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Retrofitting LED Showcase Lighting – Are you up for the challenge?

The year is 2017 and we are well into the 21st century. Is your jewelry showcase lighting still from the 20th century? If it is, don’t feel too bad. You are probably the type of store owner that prefers to stay with what you know will work. Let the other guys try out the new fangled technology and work the bugs out, you say. Well, your wait has paid off. Those early adopter jewelry stores that began using LED lighting inside the showcases around a decade ago could only imagine the quality and performance of lighting available now in 2017 – not to mention the prices have come down. So, now that you’ve decided to get up to date and put in new lighting, you now need to decide if it’s a job you can tackle yourself, or hire a professional. If you are all thumbs around tools I would say it’s best to hire a professional. However, if you’re the kind of guy who’s not afraid to change a switch or light fixture around the house – or you’re a bench jeweler – you are probably qualified to install/retrofit LED lighting into your showcases. Some of the considerations are:

  • How to mount the fixtures

  • Running the wire between the transformer and light

  • Using the existing wire already in the showcase

  • Removing the old florescent/halogen fixture, or

  • Gutting out the old extrusion and retrofit LED inside

  • Using vertical stem mount hardware

If your cases have existing halogen or florescent lighting inside, your options would be to either completely remove the old fixtures, or leave them in and gut them out. The advantage to removing the old fixtures is that the new LED extrusions are much thinner and won’t block as much of the customer’s viewing angle. Also, by sticking the brackets directly to the glass, there is more freedom to adjust the angle of the light without any concern of the old extrusion blocking the light from hitting the back of the showcase. Many times, removing the old fixture simply isn’t an option. Either it would require a partial disassembly of the showcase – then you can’t put it back together – or, maybe the original lighting extrusion was part of the overall design of the showcase in such a way that removing it would make it look to obvious that the showcase was “tampered” with. If you are leaving the old lighting extrusion in the case, you simply need to gut out the old sockets and mounting hardware. I have found that all you need to do this part is a sturdy set of vice grips or pliers, a large flat head screw driver, and a smaller flat head and phillips head screwdriver. Once you have removed all the parts from inside the old extrusion, you need a flat surface on which to mount the brackets.

Our DLX Series showcase lighting has a mounting option where you use small white brackets that you can either stick to glass or metal with double sided tape, or, you can fasten to wood or thin metal/aluminum with a small screw. The screw option is preferable in my opinion since tape doesn’t always hold 100% of the time. If you must use the double sided tape – and many times there is no other choice – there is a good tape sold at Home Depot in the paint department. It is a red colored industrial strength, 10 lbs made by 3M. Make sure you clean the surface you will be sticking the brackets to thoroughly with rubbing alcohol. Also, its best to minimize adjusting the angle of the light once it is mounted since this can sometimes pull the tape loose. Try to pre adjust the angle by putting the brackets on the new LED extrusion before sticking the brackets to the mounting surface. If there is any kind of thin metal running the length of the old extrusion that has a hollow space behind it, you can mount the brackets with a screw. You simply do this by positioning the bracket where you want it, then punch a tiny hole in the metal using a power drill with a small drill bit, and using the bracket as your guide. Once the hole is drilled you screw the bracket to the metal with a power screwdriver.

jewelry showcase installation

If your showcases are the “glass to glass” variety, i.e. the front glass meets with the top glass seamlessly, you would probably want to use our vertical stem mounting hardware. The benefits to this are that you will never have to worry about the tape on the brackets failing and thereby causing the lights to fall. Also, the sleek and unobtrusive extrusion of the new LED system will float across the front of the showcase, showing a very modern and well designed esthetic. If you choose the vertical stem mounts, you need to order the lights pre cut to the proper measurement. The way to give us the proper measurement so we can custom cut your lights, is to focus on the positioning of the round bases. If you want the round bases to touch the side walls in the showcase, then give us the wall to wall measurement. If you would like a small gap between the bases and the side wall – say ¼ inch – then just give us the wall to wall measurement less ½ inch (2x1/4 inch). If the height of the vertical stems needs to be shortened, they can be cut at the time of installation. The precise height of the stems can be further fine tuned using the set screw in the base – allen wrench included.

Once the lights are installed in the showcases, it’s time to wire up the transformers. If the existing system had a florescent ballast or low voltage transformer for halogen, you need to redirect the 120 volt power to the new LED transformers. Make sure you turn the breaker switches off first. With a pair of wire strippers you can cut and strip the wire on the new transformers and wire cap them together with the black and white 120volt wires. The next step is to connect the low voltage wires. The DLX Series showcase lighting will have a 4 foot pig tail pre soldered onto the light. You only need to make the connection of the pig tail coming from the light fixture, to the lead wire coming from the transformer. There is a little piece of plastic that holds the side by side wires of the pig tail in place that may have to be temporarily removed in order to thread the pig tail through a thin down tube or hole. Once it has been threaded through, you can put the small piece back on the pig tail. Now you can connect the low voltage wires together. At this time, flip the breaker switch back to the on position. The light should come on. If it doesn’t, you may need to reverse the polarity. To do this, just take apart the connection between the pig tail from the light and the lead wire from the transformer and turn it over and reconnect it. That should’ve fixed the problem. If not, the next thing is to look at the LED transformer. There should be a little green light that is on. If it isn’t on, your transformer is bad, or the transformer isn’t getting power.

Once you have successfully installed the first showcase the rest of the job should go much smoother. After the first couple of cases you start to hit your stride and figure out ways to make the job faster and easier. Make sure nobody accidentally turns the breaker switch back on while you’re working, and I would definitely invest in a good pair of knee pads. If you have any questions regarding the installation of LED showcase lighting, please don’t hesitate to call us. Also, if you prefer to leave the work to professionals, we can give you an estimate of what it would cost for Eastern Lighting, Inc. to professionally install your new lighting.

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