Dimmers keep dying on me, why?

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  #1  
Old 08-05-05, 09:45 AM
Toddler
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Dimmers keep dying on me, why?

I've got Lutron Glyder 600w dimmers throughout my home. The largest load on one dimmer is nine 65w R30s, which should be fine (65 x 9 = 585). Other than that one, the others have loads of 450w or less.

The problem is that when a light bulb burns out, so does the dimmer. It still controls off/on, but it no longer dims the lights at all. This has happened in several locations using either R30 bulbs or standard soft white bulbs.

I posted this several months ago and never got much of an answer. It was suggested that perhaps the bulbs were bad. Home Depot says that's ridiculous, and I'm not very well equipped to argue with them. But I have to believe that bad bulbs would affect more people than just me. The other suggestion was that the dimmers might have been bad. Well, I keep replacing them and it keeps happening. Again, the same logic...why is this only happening to me? These are bulbs of different types and brands, and dimmers that have been purchased over a period of years now, so it's not explainable by simply one bad production run. The odds of getting bad items time and time again seems about as likely as winning the lottery.

Anyway, I'm back again. Literally any idea is appreciated. I'm about out of things to check and it's driving me nuts.
 
  #2  
Old 08-05-05, 11:06 AM
J
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I would suggest that when a bulb burns out it sometimes draws extra current. Ever notice them go brighter just as they burn out. That could overload the dimmer.
Another thought is that if your line voltage is high the actual wattage will be higher. The dimmer is so close to full load it could actually be overloading.
Buy higher wattage dimmers.
Try a different brand of dimmer.
 
  #3  
Old 08-05-05, 08:08 PM
Toddler
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Yeah, but this has happened twice to a dimmer that's only got a load of two 65w R30 lamps. A 600w Lutron dimmer shouldn't burn out from 130w of load.

I can't believe there's not something else to check? Bad ground? Anything?
 
  #4  
Old 08-05-05, 09:24 PM
J
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I think you missed Joe's point. When the bulb burns out and draws a brief but large amount of current through it, the effective load is much greater. You might try a different brand of bulbs.
 
  #5  
Old 08-06-05, 12:08 AM
Toddler
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Thanks but I didn't miss the point. My point is that 600w-130w= 470w of overhead. So a 65w bulb would have to draw 535w at the moment it burns out just to reach the 600w rated capacity of the dimmers. I understand a small spike occurs, but that would be an 825% increase...that's simply hard to believe.

A different brand of bulbs? This has been happening to me for three years. Philips must have sold hundreds of thousands of these bulbs, and if problems like this were due to bad bulbs, it seems like other people would be having problems, too. But at least it's something to try.

Still, none of this makes sense.
 
  #6  
Old 08-06-05, 12:28 AM
C
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Halogen lamps will wipe out certain types of dimmer - are you using Halogens?

I've found the people at Lutron Customer Service to be very knowlegeable. You might want to give them a call. Their number is 888-LUTRON1.

I hope you'll post again and tell us what you find out.
 
  #7  
Old 08-06-05, 02:45 AM
Toddler
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No, these are just standard incandescent light bulbs. It is happening with 65w R30 floods as well as normal 60w soft white bulbs.

Thanks for the suggestion to call Lutron. I hadn't thought to do that, but I will on Monday.
 
  #8  
Old 08-06-05, 09:20 AM
Toddler
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Well I called Lutron and as I described the problem, they immediately knew what I was talking about. The tech specialist I got said that when a bulb burns out, it creates a short circuit that can pull as much as 2000w, and that will fry any dimmer. I still don't quite get it, as I've had dimmers for years and they've never died on me with any regularity in the past. But maybe I've never had cheap bulbs before. He said long life bulbs don't create the same kind of short circuit when they burn out, and he specifically recommended GE XL bulbs. So that's what I'm going to do.

Thanks to all and especially Cheyenps.
 
  #9  
Old 08-07-05, 09:02 PM
J
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nine 65w R30s, which should be fine (65 x 9 = 585).
One circuit has more than two bulbs on it.
 
  #10  
Old 08-07-05, 10:43 PM
Toddler
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Originally Posted by joed
One circuit has more than two bulbs on it.
Sorry, I'm missing the point you're trying to make. The largest circuit is 9 bulbs, the smallest is 2, and the others are 3-6.
 

Last edited by Toddler; 08-08-05 at 12:14 AM.
  #11  
Old 08-08-05, 09:43 AM
J
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I can't explain the problems on the two circuit. It could be a problem with your power. Dimmers are electronic devices. Perhaps you are having some power spikes.
 
  #12  
Old 08-15-05, 12:17 PM
Toddler
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Well, this makes less sense to me all the time.

