Re-lamped: Halogen to LED conversions

September 4, 2018 -  By
Before and after lighting shot (Photos: McKay Landscape Lighting)

Before and after The brightness, clarity and consistency of light has improved greatly with LEDs, landscape lighting professionals say, giving clients sharper and more detailed lighting effects. (Photos: McKay Landscape Lighting)

With approximately 95 percent of all new landscape lighting installations being LED, according to Kristoff Byrd, landscape lighting category manager for SiteOne Landscape Supply, LEDs themselves are not necessarily a trend.

“LED is much more efficient, lasts longer and is much easier to install and maintain for a contractor than halogen,” he says. “As LED prices have dropped, more and more, homeowners have been looking to install LEDs in place of the halogens that would fail at least annually, compared to LEDs that can last six to seven years without failing.”

Though LED landscape lighting installations are the norm in 2018, some contractors emphasize the opportunity they see in halogen to LED conversions.

Man installing lighting (Photo: Southern Lights of N.C.)

Southern Lights of N.C. performs one to two halogen to LED conversions per week. (Photo: Southern Lights of N.C.)

At Southern Lights of N.C. in Summerfield, N.C., for example, Pete Bryant and his team were early LED adopters—the company has been 100 percent LED for more than five years. Today, it does one or two halogen to LED conversions per week.

“Initially, adding LED conversions was a trend for us as another revenue stream that helped fill our schedules,” Bryant says. “As we began performing more and more of them, it also became a sales strategy we used to show our clients we were looking out for their best interest—for example, reducing fire hazards, lowering power consumption, saving money and providing a warranty.”

Client conversations have been similar at McKay Landscape Lighting in Omaha, Neb. The company considers itself a late adopter of LED technology.

“We’ve been doing LED for about three years, but last year was the first time we specifically marketed conversions,” says Andrew Coleman, outdoor lighting designer and salesperson. McKay has been in business for 27 years, and it has 2,500 customers on annual service contracts to approach for upgrade opportunities.

Getting the word out about conversions has been successful. McKay has added three to four jobs per month converting halogen systems over to LED.

“It’s much easier to sell an existing customer than to go find a new one,” Coleman says. “They’re already familiar with us, trust us and have an established relationship.”

An easy sell

Most landscape lighting customers quickly understand the benefits of converting from halogen to LED, lighting professionals say.

For example, most LEDs have a five-year manufacturer warranty, Coleman says.

“So, for a lot of our annual service customers who were paying to have their bulbs changed on an annual basis, there is a savings there,” he says, noting there also may be energy savings on a large system. “Instead of hundreds a year in energy cost, you’re talking $20 a year.”

At Southern Lights, a halogen to LED conversion sale is usually triggered by a service call.

“We typically don’t give our clients an option for halogen, especially on systems where we weren’t originally a part of the lighting design or installation,” Bryant says. “There are too many variables that create liability for us as a company to replace halogen lamps without taking voltage and amperage readings everywhere. I don’t want to have to stock halogen lamps and take up room in my service vehicles and storage to carry a lamp that will rarely get used. Our website, social media and direct mail is all branded with marketing materials geared to show our clients, new and old, we offer LED upgrades.”

McKay’s conversion approach has been a marketing campaign directed at annual service customers and also at homes where McKay did the halogen installation years ago but hasn’t maintained an annual contract with the client. It starts with an email, followed by a phone call and then a request for a quote.

“We reached back out to them and said, ‘It’s been awhile since we talked to you about new offerings—would you be interested in discussing LED?’”

Now, Coleman says, part of the message is encouraging customers to plan for conversions.

“We still do a lot of halogen on the service side of things—everyone can’t go to LED right off the bat,” he says. “But we’re not installing halogen systems anymore, and it’s harder and harder to find materials to keep those systems going.”

Service setup

At McKay, conversions can be treated like either a service call or an installation job, depending on the scope.

“If the system is new within the last five years, we know the fixtures are compatible, so it includes bulbs plus a service call fee,” McKay says. “But if it’s older, where there is new wire and transformers, it’s treated more like an install.”

The team removes old fixtures and installs new fixtures with a new connector. They often can reuse all the wire, especially if they installed and have been servicing the system. They offer an option to reuse clients’ old transformers or to upgrade to new ones with astronomical timers.

When Southern Lights does a conversion, it entails a full system check, taking amperage and voltage readings to ensure the proper load, verifying the system is balanced, that each fixture is receiving equal voltage and that proper wire size was run and checking the quality of the fixtures. This check determines whether the team needs to make further upgrades to the system.

Typically, an LED conversion is coupled with a lighting repair or service visit, which falls into a time-and-materials billing structure.

Contractors should keep in mind LED conversions may change their business model a bit. Offering LED upgrades is a great way to increase revenue, but moving away from halogen systems limits maintenance opportunities, Bryant says. Service calls become more spread out and require fewer bulb replacements, which generates less service revenue, but that’s not necessarily a detriment to the business, he says.

“The more confident people become in lighting systems that don’t need consistent lamp replacements, the better low-voltage outdoor lighting looks over some of the other options,” Bryant says.

Coleman says annual service contracts haven’t taken a big hit at McKay.

“People are still busy, and they still want their system maintained,” he says. “We’re still checking the system, cleaning fixtures and checking the timer. The warranty covers the bulb, but we’re still getting a service call out of it.”

When it comes down to it, Bryant says LED conversions have helped his company grow and given him the ability to offer his clients more value, thanks to LED lighting’s versatility, lower power consumption, warranties and ability to run cooler than halogen systems, which reduces fire hazards.

“More times than not, our clients want to expand their systems,” he says. “While performing LED upgrades, you not only are giving your client a product that has a warranty, but you are also reducing the load on the transformer, allowing for more fixtures to be added without having to size up your transformer or purchase another one.”

About the Author:

Marisa Palmieri is an experienced Green Industry editor who's won numerous awards for her coverage of the landscape and golf course markets from the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association (TOCA), the Press Club of Cleveland and the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE). In 2007, ASBPE named her a Young Leader. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism, cum laude, from Ohio University’s Scripps School of Journalism.

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