits originating at the isolating power supply.

    These systems, per Sec. 411-3, must be listed. The listing process will include additional restrictions. For example, if these systems are used outdoors or where wet contact could occur, the voltage limitation becomes 15V maximum, with most systems using 12V as a result. This restriction has been in Art. 725 for Class 2 systems for many years, and now is in the notes for Chapter 9, Table 11. For other applications, the 30V limitation is adequate to assure that there won't be a shock hazard. The other provisions of Art. 411 are primarily designed to prevent fires.

    These systems must not be extended through a wall, unless using conventional wiring as covered in Chapter 3 of the Code. Presumably, this requirement Sec. 411-4(1) is also supposed to apply to a floor penetration, but the only term used is "building wall." This limits the possibility of heat being retained around the conductors. In general, these systems didn't need Chapter 3 wiring methods, having been covered under Art. 725 which, as part of Chapter 7, can supplement or modify the requirements in Chapter 3. Now that the rules are in Art. 411, correlating language probably needs to be included in Sec. 300-1(a).

    The other restriction addresses the possibilities of sparks from short circuits. Although Sec. 411-5(c) allows the use of bare conductors, they must be high enough (7 ft) so that inadvertent bridging between the wires with conductive objects is very unlikely. If they are lower than 7 ft, then they must be specifically listed for this use. There are sophisticated power supplies that shut themselves off if the power demand varies from very close tolerances, and testing laboratories have evaluated them in conjunction with these applications. Otherwise, the conductors for these circuits will be insulated.

    In addition, if these systems are used in hazardous (classified) locations, then they must comply with the usual rules for those locations. Just because these circuits have some degree of power limitation doesn't mean they are inherently safe for these locations. An energy release of just 0.25 mW-sec will ignite a suitable methane-air mixture; this is obviously far below the capability of one of these lighting systems.

    System restrictions

    The circuits supplied by these systems, in addition to having current and voltage limitations, also have important system grounding and insulation limitations to reduce the possibility of fire. The secondary must be fed from an isolating transformer. These transformers have been recognized in Sec. 680-5(a) for many years for use with underwater lighting fixtures in swimming pools, and in Sec. 680-51(a) Ex. for use with fountains. They have a grounded metal barrier between the primary and secondary windings.

    Although there is a grounded barrier, that does not mean that the secondary circuit is grounded, and Sec. 411-5(a) prohibits grounding this circuit. This is a system grounding restriction; that is, you cannot intentionally connect one of the conductors "to earth or to some conducting body that serves in place of the earth," as defined in Art. 100.

    There are important ramifications to this limitation that aren't obvious from reading the new article. Sec. 250-5(a)(1) requires system grounding if the supply transformer of a 50V or lower system is itself supplied from a source exceeding 150V to ground. Therefore, you cannot connect one of these new systems directly to a 277V branch circuit. You would need to first step the 277V circuit down to a 120V grounded system [and it would need grounding, per Sec. 250-5(b)(1)] and then supply the new Art. 411 lighting system.

    The system grounding limitations also affect equipment grounding. Since these systems must fall within the parameters of Class 2 or Class 1 power-limited circuits, for the purposes of the Code, they would fall within the equipment grounding rules in Sec. 250-43(i). That section requires equipment grounding for limited-energy systems if system grounding is required in Part B of Art. 250. As we have seen, these systems cannot be grounded. Therefore, these lighting systems don't require any provisions for equipment grounding.

    Swimming pool lighting

    Sec. 411-4(2) defers to Art. 680 on the use of this lighting within 10 ft of a pool, spa, or fountain. This turns out to be quite complicated. Sec. 680-6(b)(1) generally allows fixtures to be as near as 5 ft to a pool (but no closer unless at least 12 ft above the water level). However, there are additional requirements that apply to fixtures closer than 10 ft. Both Sec. 680-6(b)(2) for lighting in the 5-10 ft zone, and the two exceptions to Sec. 680-6(b)(1) that allow closer distances for existing lighting and for indoor pools 7 1/2 ft or more above the water level require GFCI protection for such fixtures.

    As noted in Fig. 2, GFCI devices as presently listed won't operate on a circuit with two ungrounded conductors. Therefore, these lighting systems are excluded between the 5-ft to the 10-ft radius around a pool unless the fixtures are rigidly attached to a structure at a point at least 5 ft above the maximum water level. They cannot be run at all, even on an existing structure, closer than 5 ft from the pool.

    Nevertheless, we do see these lights used closer to swimming pools. These lights aren't installed under the provisions of Art. 411. This type of lighting operates on Class 2 power-limited circuits evaluated for wet-contact applications. Therefore, you install this type of lighting using listed Class 2 power supplies that typically don't exceed 75VA.

    Landscape lighting

    Another application of limited-energy lighting is in the path and accent lighting commonly used outdoors, as well as indoors in shopping malls, hotel atriums, and similar locations. These systems are listed to another standard entirely (UL 1838, Low Voltage Landscape Lighting Systems), and there are no plans to convert these systems over to the new UL 2108 standard. Because wet contact could be involved, these systems are limited to 15V, and UL already imposes the same 25A limitation as in the new Sec. 411-2. The output of one of these power supplies must never be connected in series or in parallel, and the maximum number and ratings of lighting units must never exceed the quantity specified in the listing and in the accompanying product directions.