I talked to an electrician this weekend, and he had no explanation whatsoever. He did say that:

- When a bulb "burns out" it creates an open circuit, not a short circuit.
- If a short circuit did exist, the breaker would trip (this has never happened).
- Voltage spikes would be killing other devices in my home (also not happening).
- The bulbs and fixtures are all standard and fall well within the limits for the Lutron dimmers I've installed.
- He'd love to charge me money if there was anything to "fix" but there isn't...it's all as it should be.

The Home Depot lighting "expert" also seemed baffled and eventually just walked away with his hands in the air, saying "I've never heard of that before."

All in all, this is incredibly frustrating. I guess I'll just live with replacing dimmers every year or two.
 
  #13  
Old 08-15-05, 12:48 PM
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A "short circuit" is merely a near-zero resistance connection. But there are many situations where you have very low, but not near-zero, resistance. And such situations cause high current, high enough to damage a dimmer. When a bulb burns out, the resistance goes down first (and the bulb very briefly gets brighter), and then the filiment burns through creating an open circuit (and the bulb goes dark). So while the circuit may not be technically shorted, the low resistance may nevertheless create a temporarily high current. And while a high current will eventually trip the breaker, it doesn't necessarily do so instantaneously, and plenty of current can flow for a small time without tripping the breaker before the bulb burns out.

I agree that this is probably not a voltage spike.

Follow Lutron's advice.
 
  #14  
Old 08-15-05, 10:19 PM
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If Lutron's solution is to use different lamps, and they know about the problem already, it tells me that there is a problem with that line of dimmers.

If I'm not mistaken, the Glyder is the least expensive dimmer in the Lutron line. I suspect it doesn't cost quite enough, sad to say.

Prhaps you shuld try a different brand of dimmer, or another style of Lutron dimmer. I've had Lutron Skylark dimmers in my house for 10+ years with no problems - maybe try one of those.
 
  #15  
Old 08-19-05, 12:55 AM
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I've looked at other dimmers, but the Glyder style is what I prefer. It has nothing to do with cost. I'm honestly not sure whether the Glyder is the least expensive dimmer in the Lutron lineup, but I've used them for years as well. It's only in this new house that I've experienced problems, which is what started me down this "what's wrong with my wiring" path. I keep chasing my tail on this one. On the bright side, Home Depot seems fine with giving me credit for these dimmers when they die, so it's mainly just a hassle to replace them periodically.

On a side note, it's frustrating to see the contractor packs of 12 standard 65w BR30 floods for $14, but I'm afraid to buy them now. Instead, Lutron's advice has got me buying the "long life" versions for $4.33/bulb. Isn't the only difference that the "long life" bulbs will theoretically last longer before they burn out? Won't I still run into the same situation eventually?
 
  #16  
Old 08-19-05, 07:48 AM
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Won't I still run into the same situation eventually?
Post back next year and let us know. By then, you'll be the expert on the subject.
 
  #17  
Old 08-20-05, 04:32 AM
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Funny, but maybe my question wasn't understood. Is there anything special about "long life" bulbs that prevents the kind of low resistance, high current, dimmer-damaging situation that you explained in your previous post?
 
  #18  
Old 08-26-05, 08:58 AM
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It is interesting that you mention that this is a new home. Do you mean new as in "just built" or as in "just moved to"?
Either way, it might be wise to test your actual house line voltage. Usually your utility will do that for you, but not always for free (complain a lot). I recall that there is a monitoring tool that provides an ongoing review of the voltage level, probably with a computer interface nowadays. Speaking of which, we all are expected to use special power strips for our computers for this same reason (among others). It seems strange that you are blowing bulbs so often, much less the dimmers too. It doesn't require much of a variance to cause trouble from what I understand, and I know from experience that dimmers are very sensitive to the types of lighting fixtures and the loads.
You should also make sure that each of your switches and fixtures is properly grounded along the complete circuit, all the way to your breaker box (including your breaker layout). Good luck.
 
  #19  
Old 09-01-05, 08:09 AM
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By "new home" I mean that we had it built in 1998 and no one else has ever lived here.

Thanks, I'll call the electric company and try to get them to test my voltage.
 
  #20  
Old 04-10-06, 02:31 AM
Toddler
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Well I thought I'd update the thread with what might have been the problem. I found a wire in the downstairs hall that looked like the jacket was cut by the drywallers. The way all the wires were stuffed in there was hard to tell what was really going on, but there was a short of some sort, and once I taped that wire, all of my problems disappeared. I can't imagine why that would have caused the problems I was experiencing throughout the downstairs, but it seems to be over. If that makes more sense to others, I'd love the brief explanation.
 
 

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