Why I want LED Fixtures that I can work on (service)

Why I want LED Fixtures that I can work on (service)

By Mike Gambino

angry manI am writing this blog post as a rebuttal to one that I read earlier this week entitled:

Why I don’t Want LED Fixtures That I Can Work On

Below is the blog article reprinted in it’s entirety. Below the article will be my response to this and why I totally disagree with this author’s opinion.

“The average consumer hasn’t really been exposed to all the LED landscape lighting products that are available in the market today, and you don’t really need to go looking for all of them – there are thousands! — unless you find it interesting. Just listen to me and I’ll give you the enlightenment skinny, so to speak.

In the landscape lighting industry we have three major LED options to choose from. We can use LED lamps in regular outdoor lighting fixtures. I have written in the past about the good and bad when it comes to using LED lamps in the landscape.

There is also the completely potted and sealed LED fixture which encapsulates all the workings and cannot be opened, repaired or manipulated. This is my personal favorite. It is impervious to the outdoor elements. The downside to this fixture is that the designer must know the amount of lumens they need, the desired beam spread and the color of the light that they want for each fixture location. This usually isn’t a problem for the seasoned designer, but can be a big issue for the novice who is still learning the craft of outdoor lighting design.

Last, and possibly least, there is the product that is marketed to us as the “all-in-one fixture.” Manufacturers and distributors claim, “You can just change out the chip to make the fixture brighter.” Or “If something goes wrong, just pop it open and replace the chip board.” Then they give us accessories that allow us to change the beam spread and light color. They promise versatility and flexibility in one fixture – easily managed by the lighting professional. All of this sounds great, right?

WRONG! What we are working with in this case is electronics – we are talking about circuit boards here, not just light bulbs and lenses. If I can get into that light fixture and play with that circuit board, care to guess what else can get into that fixture? The worst enemy of ALL electronic circuit boards: WATER. This is usually condensation but it’s still water.

And what happens when circuit boards get wet? Absolutely – they FAIL.

It does no good to say that your LED chips will last 50,000 hours when your circuit board won’t last a year in the landscape. So far, I have not found a single fixture that allows access into it that has stood up longer than a year. Not a single one. I did try them, I promise. I have had to replace every one of them at least once, and I’m scared of what will happen to those that are still out there. I’m sure I’ll have to replace those as well in the near future, but I assure you, it won’t be with the same product. It will be with a completely sealed and potted fixture that I can’t “fix” if something goes wrong with it (which rarely happens). Then, if something does go wrong with that sealed fixture, I just pull it out and replace it with a brand new model. I don’t leave the old fixture there and just replace a part that is going to FAIL AGAIN as soon as it gets a little moisture in the fixture again.

So, when your lighting contractor suggests, “This fixture is great because I can manipulate it like this or that,” then duck for cover. Insist that the contractor either use high quality LED lamps which are designed and tested to be used in outdoor lighting fixtures and have a warranty which reflects that; or they use a completely sealed and potted LED fixture with a long full replacement warranty. Don’t settle for anything less. You’re paying for high quality LED products and you deserve just that and nothing else.”

First of all it is obvious that this author is not experiencing problems with the LED’s themselves as much as the fixtures he’s using which will not remain dry. He claims that he hasn’t gotten more than 1 year out of any of the LED’s that he’s installed in fixtures that are not 100% sealed off and do not have an option to change out LED’s and must be disposed of when it fails. This is in sharp contrast to a statement he made in a blog post on the same website dated August 31 2010 just over 3 years ago.

The manufacturers that we purchase from have backed their products with warrantees that prove their commitment to their products and therefore, we know that the products that we are installing are of the highest quality.  This way we can say with confidence that these products,though they cost more up front, will actually save our clients money over the long term. The answer is this, we have found very good LED products that we truly believe in. We have had a few fixtures that didn’t work but the manufacturer took care of it and we’ve had a LOT more issues with halogen lamps over the years than we have with the LED products that we’ve been installing.”

So it seems this author is seriously contradicting himself in his statements. So what is the truth here in regards to the LED lamps that he now claims in the current article that won’t last more than a year and the previous e-mail which claims the LED’s that they are installing are of the highest quality.

