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Help with dimming Halogen Lights

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Brian King, Aug 29, 2001.

  1. Brian King

    Brian King Auditioning

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    I recently purchased a halogen track light kit from Home Depot that is 110 V powered with 3 light heads w/ built in transformers. I want to be able to control these via RF, or IR->RF, for dimming.
    Does anyone know of an inline module that will work with these? I understand there is an X10 module that CLAIMS to work for 110 V Dimming, but I want to know if this is safe for halogen light modules as well.
    Thanks for your help!!!!!
     
  2. Wayne A. Pflughaupt

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    Brian,
    My understanding is that halogen lights require a special dimmer, so make sure any dimmer you chose is suitable for halogen lights. Judging from what I have seen at the hardware stores, it will say on the packaging.
    Regards,
    Wayne A. Pflughaupt
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  3. Rick P.

    Rick P. Stunt Coordinator

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    Brian
    It probably won't work since the built-in transformers are likely magnetic. A 3-wire inductive dimmer might work but if you decide to go that route I suggest carefully monitoring the lights for flicker and the X-10 switch for signs of buzzing or overheating.
    You can get low-voltage light transformers that have a separate 120V dimmer input. These should work fine with a 3-wire X-10 dimmer since there's no load on the module. They are a bit more expensive than the usual ones. The Home Depot stores around here sell them - yours might too.
    Hope this helps,
    Rick
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  4. Leo Kerr

    Leo Kerr Screenwriter

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    Actually, most 12v fixtures currently on the market come with electronic power supplies (rather than magnetic transformers.)
    It is with the electronic power supplies that one must be cautious - magnetic transformers are just about as easy to dim as straight line-voltage incandescents.
    As a correction to a popular misconception...
    HALOGEN LAMPS, BY THEMSELVES, ARE NOT ANY DIFFERENT THAN ANY OTHER INCANDESCENT LAMP. It is only when you talk about LOW VOLTAGE halogen lamps that it becomes a potential issue.
    Sorry for the shouting, but that misconception is one of my recent major pet-peeves. The only thing about halogen lamps that are different from any other lamp is that they operate at a higher temperature (requiring the quartz envelope,) and because of that high temperature, can make the halogen cycle work. (The halogen cycle, FYI, is a magic trick whereby vaporized bits of tungsten will be interfeared with by the bromine or iodine vapor in the atmosphere and be redeposited on the filiment, rather than being deposited on the envelope wall. This helps preserve the integrity of the filiment, as well as slows the darkening of the lamp.)
    Anyway, most modern dimmers and most modern electronic power supplies are compatible with eachother, but it never hurts to check the box. It'll say somewhere if there are restrictions on what type of dimmer can be used with it.
    Leo Kerr
     
  5. AndrewJ

    AndrewJ Auditioning

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    From personal experience I would advise caution when dimming low voltage halogen lights, and make absolutely sure that the dimmer is compatable. I know this to my cost as I fitted low voltage halogen lights in my bathroom that had an integral step down transformer (magnetic) in the can. The dimmer was already installed and had been working fine with my regular lighting. After approx 2 weeks I began to smell burning, and and one by one each of my lights failed. I found that every transformer had fried and was a mess of charred wire. Potentially very dangerous. On checking in the local Home Depot I found that only some of the dimmers state specifically that they are suitable for transformer driven halogens. In my mind that makes all those that make no statement suspect. Be careful.
     
  6. Rick P.

    Rick P. Stunt Coordinator

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    I'm with Andrew on this one.
    Also, if you choose to use X-10 to dim low-voltage lighting stick with a good-quality (Leviton) 3-wire inductive-load dimmer.
    I tried a cheap dimmer awhile ago with some low-voltage lights to see if it would work. It went from 100% to about 70% then cut out altogether. This worked about 5 times before the dimmer fitzed and died. The test was done on my workbench and the switch got pretty warm before it died.
    Rick
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  7. DonnyD

    DonnyD Screenwriter

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    Being a remodeling contractor, I often install various types of lighting. Typically I stay away from halogens simply because of the difficulty of most dimmers to handle this load. Also, I have been told that most halogens are not designed for dimming and when used in a dimming app, the filament will burn out very fast.
    Now that being said, I use a type of halogen and dimmer at my home that works well although I do not know whether it is a tranformer or mag type. On jobs, I use the Smart Remotes (Lowes, HD) on any lights I use and never had a problem. These are about 30 bucks a pop but are really neat.
    Although there are halogens that are designed to dim, an alternative is to change your halogens to incandescent floods/ task lighting and use any dimmer you choose.
    Be sure to read the packaging on all devices/bulbs you use and don't risk a fire.
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