Landscape Lights-Dim/Not working

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Old 07-07-13, 11:58 AM
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Landscape Lights-Dim/Not working

I recently decided to add another spot to my cheapo landscape system. All was working well until I added a 5.5W spot to the system before realizing the transformer was too small. The lights petered out midway through the string leaving about half of the previously bright lamps dark but the new spot on the end of the line worked, albeit weakly. I replaced the transformer with one powerful enough to handle the old system plus the new spot. The first night, the first half of the string worked fine but the other 4 were barely illuminated. The new spot worked fine. The next night, I found the first 4 working, the last 4 dark and the new spot flashing at about 1 second intervals.
Any idea what I'm doing wrong?
Thanks,
Phil
 
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Old 07-07-13, 12:50 PM
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What size cable? How long is the run? Total watts of all lights? Watts of the transformer?
 
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Old 07-07-13, 02:02 PM
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Even with incorrect cable size being used I can't see what the problem would be.
It sounds like it may be a bad splice connection.
A diagram of how it's wired would be helpful.
 
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Old 07-07-13, 02:25 PM
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I'm thinking bad connections as well. Low voltage can not jump across any corrosion or poor connection so good contacts are critical.
 
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Old 07-07-13, 08:16 PM
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I unhooked the 5.5 watt flood at the end of the run and now they work fine. The new transformer is 45 watts and the previous one was only 10. You'd think I could add an additional 5 watts on a 45 watt transformer and have no problem. They are wired with 16 gauge wire coming in and going out of each fixture. They are connected by a screw type fitting that contains a male and female end. The new flood I connected to the end was wired to the last fixture in the chain and does not have a wire coming out of it to connect to another fixture down the line.
 
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Old 07-07-13, 09:16 PM
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#16 is very small for a low voltage AC circuit. I'd suggest you measure the voltage at the end of the run with the lights on to check the voltage drop.
 

Last edited by ray2047; 07-09-13 at 11:14 AM. Reason: Correct typo.
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Old 07-07-13, 09:25 PM
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You need to add up the wattage of the lamps you are using but 45 watts will usually only run four to six lights.
 
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Old 07-08-13, 04:50 AM
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Are you sure the new spot is the proper voltage? A 24-volt lamp on a 12-volt system could cause the symptoms you're describing.
 
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Old 07-08-13, 09:17 AM
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Thanks for the suggestions. I will check those issues tonight. Would the fact that I terminated the run at the last, 5.5 watt light rather than simply clipping it to the run have any effect?
 
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Old 07-08-13, 10:20 AM
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Would the fact that I terminated the run at the last, 5.5 watt light rather than simply clipping it to the run have any effect?
No.

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Old 07-08-13, 07:54 PM
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I checked with the voltmeter and as best I can tell there are about 6 volts at the end of the run but it reads as a fraction which doesn't seem right. I couldn't get a good reading from either the head end or the terminus. I checked the regular AC service and the reading was 120 V so it reads okay on that end but the DC reading seems wonky. Aside from that I checked the length of the run which is about 80 feet beginning to end. It is the original wire which came with the system but I fear it's too puny to carry the load. I checked the wattage of the lamps on the original system and they are putting out a modest .25 watts. That may explain why the 10 watt transformer that came with it was enough to carry the original system but went wonky when I added the 5.5 watt lamp at the end of the run. Switching to the 45 watt transformer may have been the wrong thing to do since the wiring may not be able to handle it. I connected a 16/2 wire to the end of the line to add the 5.5 watt flood. That's when things went squirrelly and the flood started flashing. Attached is a picture the 5.5 watt flood that I disconnected so that the fixtures would behave as in the past. The other photos failed to upload for some reason. But the fixture I added has a different light bulb than the originals which consist of a series of small bulbs attached to a ceramic base. It's a system I bought from Lowe's several years ago that has been discontinued. I'm too cheap to spring for a new set so have been keeping them alive through various heroic efforts. Looks like its time to put them out of their misery.
 
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Old 07-08-13, 08:18 PM
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the fixture I added has a different light bulb than the originals which consist of a series of small bulbs attached to a ceramic base.
Sounds like an LED. You have AC and an LED is usually used on DC.

Eighty feet is way too long for #16.

Are you using a digital or analog multimeter?
 

Last edited by ray2047; 07-08-13 at 09:35 PM.
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Old 07-08-13, 08:51 PM
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Most landscape lighting is AC. If you used the DC function to test for voltage this could explain the "wonky" readings. Check the power supply and make certain the output is either AC or DC and set your meter accordingly.

Many LED lamps are compatible with either AC or DC supply. Voltage supply for some may range from about 8 to 30 volts. Others may be critical to within 1/2 a volt.




Eighty feet is way too long for 80 feet.
Um, you might want to edit this comment, Ray.
 
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Old 07-08-13, 09:36 PM
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Um, you might want to edit this comment, Ray
Thank you, done.

.
 
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Old 07-09-13, 10:26 AM
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Thank you for clarifying my voltage issue. I somehow had the impression the voltage was DC, not AC. It's a digital meter and works fine on the DC setting, based on a test of my 18V hand tool batteries. Shows what I know about electricity. I will go back and remeasure with the right setting.
Attached is a photo of the Malibu transformer-- called an Iron Core 45 watt.
My problem seems to boil down to the wiring. The leads coming out of the old 10 Watt unit which powered the small, .25 watt fixtures, are pretty flimsy. Sounds like I should replace the wiring that was originally installed throughout if I want a consistent power source along the run. Trouble is, the way these cheapies are wired, I'd have to dismantle each fixture and run wires to and from the bulb in order to avoid a short run of inferior wiring.
I will report back tonight on the true voltage/AC.
 
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Old 07-09-13, 11:09 AM
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From: Step 4: Pick Your Cable Strategy | Malibu
On runs over 50 feet or when 10 or more lamps are connected to one line, use 12 gauge cable,
That is two sizes larger than the wire you have. Also you may want to run two shorter legs from your transformer instead of one if the location of the transformer permits. See patterns at above link.
 
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Old 07-09-13, 05:00 PM
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So I used the right setting to measure output (thanks Furd) and found 12.2 volts at the head and 10.9 at the end of the line, 80 feet and 9 fixtures away. I had already disconnected the 5.5 watt spot so that was the measurement at the end of the bare wires. I couldn't find a voltage rating on the spot but it's a Portfolio brand from Lowe's rated at 5.5 watts model SP5000. Do I dump the fixtures which now work fine, though they are pretty dim and forget about adding the spot or figure out some way to make the spot work?
 
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Old 07-09-13, 05:39 PM
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You need larger wire so they won't be so dim. Can't fimd any real specs on that spot light except it is low voltage. I'd try hooking it straight to the power pack with the cable to the lights disconnected to see if it lights up.
 
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