Halogen lamps are no different than LED lamps in that they must remain dry if they are to perform and last over time. Albeit , halogen lamps are a bit more forgiving then LED’s when in comes to moisture nonetheless they both must remain dry in order to be effective.

Not only is the bloggers information in regard to the type of LED fixture to use inaccurate and irresponsible  but it’s downright self serving to himself and the manufacturer of the fixtures he uses. In essence he is saying that 95% of the industry is wrong and he and his product manufacturer are right.

After all, what is the primary purpose of LED’s? They are for energy savings, long life, environmentally sound and responsible practice and sustainability. Recommending the removal of complete fixtures and tossing them in the trash and replacing them with new isn’t inline with any of those benefits.

In the same article in 2010 this author takes to task fellow colleagues for not jumping on the LED bandwagon when they clearly were not ready for use.

“Others are sitting back and waiting for this technology to be “proven over time”.  Here’s the problem with that, while their waiting, their clients are paying more for lamps, service and energy.  The contractor isn’t loosing anything (right now) while waiting.  The end customer however is paying plenty for that contractor to come out each year and replace burned out lamps.  The customer is the one paying 75% more for electricity to operate those lights as well.

We would rather go ahead and trust in the technology and our manufacturers who we have been doing business with for years.  We’ve sold their other products for years and have never had a warranty issue, why would we think differently now?”

It appears you made the wrong choice then and maybe shouldn’t have been so fast to blindly trust in the technology which was totally unproven at that time. Hopefully you also learned a lesson to trust yet verify first when it comes to experimenting on a client’s property which is something we never do.

We were one of those who were criticized in that article and “sat back” and waited until LED’s were proven over time. That patience has served us very well as we have not suffered the same failures as this blogger is experiencing with his LED’s. In fact just the opposite as our fixtures which are not 100% completely sealed off and are serviceable with replaceable parts (fixtures that this blogger strongly recommends against) have been proven unbelievably successful in housing the LED bulbs and modules which we install inside them. 

In fact we will choose our serviceable, adjustable built to last a lifetime solid brass and copper fixtures against the authors light duty die casted aluminum light duty fixtures completely sealed off and un serviceable which must be thrown away upon failure any day of the week.  

fakeIt should also be noted that all of my blog posts are written during off business hours as I am in the field actually installing products and in touch with what is going on at actual project sites 6 days a week. I take offense to posers who dispense poor information, only to suit their own agenda or the agenda of the product manufacturers they represent and claim to be the consumers guide to landscape lighting.

Also Gambino landscape lighting does not accept free “award” vacations to exotic locations, dinners, drinks, fishing trips etc. from manufacturers or vendors as reward for purchasing products with the cost of said spiffs built into products purchased and ultimately paid for by our clients.

Perhaps as a consumer purchasing landscaping lighting system equipment through a designer builder. It might be a good idea to ask  if your dollars will be subsidizing these “loyalty or volume purchaser programs” that result  in these benefits to the builder at your expense.

This landscape lighting blog is published by Mike Gambino of Gambino landscape lighting inc. all rights reserved. Mike is a professional landscape lighting system designer/ builder and has been designing, installing and maintaining landscape lighting systems for more than 20 years. Mike resides in the Los Angeles area with his wife and 2 sons. To visit his website go to www.gambinolighting.com . To inquire about hiring Mike please  click here .

Blog articles may be published with permission on other websites without editing or removing links.




  • Mark Carlson
    Posted at 00:49h, 27 October Reply

    Mike…I am so glad you posted this article, because I too wrote about this problem after seeing the same thing. I am so thankful for guys look yourself who are willing to state their views and stand up against this kind of poor behavior towards our industry.

    What a shame it is that this blogger is trying to inject this kind of information, not only to the public but to the trade. You were absolutely right about your assessment on his practices.

  • Mike Gambino
    Posted at 15:17h, 27 October Reply

    Mark it’s time others like yourself in this industry speak up and speak out about the false information that gets spread throughout this industry with the intent to favor one’s product or philosophy. Unfortunately this is not the first and probably won’t be the last time we see this underhanded unethical behavior.

Post A Comment