wiring is determining light fixture choice - ?

BreadPuddnOctober 31, 2012


(This question lands somewhere between the wiring and lighting categories.)

I'd like to have a better understanding of a wiring/lighting situation in my 86-year old home.

Many years ago I removed a large track light system installed by the prior owners. It had giant incandescent spotlight bulbs. It worked well, but was too large for my tastes. I replaced it with a low voltage track fixture that took halogen bulbs. Over the years, the individual light fixtures/transformers failed quite often. So, I replaced that system with another - supposedly "better" - brand of low voltage fixture, also halogen bulbs (see pic). It too has had the light fixtures fail more quickly than seems 'normal' - aside from one light, they have a life from as short as 2 months to about 1 year. The track is on a dimmer (not sure if it's a low voltage dimmer - but there is no apparent buzzing which I read is one way to know that it's the 'wrong' kind - ???).

A few months ago an electrician explored the wiring and said that we have a two-wire junction box here, not 3 (the 3rd is a ground wire, yes?), and that I should only buy two-wire fixtures, and ones that don't have transformers on the base of each light (so, no low voltage light), AND, he said just to have a track that is only meant for incandescent bulbs. Phew.

Does this sound kosher? I understand the "no low voltage" part, but it's very difficult to find nice looking line voltage track kits that take incandescent bulbs. Does anyone think that I could just stick with a line voltage but one that uses, say, PAR30 bulbs (halogen, I think)?

As you can see in the pic, the junction box is near a beam, so I have to get the kind of track that allows for flexible placement of the canopy - not the fixed/centered kind.

The wiring is deep inside thick lath and plaster walls, and would be a bear to change out.

Many thanks!

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I didn't see the photo appear, so just in case, here it is (again?).

    Bookmark   October 31, 2012 at 6:50PM
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"we have a two-wire junction box here, not 3 (the 3rd is a ground wire, yes?),"

The third wire is the safety ground.

"and that I should only buy two-wire fixtures, and ones that don't have transformers on the base of each light"

Bovine Scatology.
The thirdd wire is a safety line, and has almost nothing to do with operation of incandescent lights.
It CAN affect the starting of florescent lights (they need the bulb to ground capacitance to strike the arc at start-up especially for tubes less for CFLs).

Every CFL operates with a 2-wire circuit.

The safety ground on low voltage transformers is strictly a safety issue, and some RF noise reduction if the switching frequency has been increased to reduce transformer size.

Dimmers on halogen lights reduce the operating temperature and can shorten bulb life.
A dimmer that does not match the low voltage supply (transformer or electronic) can result in overheating and shorten life or cause immediate failure.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2012 at 11:08AM
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Thank you. I *thought* the explanation I was given sounded a bit 'off', but my own electrical knowledge is too limited to know if things sound right or not.

So, should I just get rid of the dimmer, put in a regular switch, replace the 'dead' transformers/lights, and leave it as-is? It's not the bulbs that are failing fast, but rather the fixtures.

I'm selling the house in a few months and I need to get things straightened out beforehand. I don't want to leave the next person with a fixture that's likely to fail.

Thank you.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2012 at 4:48PM
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If you are selling a switch and some new lights should be good enough to get to closing.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2012 at 4:50PM
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