    The other issue with these systems is the location of the power supply. Installers need to be aware of the restrictions that come with various markings on these power supplies. For example, the "Outdoor Use Only" power unit cannot be used indoors. Although this seems obvious, we are used to assuming that if something can be used outdoors, it surely must be usable indoors. In this product category, only a power unit marked "Indoor Use Only" or "Indoor/Outdoor Use" (the other two possibilities) can be used indoors.

    The power supplies will be arranged for a Chapter 3 wiring method connection, except outdoor units may be arranged for a cord- and plug-connection. In this case, the receptacle must be arranged to be weatherproof with the cord and plug connected, in accordance with Sec. 410-57(b).

    These landscape lighting systems may also be used to supply submersible fixtures in fountains. In these cases, the transformer will have an isolated secondary to comply with Sec. 680-5(a), as required in Sec. 680-51(a) Ex. of the NEC. The lighting system will be marked "For Use With Submersible Fixtures Or Submersible Pumps." Be careful here! This product category is only for decorative fountains not intended for swimming or wading.

    Note that underwater lighting fixtures intended for use in swimming pools are listed in a different category entirely. These fixtures, even if below 15V, must meet additional requirements. As in the case of Art. 411 systems, this wiring will originate at an isolating transformer. The secondary conductors from this transformer must never enter raceways or other enclosures with other conductors, however, in accordance with Sec. 680-5(c). GFCI protection is not required for these systems.

    In general, however, these systems will be wired in the same way and using the same wiring methods as 120V lighting in the same environment. About the only other difference is that a potted, flush deck box can be used [Sec. 680-21(a)(4) Ex.], instead of the elevated swimming pool junction box required at line voltage. In any case, you must use a fixture listed as one of the forms of "Underwater Lighting Fixture For Swimming Pool." UL reserves the term "submersible" for underwater use in fountains, etc, not swimming pools and spas.
  8. INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting

    INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,102

    Thanks Gregg. My point about listings is affirmed. You should not simply look for a UL, ETL, ARL, or CSA listing sticker on the products you install. In fact, as an installer, it is your responsibility to ensure that the products you install are properly listed for the application. As I understand it, UL2108 is a fine listing, but it is not appropriate for use in 'garden lighting', 'landscape lighting', or LV outdoor lighting systems.

    This is an old fight... going back years. There is a huge amount of info here on listings from the summer and fall of 2007. Or, simply call up your local inspectors and get their interpretation. Ultimately you should befriend these guys and work alongside them.

  9. David Gretzmier

    David Gretzmier LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,646

    After reading the above I went by and double checked the door. It seems as if Volt is trying to adhere to the new UL 2108 talked about above in irrig8r's post. if you read my Number 10 on pro's on the trans above, I mentioned it said to stay at 25amps per secondary. looking back at the door, it mentions this not once but twice. Since that is a key of "systems" aproach in the new 2108, I'm pretty sure that is why they mention it on the Volt label. Talking to Alan on the phone the other day ( to order photo-cell for above unit) , he said the the Volt trans that are 15v and below are on UL 1838, and I think everyone here is OK with that. I googled UL 2108, and I can't find any reference to 30 or 50 years old, but it does mention low voltage lighting first and foremost in the first 4 listings on google. One referance threw me over to UL 1598, and it mentioned excluding trans for Canada, mexico, and US over 15 volts.

    I'll be honest- I think you guys care about this UL stuff way more than I do. I remember the thread last year and all the hullabuloo, and If you are getting inspected your job needs to pass, I get it. I've always installed Nightscaping then FX trans, a few ryco's, and just assumed they are safe.

    doing some curious research I took a look at the malibu and toro trans that are at Home Depot and Lowes- they have plenty of UL labels on them as well. I'm not so sure that a UL label =pro quality. It means it passes. beyond that, I am electing to use common sense after that by examining a trans ability to hold voltage, minimize generating heat, sturdyness and heft, and the overall impression of whether it is constructed in a thoughtful manner to serve the landscape lighting system for a decade or more. This is the same common sense I use when looking at the wire I install, the connectors, and also the fixtures, and all of these non trans items are not UL listed items either.

    Heck, I just went out and looked at my post light and the fixtures beside my garage doors and front door- one still had the UL sticker on it, and what I don't get- this is a 120 volt fixture, and is it sealed? no. There are slots on the top of the fixture to allow heat to escape. any reasonable wind and rain will easily get moisture in there and I can SEE the white ceramic bulb holder and soldered wire connections to said bulb socket with a flashlight through the same slots. these fixtures were installed 2 years ago and work fine.

    So the more research I do , the less I believe that the UL thing should trump common sense. maybe as a gateway type decision, but after that guys, I'm gonna use my brain.
  10. JoeyD

    JoeyD LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,933

    The NEC makes the law, UL makes the money.........

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