lights wont come on

Discussion in 'Landscape Lighting' started by Birchwood, Aug 18, 2012.

  1. Birchwood

    Birchwood LawnSite Member
    Messages: 218

    I am wondering if anyone can help out here?

    I have a 4-5 year old system I am servicing, that I didn't install. This section that I am still having trouble with was on a transformer far away from the house around 150 feet and is around 220 watts on 12 ga wire. Well it stopped working one day, after the property was mulched, cut line probably?

    So instead of looking for the cut or running a new line the home owner had a extra 600w kitchler transformer and wanted to add some lights so I powered up at the pool house right by all the lighting. Light wise everything works and is balanced. My problem is I can't get them to turn on. I am on my third timer one of which is out of my own system so I know it works.

    Timers are keeping time and when rotated turn on and off, but won't come on at night, I am going to try to make it out there tonight as they should be going on a see what is happening.

    Any ideas?
  2. S&MLL

    S&MLL LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 751

    Going to look past the first 3/4 of your post. But just a general rule of thumb you dont want to exceed 180watts on 12gauge wire.

    But is your transformer working? Does everything turn on with out the timer plugged in? Do you have the pins in the correct spots?
  3. The Lighting Geek

    The Lighting Geek LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 886

    we really need more info. What size transformer do have that home run on?
    Electrical code states you cannot use more than 80% of any device including wire. A 12/2 wire is limited to 192 watts, so there is possibly a different problem as well.

    IF you are using Malibu or Intermatic transformers (black) with the timers built in, then it is much more difficult to diagnose. Those transformers are built to fail, the timer go out all the time.

    If you are going to do repair, you should invest in a wire locator, we use one from Armada Technologies. It will cut down repair time and you can charge for its use.
  4. Viewpoint

    Viewpoint LawnSite Member
    Messages: 79


    I'll assume you have a volt meter/amp clamp, otherwise you cannot troubleshoot this system.

    Check to see you have power at the primary (120v side) inside the transformer.

    Then, check at the secondary when the transformer is on (at the common/hot tap). If no juice, the problem is in the transformer (breaker tripped or bad, photocell loop not plugged in, etc.)

    If you have power at the secondary side of the transformer but no lights, the issue is in the wiring between the transformer and the first light (assuming the first light is not coming on.) Without a wire tracer, you'll just have to pull it up in a few spots and check voltage to determine where it stops. Use your probes on the volt meter to poke through the insulation to get a reading. Start at the first light, then go to half way between the 1st light and transformer and check there. If you have power there, the problem is downstream. If not, it's upstream (towards the transformer).

    Other than this, you'll need to post more info on what is and is not happening, and where you do/don't have power along the power path from the outlet to the light.
  5. starry night

    starry night LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,128

    Guys, I'm not reading the same problem as the rest of you. He says that now with a Kichler transformer (not Malibu) the lights come on OK but his analog timers are not working automatically. He can turn the dial and the lights cycle on and off but the dial apparently doesn't rotate on its own. This happens even with a timer of "his own" that he knows works elsewhere except in this transformer. I wish he would clarify with more details.
  6. Birchwood

    Birchwood LawnSite Member
    Messages: 218

    Thanks for all of the responses.

    Starry night, thanks for confirming my thoughts, I thought I was pretty clear with my original post. Light wise everything works even to the point where I am able to check my voltages. Power during the day but not at night. Seamed to be the orginal problem.

    Went out there tonight to see what the problem was. Problem is the homeowner goes to bed a little too early!

    3 existing transformers/ timers on the property, I originally opened up one of them check the time and saw it was set for 9-12pm, so I set the new one for the same. I pulled up this evening at about 8:15 and noticed most of the house was on, so I looked at those timers 8 to 12. So I changed the others to the same time and all should be good.

    What a mistake! Once again thanks for the help.

    As for tools I use a multi meter and volt meter. But the lighting geek suggested something for finding a broken line? Is that correct.
  7. RLI Electric

    RLI Electric LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 381

    Is it possible the outlet the transformer is plugged into is switched inside the house? A switch that no one knows what it does? Maybe I am not understanding the problem. When you are there everything works ok but when you leave the lights won't come on?
  8. starry night

    starry night LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,128

    Birchwood, You should try to sell the homeowner on astronomic timers.
    Days are getting shorter already and soon all the existing timers will have to be reset. Astronomic timers that continually reset themselves are very convenient.
  9. RLI Electric

    RLI Electric LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 381

    Oops, sorry Birchwood. Your last post did not show up on my screen. Nevermind my response.
  10. Birchwood

    Birchwood LawnSite Member
    Messages: 218

    No I was orriginally thinking the same thing maybe its on a switch or a timmer because it is attached to the pool house.

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