Electronic Low Voltage lighting systems

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Old 08-28-07, 12:43 AM
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Electronic Low Voltage lighting systems

I was replacing a dimmer tonight and found when opening the box that the dimmer is actually a dimmer designed to control an Electronic Low Voltage lighting system. (Whoops, I guess I'll be making an exchange!) To me, it looks like just normal halogen lights.

I'm curious where I can learn more about what Electronic Low Voltage lights are and how they work. Almost all searches on the internet simply return product hits for the Lutron ELV dimmers (as opposed to actual information about what ELV lights are or how they work.)

From the little I could find, it seems that there's a transformer involved that reduces the wiring from 120V to something less. But, in my case, where would the transformer be located? The pictures I could find made it look like a huge brick... is that sitting in my wall somewhere? Or is the ELV dimmer itself the transformer which is reducing the voltage?

Any information is appreciated or any resources where I could do more reading. I'm planning on replacing the current 600 Watt ELV single-pole dimmer with a Lutron MIRELV-600.
 
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Old 08-28-07, 09:16 AM
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> From the little I could find, it seems that there's a transformer involved that
> reduces the wiring from 120V to something less.

That's the gist of it; usually 12V or 24V.

> But, in my case, where would the transformer be located?

It should installed in an accessible location, not inside a wall for example. It may not necessarily be easy to access though. If these are kitchen lights, the transformer may be sitting atop one of the upper cabinets or installed in the back of a base cabinet. It could be in the attic or basement. If these are recessed can style lights, the transformer may be integrated into one of the can assemblies in the ceiling.

> The pictures I could find made it look like a huge brick

Depends on the rating, but some are fairly slim.

> Or is the ELV dimmer itself the transformer which is reducing the voltage?

No, the dimmer is not the transformer.
 
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Old 08-28-07, 11:25 AM
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Many low voltage halogen fixtures have the transformers mounted in the 'base' of the fixture (the part against the ceiling). The bricks are usually pretty small (3/4" x 1" x 2"), they often look bigger in the pictures online.

The easiest way to confirm if a fixture is low voltage halogen or line voltage (120v) is to look at the bulb and how the bulb 'plugs in'. The MR-16 bulbs (the small bright ones commonly associated with art galleries and such) will either have 2 straight pins, which would imply 12v, or round pins with knobs on the end - which means 120v. As far as I know, all the lamps with edison screw bases (like a normal light bulb) are all 120V bulbs.

When you buy a dimmer, you'd need to ensure that it supports both resistive loads (which all dimmers do), and electronic loads which are low voltage transformers.
 
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