Replacing low-voltage recessed lighting transformer?

wwu123March 27, 2013

Can anyone advise on reparing or replacing a low-voltage recessed can that has apparently failed? It's not the bulb, as I've tried replacing that already, the bulbs are fine. It's not the switch (no dimmer), as the other three cans are fine. I suspect it's the magnetic transformer, but I'm not sure how to access it or how to order a compatible part.

The can is one of about 30 4" low-voltage halogen fixtures installed about five years ago during a full remodel. It's a new-construction housing, an Elco EL1499ICA:
http://www.elcolighting.com/products/4-low-voltage-airtight-ic-housing
There is attic access but the specs show the transfomer and can built into a large metal box. Are the transformers generally designed to be accessible through removing the can? I took the trim off, and there are some screw heads in the can - I don' t know if unscrewing those will loosen the can and access the transformer through the ceiling.

I've had no trouble with the lighting/electrical since the remodel, not even had to replace a single MR16 halogen bulb in five years. But the light on this one started flickering a bit a few months ago, and then just died completely last week.

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brickeyee

"installed about five years ago"

Good luck finding parts.

Many items are made in a single manufacturing run, then never made exactly the same way again.

For smaller items a new unit is often the cheapest option.

It costs almost the same amount (and often more) to stock piece parts for repair, so manufacturers of smaller items do not bother stocking them at all.

Think about buying a car piece by piece.
It would cost far more than the finished car costs (or is worth).

    Bookmark   March 27, 2013 at 3:38PM
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geoffrey_b

Since only one light has failed - that tells you that each lamp has it's own transformer.

You need to go in the attic, and remove the cover from the housing, then you can access the transformer and replace it.

You may have to buy the insulated housing, just for the transformer.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2013 at 4:48PM
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wwu123

Thanks for the replies, but I'm a little confused. I can order an entire EL199ICA online for about $50 + shipping. Should I have an electrician replace the entire assembly, hangar brackets and all, and just reconnect the 2-3 wires to a full new assembly, by attic access?

Or should I just have him replace the transformer after removing the housing cover? Where do I find a matching transformer - from Elco or somewhere else? I don't recall seeing any transformers at any big-box hardware store.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2013 at 7:28PM
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David

It will probably cost the same for an electrician to replace the entire unit or just the transformer.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2013 at 8:19PM
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brickeyee

" I can order an entire EL199ICA online for about $50 + shipping."

Just replace the whole fixture.

Ad maybe order another spare in case another goes bad.

The part you are looking for may well have to come from an electronic supplier like DigiKey, and you likely spend a lot of time (and money if you are paying someone) trying to locate the correct part.

Some things are not worth a manufacturer stocking spare parts.

You may also find that the "transformer" is actually a small AC to DC switching power supply, sometimes known as an 'electronic transformer.'

You could purchase a 120 VAC to 12 VDC, 60 Watt supply from someone like Pegasus lighting for less than $20 and just connect it up in place of whatever is in there now.

This post was edited by brickeyee on Fri, Mar 29, 13 at 16:07

    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 4:02PM
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wwu123

Thanks brickeyee, it seems like with attic access the replacement will be relatively easy.

I'm wondering down the road what happens if one of the downstairs fixtures eventually fails. Sounds like you need to cut open the entire ceiling drywall to gain access...

    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 4:56PM
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brickeyee

" Sounds like you need to cut open the entire ceiling drywall to gain access..."
Most well made cans can be removed from the ceiling side for repair without drywall damage.

You take the light can portion out of the rest of the housing after removing a few screws.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2013 at 11:46AM
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wwu123

Just wanted to report back success here. I did order an EL1499ICA online, although what was shipped was an EL1499ICA-L, noted only on the mfr site as an economy version - but looked dimensionally similar to the original specs. I scheduled to have the electrician do it, less about the electrical than worrying about traversing 20' of attic and accidentally stepping through the ceiling drywall somewhere.

Was very simple 10 minutes for the electrician to swap out the entire housing. Before he came, I did look at the housing and there is no way to remove the rectangular sealed box to just replace the transformer - it's basically riveted shut. He was the original electrician from the remodel - said 1 in a 100 of these fails, no good reason...

I asked about what happens if one of the downstairs transformers fails, given no attic. He did confirm he could also access from the can itself via the ceiling, as brickeyee said, but it just takes more time and effort that way. I did see that removing three screws allows the can to drop out, although it did seem quite a pain to try to unscrew the old transformer from the housing blind (when your hand and screwdriver have reached into the opening). Would be a very challenging DIY attempt.

Replacement housing works great, and learned a few things as a general DIY-er. Thanks, esp brickeyee, for the advice.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 10:25AM
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brickeyee

"there is no way to remove the rectangular sealed box to just replace the transformer - it's basically riveted shut."

Rivets succumb to drills pretty easily.

Many things are NOT designed with serviceability in mind, just lowest manufacturing cost.

For may years bathroom vet fans have had plugs to connect the fan motor to power, and a very small receptacle built into the housing.
They also often had riveted in supports for the fan motor, making changing them that much more work.

I have purchased a new unit, removed the new fan motor (drill out the rivets and unplug it), drilled out rivets in the old unit, and then installed the new fan motor (sometimes after even swapping the fan blades) in the old housing (usually with self taping sheet metal screws and a lock washer) and plugged it in to the small receptacle.

Back up and running with no ceiling damage (beyond maybe some dirty fingerprints I clean up).

This post was edited by brickeyee on Sun, Apr 21, 13 at 14:07

    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 10:40AM
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