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Old 05-03-2011, 03:51 PM   #1
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Default Magnetic low voltage potlights, incandescent dimmer

Yesterday I was sent on a service call to a customer's home. It was the fourth time I have been there for this particular problem but the first time that I've gone there alone. Anyway the back story is, some time less than a year ago my foreman installed eight 4" LV potlights and a dimmer for this guy in a hallway. Every few months a transformer gets cooked so we replace the light under warranty.

Naturally having shelled out $1000 or so the customer was annoyed and asked why it kept occurring. Out of the eight lights probably only two are original to the installation by now. I used to just follow the company line and say "Very sorry sir, I'm not sure why, it sometimes happens". This time with nobody else around I felt comfortable telling him that in reality the company gave him the cheapest made in china garbage lights possible and that the transformer is probably underspec'd for a 50w lamp. I showed him a 2000 series Contrast housing to explain the difference in quality. Needless to say he was unhappy but I had no choice but to replace the crappy made in china light with an identical one I got from the company shop.

I checked the dimmer and found that my foreman had put a $10 Leviton slider dimmer rated incandescent only. I informed the customer that for these lights a magnetic low voltage dimmer should have been installed, and that using the wrong dimmer might be contributing to the transformers being toasted.

So is the wrong dimmer accelerating the death of these already crappy lights or are they just dying from being inherently crappy? I have replaced a pile of these for commercial customers and some were only using 20 or 35w lamps though no dimmer was involved there. Not sure how long those ones were in place before dying.

I told the customer I would probably see him in a few months. In my opinion the lights should all be replaced with line voltage for free but it's not for me to decide. I have no clue why low voltage lights were used as the customer didn't ask for them and the rest of the house has line voltage GU10 lights.
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Old 05-03-2011, 04:14 PM   #2
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If they are low voltage lights then you should be using LV dimmers and this could be the problem. I would have expected failure in the dimmer not the trany biut you never know.

You may have stepped over the line-- if your boss finds out he may be pretty upset IMO, you should have told your boss what your guess was about the problem. Instead you tell his customer that he got cheap crap-- not a good move.
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Old 05-03-2011, 04:19 PM   #3
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A bus just went by,and there's a bloody spot in the road that used to be your foreman.Seriously,I probably would have offered to change the dimmer out for free,on my own time,if he would buy it.That way,you can steal a customer from your company,LOL.
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Old 05-03-2011, 04:55 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dennis Alwon View Post

You may have stepped over the line-- if your boss finds out he may be pretty upset IMO, you should have told your boss what your guess was about the problem. Instead you tell his customer that he got cheap crap-- not a good move.



Well you are right, and I thought about this before telling the customer but I wouldn't have told him so bluntly if I wasn't so frustrated with my company's business practices. I'm looking for a new job but in the mean time I've tried diplomatic solutions which have resulted in nothing except being ignored. For example every paycheque is late, and I repeatedly asked (nicely) for two new fiberglass ladders as the ones I had available to me were damaged and unsafe. I even sent pictures. Nothing happened until I took a sawzall to both of them and made up a story about a safety inspector ordering me to destroy them. The boss tried to give me an aluminum ladder, and I said I would stay home if he did that. The next day he showed up to the site with two brand new Louisville Grade I fiberglass ladders. I am not going to break my neck, for second year apprentice pay, just so someone can save a few pennies.

The other thing that bothers me is the company has a history of doing hack work. One time we did a very posh dentist's office where Isolated Ground receptacles were called for. The boss was convinced that ALL hospital grade receptacles were IG, and therefore didn't buy true IG receps. I installed them like he wanted...regular ground to box and striped ground to receptacle screw, but he simply wouldn't believe me when I told him the ground wouldn't be isolated because of the mounting strap contacting the box. I sure hope the dentist doesn't own a ground isolation monitor.

For this reason I feel the company knowingly screwed the customer, who has used us in the past on a renovation to the banquet hall he owns. I think my foreman knew
he was using the wrong type of dimmer but installed it anyway. He has installed thousands of these lights, and we don't stock this dimmer so he couldn't have accidentally picked it up off a shelf in the shop. He once told me he charged a customer $150 to fix a receptacle box which had no neutral continuity...by connecting the neutral to ground. With a complete serious face he told me "it doesn't matter, neutral and ground are the same thing and I didn't feel like tracing it".
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Old 05-03-2011, 05:14 PM   #5
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Anyway I didn't really want to get into what beefs I have with my company...I was just wondering if an incandescent dimmer was capable of killing a low voltage light, or whether they were likely just dying on their own from being crap.
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Old 05-03-2011, 06:47 PM   #6
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I've seen both. Usually it's the dimmer that bites it, but if the cans are as cheap as you say then it wouldn't seem impossible.
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Old 05-03-2011, 08:54 PM   #7
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Are thee lights using a transfomer for power ? or electronic power supply ?
Transformers do not like running on dimmers and will run much hotter
if they do, this contributes to an early demise, due to heat stress.
Electronic power supplies will handle it better if using correct type of dimmer.
But as always quality also plays a part.
Try using trailing edge dimmer and dimmer compatable
electronic supplies,
And remember better quality is better life.
And happy customer.
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Old 05-03-2011, 09:15 PM   #8
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Vintage Sounds, I've been in an identical situation so I know your frustrated, but that move you made with the customer probably just put you one step closer to being fired. If that's how the owner wants to treat their customers, that's between him and the customer and no amount of effort on your part will ever make your low-ball boss see the light.

