After the Installation

By Constantine Pergantis, Nite Lights, North Potomac, MD.

There's more to low voltage lighting than selling it and installing it. Maintaining it afterwards is as important for these systems as for any other.

I've recently begun installing low-voltage systems, ten so far. I did my homework and they seem to be working well because I haven't had any call-backs. I thought about offering a service contract for each of these systems, but didn't because I haven't been working with them long enough to know what problems to expect. In addition, I'm not sure how to price such a contract if I offer it. Do you have any suggestions?

The key to any good lighting installation is the effect. Over time your original design will begin to change. There are many causes for this such as growth of the landscaping, debris on the fixtures, burned out lamps, broken fixtures, connections that have deteriorated, etc. Low voltage is ideal for landscaping that constantly changes. As you know, most fixtures have a 2 to 3 foot lead, so to move the fixture around in the general vicinity you won't have to disconnect from the main cable.

Debris will collect on top of well lights, even those with glass covers, and other spots will have mulch and grass clippings collecting on them. Insects are attracted to the light and will die, collecting on and inside the fixtures. Insects love the heat and it's common to find families of insects living inside fixtures.

Of course, lamps do not last forever (even though customers think they should) and need to be replaced ASAP for the system to operate correctly. Broken fixtures are always occurring; either from lawnmower strikes, children, extreme weather, pets, and even wild animals.

Today, many manufacturers use special connectors for the connection of fixtures to the main cable. Some earlier connectors may have gone bad and need to be replaced. Even splice connections using wire nuts will corrode over time and need to be redone.

Most reputable contractors usually install an above average system and will probably give a one year warranty on parts and labor. Most fixture manufacturers have at least a one year warranty and some even longer. In the irrigation industry it is a common practice in colder areas to have service contracts, mostly to open and close the system and check for damage. The landscape lighting system also needs a check-up or two.

To increase your service work you might charge a flat $99 plus materials or charge by the fixture and give two system check-ups during the year. That should cover what's been discussed as well as the occasional cut wire or fixture addition.

8806 Daimler Court, Potomac, Maryland 20854
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