LED technology has truly advanced since its creation; the light emitted no longer has a sterile glow, but comes in a variety of hues – from 2700k to 5000k. Now that homeowners have a variety of warm and cool white LED options, the urge to convert previously halogen or incandescent landscape lighting to a cost effective solution has reached the masses. The one problem that occasionally creeps up on homeowners is their new LED systems burning out prematurely. Without an explanation, this unfortunate mishap definitely sours the experience. Luckily, premature burn out is completely avoidable! We are here to help you get the full lifetime of your bulbs; here is how you can avoid some of the major pitfalls other DIYers have fallen victim to.
There are three main mishaps or misunderstandings that occur when retrofitting a previously halogen or incandescent outdoor system to LED: lack of voltage adjustment, installing while hot, and improper connections. The first, and most common, has to do with the amount of voltage the transformer is sending down a run of fixtures.
Check the Transformer
The most common conversion error occurs when installers forget to adjust each run on their multi-tap transformer to a 12 volt tap. Since previous halogen and incandescent systems need to account for significant voltage drop, depending on the length of their run and the number of fixtures drawing power, it is common to neglect the original source. Since LED’s draw significantly less power (like 10 times less wattage) the need to account for voltage drop literally disappears. To avoid premature burn out (or stunting your bulbs) be sure to adjust the voltage running through the lines to 12 volts. With just this simple change, you can avoid premature burn out and lengthen the lifetime of of your new LED system.
Less common, but still occurs when some overly confident DIYers install their system while it’s hot. Unfortunately, this could mean shortening the lifespan of your LED bulbs! First, whether your system is grounded or not, it is not safe nor advised to install fixtures or bulbs while power is running through the system. Other than saving yourself from a shocking experience, it is a good idea to retrofit your system without power running through the lines to ensure maximum life of your LED bulbs – so unplug! Aside from keeping the installer safe, there is also a huge risk to each bulb on the run you’d be working on. If the wiring is hot and the installer crosses wires while stripping them, or neglects to cut and splice the wires together, this will stunt every bulb on the run. Not just fixture they were working on! That kind of mistake is costly and frustrating; especially, when homeowners are converting to LED to save money. So avoid stunting your bulbs and an unfortunate shock to the system by turning the power off until the conversion is complete.
This is the mistake that occasionally occurs to even the most conscientious homeowner: bad wire connections. Without the proper wire connections an entire run of fixtures can experience stunting; or worse, the system could potentially fry! It is important to avoid using quick connects because these devices are typically responsible for poor wire connections, ironic we know. To ensure a snug connection that will protect the life of your system and bulbs, cut and strip the wiring (with the power off) with a 3m splice kit, connect the wires with wire nuts, and use a wire containment hub to secure your connections. While this type of installation may take an extra minute it could mean saving tens of thousands of hours of bulb life.
Luckily, with these extra checks homeowners like you can easily retrofit their previous outdoor lighting systems to LED to save a bundle on electrical costs.