Wire longevity

Discussion in 'Landscape Lighting' started by Ash, Feb 11, 2009.

  1. Ash

    Ash LawnSite Member
    Messages: 4

    I have read and understand the sticky on DIY on here, but after reading several threads and seeing the you guys' friendly nature, I'm going to take a shot in the dark that maybe someone is willing to lend an ear.

    I just moved into a 12-year old place with a nice landscape lighting layout. Very few of the lights, unfortunately, are functional. But I'm sure they were awesome at one time or another -- I'm guessing, because it was a $2000 install even in 1997 (I was lucky enough to find the wiring layout and receipts in some of the documents left in the house).

    Here's my question. I've tested the transformer and it seems to be working without issue, outputting 12-13.5V, depending on whether the switch is on "low" or "high" (as a side note, didn't expect to see an output selection switch on a transformer, but maybe that's pretty normal -- anyhow).

    However, even with the transformer working, I yanked up the first light on the chain and apparently at least a few of the lights are only getting 6-8V (on a clean cut of copper - not a corroded contact). So here's my question: is that a normal, acceptable voltage drop? I'm guessing not. I checked some of the other lights and they are very similar in voltage. I don't know if I should expect the wire to be good after 12 years, although I don't see why not. It does appear to be the "good" stuff, it's labeled Kichler -- I don't know the gauge but I'd guess 12gauge just based on the insulation.

    I had hoped to use the existing buried wire from the pro install and just replace some lights to be back in business, but it's looking like I'm going to have to start from scratch :(

    Any thoughts? Thanks.
  2. klkanders

    klkanders LawnSite Senior Member
    from Midwest
    Messages: 849

    May we get some additional info if possible.
    Do you know brand and wattage size of transformer?
    How many lights are on entire system and what are wattages?
    What type of connections were used from the main line to the fixtures?

    If poor connections were used water has probably wicked into the wire at different points.
    I am guessing with your volt readings and perhaps number of fixtures your transformer isn't up to the task.

    I am sure others will jump in on this. I will check back later as I am off to a late supper.

    Good Luck
  3. TXNSLighting

    TXNSLighting LawnSite Fanatic
    from DFW, TX
    Messages: 6,464

    Yeh we need more info, It doesnt sound like a profesional installation at all...
  4. Ash

    Ash LawnSite Member
    Messages: 4

    Yay for the internet. The receipt wasn't very descriptive (just model numbers) ... but apparently everything in the yard is Kichler.

    Here's the transformer - admittedly it doesn't look this pretty anymore:

    Kichler 15562BK

    on one run is:

    6x Kichler 15084 accent lights, original bulbs were 3x20w, 2x50w, 1x42w
    1x Kichler 15061 spread light, 20w

    on the other run (which I didn't check voltages on)

    2x Kichler 15015 path lights, 24w each
    3x Kichler 15084 accent lights, 20w each

    The rest of the stuff on the receipt looks like wiring, stakes, etc...too cheap to be lights.

    As for the connections to the fix - apparently the pro didn't charge for those, as they aren't listed. I have only pulled up enough wire so far to see two of the connections: one resembles a small ice hockey puck with a screw on top, and the other connection was just buried wirenuts (but not like ones I've seen before - these looked to be sealed, i.e. the opening to insert the wires had some plastic flaps on them so that it wasn't really "open" on that one end.

    Thanks again guys :)
  5. Lite4

    Lite4 LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,173

    Sounds like a bad installation to me. Single tap transformer, daisy chained fixtures, poor wire connections (pierce point). Sorry, but just from what I have heard you describe so far, I would recommend a complete system rewire. The installer was obviously inexperienced and it sounds like you may have some hidden corrossion problems in your wire causing some resistance and increased voltage drop. You are probably going to need to upgrade that transformer to a multi volt variety and have it correctly rewired, (assuming the sockets are not corroded). sorry to be the black cloud.
  6. TXNSLighting

    TXNSLighting LawnSite Fanatic
    from DFW, TX
    Messages: 6,464

    Yeh i agree with Tim, It will need completely redone. The previous homeowner got screwed. when you hire a new Lighting Co check references, and make sure theyre legit...If i were closer id come do it. I believe we have a participant here in arizona...Dont we?
  7. Mark B

    Mark B LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,020

    Hold up guys. He thinks the system was installed back in 97, now think about how many muti tap trannys were out on the market???? I might be wrong, but I don't think there was anyone pushing the "hub system". That was the way it was taught back in the day. I'm sure some of the long time vets will chime in.

    I remember when I started hadco trannys13-14 volts was about all you had. I'm sure there was some other out there, but for me that was all I had. That was back when nightscaping was good.
  8. klkanders

    klkanders LawnSite Senior Member
    from Midwest
    Messages: 849

    Correct. It was a whole different game then. This was a primo system with the Hi/low range and buile in clock! I mean compared to Toro and other systems that were around then also.

    Ash, Only you know what the condition of the fixtures and sockets are. If they were in great shape with little corrosion you could maybe make use of some of them. I doubt it however. We know the Kichler disc connectors (mini hockey pucks) allowed water to wick into the wire. The other connector was a big step up from the disc but depends on if a good connection still exists. IMO all wire and conectors would have to be replaced. The transformer (if still working and holding good time) could be used with new wire and any decent fixtures left. By my calculations and wattages you listed a few less fixtures should have been used and or lower wattage lamps.
    All that being said........Is it worth it to you? If you want to tinker with it yourself to learn...go for it. If a professional system is what you desire........start from scratch.

    Hope all the replies have helped. Let us know what you decide to do or if you have any other questions.

  9. Ash

    Ash LawnSite Member
    Messages: 4

    Definitely a huge help guys. I really appreciate it.

    And you're right Keith, the fixtures were in horrible shape -- two of them literally crumbled to pieces in my hands when I pulled them out of the ground.

    To be honest, in trying to do any fixes myself, it would purely be for the enjoyment and sense of accomplishment rather than simply trying to save a buck on a pro install. That said, if there is indeed an Arizona area member here, I'd be interested in talking to him. I probably couldn't afford a full reinstall right now having just bought the house and still trying to sell an old one (which is why I was trying to salvage some of this stuff) -- but at least getting a quote together and being ready to pull the trigger when the time comes would be awesome.

    Thanks again.

    MAGLIGHTING LawnSite Member
    Messages: 248

    Both Unique and Nightscaping had multi taps back in 97. Start from scratch and install a new system taking advantage of today's advancements. It's only 12 aluminum fixtures and a real bad transformer you'll be tossing out.

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