Line voltage problem or math problem?

Discussion in 'Landscape Lighting' started by Mike & Lucia, May 11, 2006.

  1. Mike & Lucia

    Mike & Lucia LawnSite Member
    Messages: 67

    I'm working on a three transformer installation. Today we put power to two 300 Watt Cast Lighting units. My final readings have me baffled. Here's the particulars:

    Licensed electrician (the client's existing relationship) installed a two separate dedicated lines, switched individually from inside the home with Intermatic EJ500 (Astronomic timers). Both are 118+ volts at the duplex.

    Transformer #1 has 185 watts of lamp plus 240 feet of 12/2 divided over three runs. One on the 12v tap, two on the 13v tap. Actual readings come very close to Cast website voltage calculator. Lamps + wire is about 205 watts total. Calculator says I'll pull 15.4 amps on the common, actual reading is 15.3A.

    Here's the puzzle.... on the primary loop I'm pulling 2.5 amps!!! How can that be? It should be reading about 1.5A on primary. And the box is buzzing. In my experience Cast breakers only buzz when they are about to trip.

    Any ideas? Is my math wrong? Is there a problem in the circuit? Is the Intermatic timer hurting me? After I left I thought I should plug into a nearby unswitched outlet, but I was miles away. I'll go back next week. What else should I be looking for?

    The second transformer has a similar situation... 195 watt of lamp, 14.9 Amps on low voltage side and 2.3 amps on line voltage side. Line voltage pull should be 1/10th the low voltage reading, give or take a point. No? Also buzzing, also 118+ volts, also switched with Intermatic unit.

    I'm open to all ideas. Thanks,

  2. freddyc

    freddyc LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 578

    so your saying that you have about 120 ohms of unwanted or added resistance across each transformer??

    If you actually have 205 watts of power required at the 118 volts you measured, then 1.73 amps is what you should see on the primary side at 100% efficiency. So your saying the transformer efficiency in each situation requires about 0.8 amps or about 55% efficiency from primary to 12 or 13 Volt taps?
  3. steveparrott

    steveparrott LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,276


    It sounds like the line voltage under the transformer load is too low. You mentioned that the voltage at the GFI's was 118 volts – my guess is that this is the voltage with no load. If, under load, the primary voltage is getting near 110v, then the transformer will not function optimally, it will buzz and the amp readings will elevate (v x a = w; with wattage fixed, a drop in voltage will raise amps). The discrepency between secondary and primary amperage will also increase because the transformer's efficiency drops when primary voltage drops too low.

    If voltage drop on the primary is the problem, then the wiring to the GFI may be undersized (we usually recommend at least 10 ga.) or the Intermatic Timer may not be rated for the load and adding resistance to the line.

    Addressing a similar issue, I posted a question on the NEC Code forum about testing equipment that can be used to test GFI's under load. You can read the thread here:
  4. desert night light

    desert night light LawnSite Member
    from AZ
    Messages: 215

    Forget about Cast's MDL boxes and get a Justin/Vista transformer or a frog lights for that matter. You won't go back. Their constant power units will knock your socks off and will compensate for low incoming voltage. Torroidal transformers are not as good as the "old fashioned" coil and core. Don't believe bull crap said any differently.
  5. SamIV

    SamIV LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 324

    I don't visit here as much but I noticed the Hot Shot Kid has changed his user name again to dessert night light and is at it again. Who do you thing you are fooling. Don't let this character get to you steveparrot.

    Sam IV
  6. desert night light

    desert night light LawnSite Member
    from AZ
    Messages: 215

    Stick to the facts and save the personal attacks. the facts is the facts.
  7. steveparrott

    steveparrott LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,276

    To my knowledge, so called "constant power" units do not regulate incoming line voltage. I'd also like to hear if you have any evidence that EI-type transformers are better than toroidals.
  8. desert night light

    desert night light LawnSite Member
    from AZ
    Messages: 215

    I've personally tested MDL's 600 w Torroidal (which is cast's with a cast label on it according to my distributor who was told by MDL) side by side and it is not nearly as powerful as Vista's constant output transformer. All of these claims about efficiency and less voltage drop compared to Vista's are unfair and are just not true. No , it does not regulate incoming voltage, neither does Cast's but it does hold up better under load and it is also more powerful right out of the box. I dare anyone to try for themselves and see the truth. It's bad when a manufacturer makes claims that their equipment is superior to competitors when it isn't true.
  9. steveparrott

    steveparrott LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,276


    I'm tempted to make no reply, but since you accuse us of bad behavior and are besmirching our reputation, I need to respond.

  10. desert night light

    desert night light LawnSite Member
    from AZ
    Messages: 215

    And I'm saying I dispute your findings. Those are not the results I got when I tested two 600w transformers (MDL and Vista) on two seperate projects. In fact on one job,out of the box, I had 14V with 118V incoming without a load on the MDL and 15.4V at the vista. Loaded I had 12.8 and 14.4 respectively at the 15 v tap. Simple put, the transformers I tested did not have nearly the performance of the Vista's. I challenge anyone to take the same test. I have no affiliation with either company. I'm just a regular yard dog who puts in lights time to time. Obviously the info on your website is biased to show your product in a better light then your competition. In this case it's just plain false.

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