Track Lighting - Gone Dark

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Old 12-13-09, 11:59 AM
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Track Lighting - Gone Dark

I have basic track lighting with six heads, using GU10 bulbs.

Everything HAD been fine.

Now, none of the lights will light.

Using a circuit tester, it appears that there is full power going to the heads. I've replaced bulbs, and still dark. Additionally, all other fixtures/appliances on the circuit are fine.

This began Tuesday - all lights dead simultaneously. All remain dark.

I'm totally stymied here.
 
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Old 12-13-09, 12:08 PM
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Almost all testers respond to phantom voltage.

I assume we're working at 120v? Use any incand. bulb as a tester.
 
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Old 12-13-09, 12:17 PM
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Thanks for the speedy reply!

Some clarifying questions:

Originally Posted by hesaidshesaid View Post
Almost all testers respond to phantom voltage.
Explain "phantom voltage". I hold the tester in the socket; my wife flips the switch ON - the tester chirps until she flips the switch OFF. So is "phantom" voltage low voltage or no voltage?

Originally Posted by hesaidshesaid View Post
I assume we're working at 120v? Use any incand. bulb as a tester.
Meaning... pull the whole track and wire up another fixture?

(Yes - 120, 121 whatever it takes.)
 
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Old 12-13-09, 12:24 PM
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Originally Posted by rjbinney View Post
Thanks for the speedy reply!

Some clarifying questions:

Explain "phantom voltage". I hold the tester in the socket; my wife flips the switch ON - the tester chirps until she flips the switch OFF. So is "phantom" voltage low voltage or no voltage?

Meaning... pull the whole track and wire up another fixture?

(Yes - 120, 121 whatever it takes.)
Phantom voltage - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Don't pull the track. You have a link to the tester you are using?

Check at what voltage your bulbs run-it's on the bulbs somewhere.
 
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Old 12-13-09, 12:55 PM
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Your beeper tester will tell you have a hot, but will not tell you if you have a neutral. Take out the bulb and test there with a neon tester or a "real" meter.
 
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Old 12-13-09, 12:58 PM
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Yeah, I'm just using one of those non-contact circuit testers - the kind that run off the watch battery and chirp if the wire's hot? That's why I was asking about low vs. no voltage...

Anyway, like I said, there's something happening that correlates with the switch being thrown - if I understand where you're heading, you're thinking it may be a loss of voltage. Interested in what could suddenly cause that.

They are indeed 120V 50W GU10 bulbs.

So, two questions:

1) Even with a drop in voltage, wouldn't they still light, albeit dimly? (After all, isn't that what a dimmer switch does - reduce the amount of power being allowed to the fixture?)

2) I DO have an analog multitester (although I don't know if I have batteries for it). It's been at least 20 years since I've used it effectively. How do I set it and test for voltage on the system? Can I test at one head? Or do I need to go to bare wire?

Thanks for your help.


rjb
 
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Old 12-13-09, 01:37 PM
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What Scott was trying to say is the tester you have will only tell you if you have a hot wire. It will not test to see if the circuit is complete. You may have lost the return path part of the circuit. You would need a tester with 2 leads to test for this.

There is no need for a link to your tester. As you know you cannot use a regular bulb in the GU-10 socket.
 
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Old 12-13-09, 01:57 PM
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Sorry for my ignorance, but if the circuit wasn't complete, it wouldn't matter what position the on/off switch was in, would it?

Besides, I was testing at the head on the fixture, not on the wire itself.

I'm not understanding your response, pcboss... How do you suggest I test?

(And I lied - I have a DIGITAL tester - I don't know where the analog one is!)
 
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Old 12-13-09, 02:15 PM
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The switch only makes or breaks the hot conductor. The return path should be intact at all times.

Check between the 2 pin sockets for the bulb and see what readings you get.
 
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Old 12-13-09, 03:50 PM
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Originally Posted by rjbinney View Post
(And I lied - I have a DIGITAL tester - I don't know where the analog one is!)
You can use the digital one. If you get something less than 100 volts just ignore it. It is likely phantom voltage.
 
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Old 12-14-09, 07:10 AM
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Sorry - had to go buy a 9V battery for the tester.

I'm getting a reading of 98...





(Before someone posts, this is a picture of a 250V... Mine's 120...)
 
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Old 12-14-09, 07:23 AM
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Sure! it had to be close to 100. Is the track metal? Can you take a reading between each pin socket and ground?
 
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Old 12-14-09, 07:37 AM
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98v is right on the cusp of maybe correct for a digital meter. Try the meter in a receptacle to see what you get. If around 120v you know the meter is good. Plug a polarized or grounded extension cord in to a known good receptacle then repeat your voltage measurements first from the narrow blade slot of the extension cord to each lamp contact.One contact should read 120v the other either 0v or 240v. Repeat from the wide slot of the extension cord. One of the lamp contacts should be 0v and one about 120v.
 
