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Triac issues (lots of them)

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In general, channels stuck at 50% with an INCANDESCENT load attached are dead triacs.  Flickering channels are usually not bad triacs (but could be).  The best thing to test with is a regular old normal 60W incan light bulb.  That eliminates all the variables of LED lights, etc....

 

Here is what we send for troubleshooting a bad channel.  Follow these instructions and see what happens.  If you still have problems, you can always open a trouble ticket, and we can RMA the device.

 

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How odd... it's either a suspicious string of lights or the triac controlling that channel is in the process of going bad. Let's hope it's the first because it's easy to fix.
 
Some quick tests.  Power off the controller and plug a different light load into the stuck channel.  Power up and run your tests again.  We've seen too many lighting products that behave out-of-the-normal because they weren't designed for animation environments.
 
Another trick is to 'reverse the polarity' of the lights.  Where the lights plug into the extension cord or power dongle, turn the light plug around 180 degrees and plug it back in.  AC power is non-polarized but some light strings will act normal again by turning the plug around (we know it makes no sense... but it sometimes works.)
 
One more trick used by the pros is to put a small incandescent light load on the troublesome light channels, usually at the end of the light string.  Typically one incandescent C7 bulb does the trick... LEDs will then take on most of the dimming characteristics of the incandescent.
 
If the problem is still there, let's do a board reset:
 
If it's a 1600 series Generation 1 or 2 (metal enclosure and no LED display inside)), disconnect the power, set the unit ID switches to 0-0, and reapply power.  The status light will blink very fast.  Wait a few seconds, remove power, change the Unit ID switches back to where they were and reapply power.  You've reset the board.  
 
If it's a 1600 series Generation 3 (metal enclosure with LED display inside), disconnect the power, press the up and down buttons simultaneously and reapply power. The display will show '0000.'  Wait a few seconds, release the up and down buttons, the controller will be reset and return to normal operation in about two seconds. 
 
If it's a CTB-16PC series Generation 1 or 2 (plastic enclosure and has a jumper block to the right of the data cable connectors), disconnect the power, remove the jumper next to the data connectors (usually in the second position (or J2)) and reapply power.  The status light will blink very fast.  Wait a few seconds, remove power, replace the jumper on the J2 position and reapply power.  You've reset the board.  Go into the Hardware Utility and make sure the board is assigned to the correct physical location where it was before the reset.  
 
If it's a CTB-16PC series Generation 3 (plastic enclosure and has a jumper block to the left of the data cable connectors), disconnect the power.  On JP3, counting from the left, move the jumper on pins 4 and 5 over one notch to pins 5 and 6.  Reapply power.  The status light will blink very fast.  Wait a few seconds, remove power, move the jumper pack to pins 4 and 5.  Reapply power.  You've reset the board.  Go into the Hardware Utility and make sure the board is assigned to the correct physical location where it was before the reset.  
 
Now, run your tests again.

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Ok Mike,

Have done the above. I have a Gen 1 PC board in plastic box. 4.32v .  The flickering is not all the time. I have just noticed it every once in a while. The other channel, is definitely on at 50%. I reset it and we will see if the flickering comes back. Have a 60 watt bulb on it.

 

We will see how this turns out. I know as generations go forward, sometimes better parts have been found...such as in the Gen 3 board. What opto chip is being used now?

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Just one channel Robert? If so, are we sure that all of your wiring for that channel are good clean and tight at each connection.

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Also, if the flickering channel only occurs when you are playing a sequence you might want to make sure you don’t have a channel config issue in your sequences. Duplicate Unit-Circuit settings between channels (or a main sequence and a background sequence) can cause some strange effects. You can run LOR’s Verifier program to look for issues like that.

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Max-Paul - Just checked...yep. Connections are tight. :-)

 

rwertz - Yep. Been there done that! That is not the case here. I had it on the Hardware LOR module when I saw it flicker. I did a reset and we will let it sit on the bench with this 60watt bulb on it...to see if it will flicker again.

 

Fingers crossed.

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Robert,

 

I have more than enough spare Triacs for Gen2 CTB16PC controllers laying around.  You are welcome to them if you need them.  I'm local to you, we could meet up or I can drop them in the mail if like.

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Uncle Al,

If you could spare ONE...that would be great :-)  Be happy to reimburse you as well. Unfortunately my schedule is kind of crazy this week, even though I am on Winter Break (band director over here in Fayette County School System). If you could mail it...I will send you money back ;-)

 

[adress removed by moderator and sent as a PM to Uncle Al.] Never a good idea to put real addresses or real emails in a public forum.  

 

Thanks so much!!!