If you're going to say things like that be prepared to be let go. Otherwise, suck it up, be quiet, and look twice as hard for a better job.

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Old 05-03-2011, 09:35 PM   #9
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Over the years we have installed literally 100's of magnetic low voltage pot lights. That being said, they have all been either Junos or Lightolier, with color corrected Phillip's bulbs. Most of our installations use dimmers and we have made sure that the dimmers are correct for the fixtures (Lutron DVLV). So far there haven't been any premature failures on either the fixtures or dimmers.

We also have installed many electronic transformer pot lights or track light fixtures. Once again, used the correct dimmer (Lutron DVELV), and no problems.

I agree that a quality installation requires quality product.

It appears that the company used the cheap China fixtures as they probably saved a buck or two.

You are between the proverbial rock and hard place. Protecting your paycheck and protecting the customer's interests. Personally, I agree that you should protect the customer. Just hope you didn't get into too much crap. But I wouldn't be surprised if become #1 on the hit list when it slows down.
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Old 05-03-2011, 10:05 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vintage Sounds
Yesterday I was sent on a service call to a customer's home. It was the fourth time I have been there for this particular problem but the first time that I've gone there alone. Anyway the back story is, some time less than a year ago my foreman installed eight 4" LV potlights and a dimmer for this guy in a hallway. Every few months a transformer gets cooked so we replace the light under warranty.

Naturally having shelled out $1000 or so the customer was annoyed and asked why it kept occurring. Out of the eight lights probably only two are original to the installation by now. I used to just follow the company line and say "Very sorry sir, I'm not sure why, it sometimes happens". This time with nobody else around I felt comfortable telling him that in reality the company gave him the cheapest made in china garbage lights possible and that the transformer is probably underspec'd for a 50w lamp. I showed him a 2000 series Contrast housing to explain the difference in quality. Needless to say he was unhappy but I had no choice but to replace the crappy made in china light with an identical one I got from the company shop.

I checked the dimmer and found that my foreman had put a $10 Leviton slider dimmer rated incandescent only. I informed the customer that for these lights a magnetic low voltage dimmer should have been installed, and that using the wrong dimmer might be contributing to the transformers being toasted.

So is the wrong dimmer accelerating the death of these already crappy lights or are they just dying from being inherently crappy? I have replaced a pile of these for commercial customers and some were only using 20 or 35w lamps though no dimmer was involved there. Not sure how long those ones were in place before dying.

I told the customer I would probably see him in a few months. In my opinion the lights should all be replaced with line voltage for free but it's not for me to decide. I have no clue why low voltage lights were used as the customer didn't ask for them and the rest of the house has line voltage GU10 lights.
I installed about 50 of these ****ty lv lights in my home, I hate them. As of today I purchased line voltage mr 16 bulbs and housing so I can get rid of the humming noise. I bought 18 of them today to start. Never again will I install them.

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Old 05-03-2011, 10:06 PM   #11
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Ill never understand why so many contractors install such cheap crap... I see it all the time...all the time... Im mean ....Is it really worth saving a couple of bucks....or in your case loosing a lot of bucks.. They cheap out with a 10 dollar dimmer when you can get a Lutron maestro for 30... Is it worth it...same goes for cans, exhaust fans...
If I was the customer you can bet your butt I would loose your bosses number .....
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Old 05-24-2011, 06:17 AM   #12
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Hey I guess what you are doing is fair on your path as it is as per the rules and guidelines that after sales service what you are actually doing...
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Old 06-18-2011, 06:30 AM   #13
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I guess this must be completely unfair on the path of the contractor as he is the main person behind all this, specially the electrical engineer involved, he should be made aware of all this stuff and also asked to compensate on the damaged stuff..
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Old 06-18-2011, 11:37 AM   #14
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HD does not sell LV dimmers here so I immediately assume the incorrect dimmer is installed when I see MR16 lamps in someones house.
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Old 06-18-2011, 01:10 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Salvatoreg02 View Post
I installed about 50 of these ****ty lv lights in my home, I hate them. As of today I purchased line voltage mr 16 bulbs and housing so I can get rid of the humming noise. I bought 18 of them today to start. Never again will I install them.

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If you want LV cans that dont hum, USE ELITE!! I have installed thousands of them and have never had to come back to replace one yet for a humming issue. I've had a couple of burned up sockets, but thats it, and you'll get that with any can. In fact, we replaced every LV can at a house on Sunset Blvd, over 300, with elite cans, because the original cans hummed. Never got called back for that issue.
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