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Old 12-14-09, 07:47 AM
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You need to measure between the oblong slots. Be sure to make good contact with the metal contacts. The red is not the proper spot to measure.
 
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Old 12-14-09, 08:09 AM
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Originally Posted by pcboss View Post
You need to measure between the oblong slots. Be sure to make good contact with the metal contacts. The red is not the proper spot to measure.
That's why I put up the picture... I get ZERO if I do both the slots.

I get 121 on a "normal" lamp socket and an extension cord. (Ray - it sounds like you're suggesting I plug my track lighting into an extension cord!?!)
 
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Old 12-14-09, 08:16 AM
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I think what Ray is probably talking about is bringing a known good ground and neutral from another circuit thru the cord so you can verify your measurements.

The long slot is the white conductor. Measure from one of the oblongs to both the long slot and the round ground pin. Repeat for the other oblong slot. If your reading are correct using the cord you have a loose connection somewhere in the circuit.
 
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Old 12-14-09, 08:26 AM
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Double post...

[size=1](And have to fill 25 characters...)[/size]
 
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Old 12-14-09, 08:54 AM
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Ray - it sounds like you're suggesting I plug my track lighting into an extension cord!
No. One probe to the light. One probe to the extension cord. What I am saying is measure from one light contact or track to one slot of the extension cord. If for instance you have a bad neutral at the light and measure from the hot side of the extension cord, narrow slot, to the contact or track that is neutral you would get a less then 100v reading indicating the neutral on the light is bad. Same principle if measuring from the neutral slot, wide slot, of the extension cord to the hot of the light. If the voltage is low you know the hot of the light has a problem.
You use a polarized or grounded extension so you know which slot of the extension cord is hot. If you go back you will see I have listed what voltages to expect. Voltages lower then what I listed indicate a problem. No, you may not be able to tell which contact/track is which by looking at the light but the meter reading will tell you.
 
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Old 12-14-09, 11:10 AM
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I put in a different switch and get a reading of 118...

When I test as suggested:

- NARROW slot of cord, EITHER contact on fixture = BOTH ZERO

- WIDE slot of cord, EITHER contact on fixture = BOTH 118
 
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Old 12-14-09, 11:50 AM
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Sure sounds like you have lost the neutral connection to this fixture. I would start by removing the track feed cover and checking my connections there.
 
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Old 12-14-09, 11:53 AM
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You've lost the "neutral" conductor. It could be in the box the track is wired to or it could be in a box between the track and the circuit breaker panel. You have to start opening things up and look. Do you know what other receptacles or fixed lighting fixtures are on the same circuit?
 
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Old 12-14-09, 11:53 AM
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Originally Posted by rjbinney View Post
I put in a different switch and get a reading of 118...

When I test as suggested:

- NARROW slot of cord, EITHER contact on fixture = BOTH ZERO

- WIDE slot of cord, EITHER contact on fixture = BOTH 118
I assume you mean outlet and not switch. The wide slot on the cord should be your neutral. It appears to me that you may have an open neutral some place. Did you do this test with all the bulbs removed from the fixture? If not, remove bulbs and retest.

ooo...tied with Furd But late with PCboss
 
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Old 12-14-09, 11:59 AM
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Originally Posted by Tolyn Ironhand View Post
I assume you mean outlet and not switch. The wide slot on the cord should be your neutral. It appears to me that you may have an open neutral some place. Did you do this test with all the bulbs removed from the fixture? If not, remove bulbs and retest.

ooo...tied with Furd But late with PCboss
No, I mean "switch". I switched switches.

THEN I did the test.

Am pulling things apart now. I thought I'd mentioned everything else on same circuit is fine.

Any idea how I could "lose the neutral"? After all, it's all internal wiring, and it goes through the ceiling - not a place where the fam spends TOO much time!
 
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Old 12-14-09, 12:06 PM
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It would likely be a bad splice. Like PC said start at the feed for the track and work back from there.
 
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Old 12-14-09, 02:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Tolyn Ironhand View Post
It would likely be a bad splice. Like PC said start at the feed for the track and work back from there.
Well, I tore it all apart, put it back together and it works.

So no explanation for what went wrong, I guess... But it works!

And I learned a little something about diagnostics - so thanks.

rjb
 
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Old 12-14-09, 04:09 PM
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Glad you got. Hope you don't have any more problems but come on back if you do.
 
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Old 12-14-09, 04:11 PM
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You problem unknowingly fixed the problem taking it apart and reconnecting everything. Well done!Beer 4U2
 
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Old 12-14-09, 04:16 PM
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Yes, but as a professional troubleshooter (although not an electrician, obviously!), I really want to know cause.

Ach, well. Time to find out what that noise in my dishwasher is.

So glad to be home for the holidays...
 
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Old 12-14-09, 04:19 PM
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Like we all mentioned above, it sounded like you had a loose/open neutral (the white wire) It was likely a bad splice.
 
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