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Posts Tagged ‘Low Voltage’

Lighting and LEDs – Part 2

Monday, September 3rd, 2012

In the past LEDs in Minnesota, did not work well, they were very expensive and did not melt snow. The prices have come down over the last two years and for a couple of specific uses are now a useful/viable option.

Downlighting out of trees – A costly and time consuming activity is switching out lights that are mounted high up in trees. By switching the lights to LEDs you can forget about having to replace bulbs for a couple of decades.  The only caveat being that you need to make sure you have a good watertight fixture or you risk water damaging your new expensive LED bulbs.

Path or Area Lights – These often use bi-pin style bulbs and manufacturers now have LEDs that will fit most area lights we use.  The biggest savings with these lights is if a system is designed around using LEDs.  If designed for LEDs, the system can use a smaller transformer and wire size, creating potential saving the customer money on the orignal install and on electricity use of the system.

All this comes with the knowledge that LEDs are a still relatively new technology, and it will take some time to see if they really last decades outdoors.

Winter is Almost Here – Time to Check Your Lighting

Friday, October 21st, 2011

The Minnesota Winter is almost here and soon temperatures will be dropping below zero.  This is your last call for any repairs to your outdoor lighting systems.  Once the ground freezes it is almost impossible to repair broken or cut electrical lines.  The decreasing daylight hours in the winter means you will see your landscape lighting more now than you have all year.  Nothing is quite as frustrating as having your system down all winter long.

While you are thinking about your lighting, when is the last time you changed the bulbs?  The tree lights are going to be near impossible to change once it snows. Any fixture using an MR 16 (see below) should really be changed once a year and fall is the best time. So go to the local hardware store or lighting supplier and get those bulbs changed before it snows.

Soldering Wire Connections in Landscape Lighting

Sunday, August 1st, 2010

Poor wire connections can causes major maintenance headaches for homeowners.  The problem is they usually occur after the warranty for the original work has run out. It is easy to cut corners in landscape lighting, poor design, low quality lamps, poor connections all do not cause major problems for several years after the system is installed. This is why some contractors do not spend extra time ensuring good connections.  In fact many contractors do not offer service plans or even service the lighting systems they install.   Homeowners should always inquire if a contractor will provide a service plan or services landscape lighting systems.  If the answers is no, this should be a cause for concern.  It is from our experience servicing other contractors’ work, that made us decide soldering wire connections provide the highest quality final product.

Splices in landscape lighting can be a serious maintenance hassle years after a system is installed. This is because wire connections in landscape lighting are very important.   Corroded connections can cause improper light temperature and decreased voltage to the fixtures and every time a splice is made you have the potential for a short and extra voltage loss.  Soldering together  wire splices and then inserting the connections in a waterproof grease cap, solves a lot of common service problems.  We believe a well designed lighting system deserves good connections.  Homeowners want a system that does not need constant maintenance and solid connection eliminates some future problems.  If the connections are strong and well waterproofed, the system will last much longer without the need for a major overhaul.  It can cost hundreds of dollars to redo corroded and frayed connections, so why not prevent future headaches?  Soldering together wire splices are worth the extra time and provide a better quality product.

If you have any questions about how we solder wire splices or want some more information please leave a comment below.

Troubleshooting Landscape Lighting – Correct Voltages and Voltage Drop

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

Having discussed identifying and buying the correct replacement lamp in a previous blog, it is necessary to discuss voltages and the effect they can play on the lifespan of bulbs. When a lamp is rated for 12 or 24 volts, this doesn’t mean it actually operates at that voltage.  In fact most 12 volt lamps will last up to 50% longer if they are set at 10.5 to 11 volts.  The opposite is true if you go over 12 volts at the lamp, then the lifespan of the bulb dramatically decreases.  Lowering the voltage saves energy, money, and time spent replacing burnt out bulbs.

The transformer, the box supplying the electricity, has multiple taps at different voltages.  As electricity is transmitted it loses strength over the distance of the wire.  So when it reaches the fixture it may have decreased by 1 volt and the light is only at 11 volts.  The number of fixtures on any individual run from transformer also effects the amount of voltage drop. The more fixtures, the more voltage drop that will occur.  So from our previous example of the one voltage drop for one fixture. Now say we add three more lights to that wire, now the voltage may drop by 2.5 volts, so the voltage will read 9.5.  This means the wire needs more electricity from the transformer so it is upped to 14 volts causing the light fixtures to fall into the 10.5 – 12 volt range we are trying to obtain.

This is where the trouble lies, many home built systems and even some contractor installed systems are not designed properly.   Some contractors installs lighting fixtures on a daisy chain. Which means they lay wire down to the farthest away fixture and then install more fixtures on that line.  The problem with this method is, if it isn’t done properly, the first fixture on the line has too high of voltage and the last fixture too little.  This causes the bulbs to burn out at a much higher rate, blacken and die.  The homeowner then becomes frustrated because it always seems that one fixture is never working or the lights are always burning out.  This is further compounded by the fact that when one light on the chain burns out the rest of the lights instantly have a higher voltage because there is less stress on the system.  When the voltage increases because of the burnt our lamp, it decreases the lifespan of the rest of the lamps because it now is receiving too high of voltage.  This is why it is important to make sure when one light burns out to just replace the rest of the lights on that chain.  If you do not replace all the lamps when the first lamp burns out it becomes a viscous cycle of constantly replacing burnt out lamps.

When performing service at an install that is not our own, this is one of the first things we check.  If the voltages vary too much we cannot guarantee any lamp life for the system.  If possible we will correct these deficiencies or give recommendations to the homeowner for possible solutions.  When we design and install landscape lighting systems, we always ensure the voltage range is correct.