Monday, April 16, 2012

Let there be light, part 3

In addition to the problem with the living room lights, we had a problem with our kitchen lights, as I mentioned in the last post. In California, Title 24 mandates that a certain percentage of your lighting be fluorescents. As a result, most of the lights in our kitchen are fluorescents. The choices for nice-looking modern fluorescent fixtures are limited. We also wanted dimmable lights, and dimmable fixtures that would work with our GrafikEye system. There were only a few possibilities that fit the bill, and we had selected the Artemide Ventanas.

Within a year, we had some problems with a couple of the fixtures in the kitchen. The lights started to flicker in the way that fluorescents do when they're burning out. The problem turned out to be bad Lutron ballasts. I contacted Lutron, and they sent me replacements which I was able to install myself. This worked for a while, but last year, another light started flickering. Replacing the bulb did no good. So we simply programmed the lights out of the lighting system. This was inconvenient, as the other lights we had in the kitchen simply didn't provide enough light. (Yes, they were supposed to be functional as well as pretty!)

We got our electrician to come out, and he determined that the central GrafikEye dimming module that drives these fixtures was bad. He gave us a number of choices, of which, the easiest was to simply convert the fixtures to non-dimmable fixtures, and swap out the dimming module. I'll settle for reliability every day! Today he came to replace the remaining part, and within an hour, our kitchen lights were working, good as new! It's nice to have a well-lit house again!

Postscript: Last week one of our under-counter fluorescent bulbs burned out (after four years). Once we replace that lamp, all lights will be fully operational! Hopefully they will stay that way for a while.

Let there be light, part 2

As you may recall, we installed a fancy-schmancy lighting system in our house. The kitchen and living room lights are split into zones which are all controlled by a lighting system by Lutron, called GrafikEye. We installed 24 Lightolier halogen track lights in the living room (split into 5 zones), and four very nice dimmable Artemide fluorescent fixtures in the kitchen (among others).

Within a year, quite a few of the Lightolier lights had burned out. Our ceilings are quite high, and it wasn't practical to get up there every time a bulb went, so we waited a while before we tried to replace one. (With 24 fixtures, there is some redundancy!)

When we finally took one down and replaced the bulb, we discovered the light still didn't work. It was a faulty fixture!

Last summer I contacted Philips, the maker of Lightolier, about my problem with the fixtures. It turned out that this particular batch of fixtures had defective heat sinks. They offered to repair them and return them. So we took eight of them down (not wanting to be in complete darkness), and shipped them back to Philips. Several weeks later, repaired fixtures came back. (Yes, they were the same fixtures, but with different heat sinks, because I'd marked them all just to make sure.)

In parallel with that, we decided to switch the lamps out from halogen to LED. Having very hot halogens next to a wood ceiling is probably a bad idea in general (as the discolorations due to heat from the bad fixtures attests).  I put a test LED lamp in one of the repaired fixtures, and put it side by side with a halogen lamp, and waited a couple of days to see how I liked the light the LED lamp produced. It was a good thing I waited, because within a day, one of the repaired fixtures stopped working.

At that point, I contacted Philips and asked them to send me new replacement fixtures for all 24 of my lights. Unfortunately, the fixtures were not in stock, so it took a couple of months for them to arrive. Working with a local distributor, who was very very helpful, I finally received the fixtures two weeks ago. In the meantime, I had ordered 24 LED lamps from

Last week, our electrician came out and replaced all the bad fixtures with the new ones with LED bulbs. As they're track lights this is of course something that we could do ourselves, but it's better to have 20-somethings up on the high ladders replacing them than a couple of middle aged folks with breakable bones. The money was well spent! Now, for the first time in two years, our living room is fully lit once again! Hopefully we'll have no more problems with these lights. I'll detail the kitchen light saga in my next post.