Problematic Track Lighting


Old 11-24-04, 05:01 AM
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Problematic Track Lighting

I just had an electrician install 2 track lighting systems in our house after doing a bunch of work to replace old (and dangerously spliced) knob & tube wiring with modern wiring.

Unfortunately, we now have 2 problematic lighting systems.

1 - downstairs is a 10 x 8 x 10' "U" shaped setup in the living room. The 10' sections are made up of 8' + live end connector + 2' 3wire track. The 2' section closest to the wall where 90% of the electrical lines that go up into the ceiling are located is buzzing horribly. It's audible over the TV from anywhere in the room. When he initially installed it, his guys put the 90 right angle corner connector that is attached to the 2' section in wrong (or so he says) and there was no power in the 2' section or anywhere past it. Since he corrected that, this buzzing has been there. It seems that if I physically move that 2' section by pressing on it, the buzzing goes away. I should note that the track is attached to a drop ceiling with t-bar clips. What would be a causing for the buzzing? Could the right angle corner or live end connector be damaged? Is it a grounding issue? Is it too close to a bundle of romex lines that head up through the ceiling (it's about 18" from this large bundle of romex). The buzzing is there regardless of the number of heads or their position on the track. The track is line voltage with LV heads w/ transformers on them. This track has an appropriate dimmer (cost $75 for the "right" one according to him).

2 - upstairs in the hallway we have a 10' track also: powered end -> 8' section -> live end connector -> 2' section. Last night we noticed flashing in the hallway. When I ran upstairs the lights were going crazy (there are 2 heads on this track only right now). At the end where the track receives power, the head was a LOT brighter than it should have been and pulsing. At the other end of the track, the light was going from dim to bright really quick like someone was sliding the dimmer up and down. There was also a audible sizzling sound coming from the track. This also has the same dimmer as the downstairs track.

The bill is due on this project, he's $700 over the estimate and I'm very unhappy with the work so far. Can someone give me some possible technical explanations for the buzzing and the haywire track upstairs before I pay this electrician?

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Old 11-26-04, 12:15 AM
Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: Yorba Linda, CA
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Downstairs sounds like vibration of the track. Do the lights work normally otherwise? Tightening the track-to-ceiling connection may slove the problem.

Upstairs sounds a lot like a loose neutral on a multiwire branch circuit. Without going in to a lot of detail, when this happens it is possible that your light fixtures are being fed intermittantly with 240 volts instead of 120. This would explain the very bright lamp, the buzzing and the pulsating.

It could be that you have two-circuit track fed from two different phases and the neutral connection is poor. It could be that the tracks are fed from a circuit with a loose neutral connection upstream. It could be a lot of other things, but it sounds like your fixtures are getting an overvoltage somewhere, and the "sizzling" sound is not a comfort. I would not turn these lights on until the problem is fixed.

The first check I would make would be to put a meter on the track busses and see what the voltage reads when the problems manifest themselves. You'l probably have to use an analog meter to see it - a digital may not react quickly enough. If you're getting over 120 volts, start looking for loose neutrals.

If you get a nice steady 120 volts or less and the lights are still acting strangely, try removing the dimmer from the circuit and see how it works. Dimmer/low voltage combinations can be troublesome. If that seems to fix the problem, you still need to find the source of the "sizzling" sound. I can't see how it would be related to a dimmer, and needs to be resolved before the lights can be used.

Good luck!

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