Robert

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Hi everyone,

I have two channels that are going to 50%, usually after it rains.  But I've read the posts and here is the kicker; I removed both unit (they are on two separate units) and put them on the bench and the problem disappeared.  But then the next time it rained or got significantly wet, they went to 50% again.  Both channels are all incand. bulbs and have a load of about 2amps each.  I did not try them on the bench again as I had spare channels and during the show did not want to remove the boxes again. I have many controllers, but these two channels are on units that I bought last summer.  No other units have exhibited this type of failure.  Is this the reset issue?  I did open a ticket with LOR and had them send me some triacs.  I will replace this now that the shows are over in order to get ready for next year.  Any comments?

Tom

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Tom, you might want to try the 'reverse the polarity' trick DevMike mentioned in comment #76. I believe it has solved several issues matching your description (but not all of them).

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Thanks rwertz,

I'll give that a try.  I did use different loads (all incond.); no leds were used on either of these channels. As a matter of fact, all channels on both units were incond. lights.  I use a mixture of both leds and incond in my light display, but these units had incond.  I will give that a try. 

Tom

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Wanted to give a update on the cards that I had problems with. Bench tested flip power, checked connection and reset controllers. Nothing cleared so took board out of 8 controllers and sent the to LOR for repairs. Got them back and have installed all 8 this morning and tested and now back at 100% on those cards. Did have to replace one of them while at LOR as two channels could not be repaired but got a great deal and special thanks to LOR and staff for the great work they did in getting them packaged up and back to me. Support is top notch and looking forward to great things from LOR this year. Dan thanks for taking time with me on the phone in getting LOR setup on a stand alone machine. LOR rocks !!

Jeff

Edited by Jeff Messer

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LOR has always been top notch when it comes to support.  I haven't had many problems but when I do, I know I can count on LOR. For me too, Thanks Dan and All at LOR!

Tom

 

Jeff

Did they identify any specific problems or things that we can watch out for? 

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No, Just repair and sent back ready to work. I know I may have caused a couple of them as it rains on the show I let it play. Many times I have found a bad buld setting in water and this is not a good thing. I have at least 6 LOR boxes channels just laying on the ground. I will have spare this year so not to worried now.

Jeff

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Just to add a bit of information about triacs (and in general ALL transistor type power products).

 

The Triac's are NOT, I repeat, NOT, LOR's fault, there are companies in the far-east that make "knock-off" components, yes that's right "Clone" parts, they are sub-standard at best, and unless tested to destruction, there is no way of knowing, the clones are "THAT GOOD" (view wise, NOT electrically wise).

 

Is this LOR's Fault ???? NO, I repeat NO !

 

Suppliers that LOR buy from (including ME and many others,) get product from, in turn the supplier sources the components for us, where THEY (the supplier) gets them from is the issue, heck, even the supplier doesn't know most of the time if it's real or a clone.

 

I've dealt with Triacs and power Transistors for over 40 years, the quality is there, IF, you get the real parts.

 

Greg

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I'm fairly new at understanding all of these issues, but seem to have the same failure issues as others here.  My controller that has problems is a gen 2 unit.  I have a couple of channels that stick on occasionally but reset when the next song begins.  My biggest puzzle is I have about 40 strings of lights that run along the large rocks on the edge of my ditch.  When my show is off, these lights continue to glow dimly.  This is the first year this has happened.  I also had a GFCI that was tripping to this controller, so maybe i do have a path to ground, but that would not explain why these lights are staying on when the power to the show (not the controller)is off.  LOR suggested I try plugging a incandescent bulb in to drain the load.  This seemed to work only for certain strings.  With the show off I plugged in a string to see if it would drain the excess voltage off.  It did but then came right back on when I unplugged the incandescent string.  Now to my limited understanding this seems to indicate that a low level of power is being feed through the triac into the strings of lights.  I tried plugging the incandescents into a tri-tap where the power leg exited the controller, but it was not effective.  The incandescents never lit up, so the power involved is very low.  I don't want to have to put a snubber on every single string. Has anyone else found an effective way to deal with this? 

 

If this is a triac issue, how difficult is replacing a triac for a non-electronic guy like me?

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Have you checked that hot and neutral to the controller are not reversed? Just the current that is allowed to leak without tripping a GFCI can light up a LED string pretty bright.

If that is not it, and you do have a tiny leak through the controller, nothing says for sure that it is the triac, and not contamination on the board. If adding some resistive load helps, I would recommend building a set of phantom load plugs and using them as needed. We have several hundred, as we have 80 channels that simply won't dim correctly without them, another 80 that usually won't dim when wet without them, and other intermittent issues, that usually go away with adding a half watt of resistive load.

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I've read a couple of posts about Triac's and I'm not an electronic type person, but what are Triac's? What happens to the controller and the lights? Is the word Triac short for tracking?Just a short answer if you can.  Thank you.

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In my troubleshooting i discovered that a factory made extension cord had it's wires crossed giving me reversed polarity on that controller.  I replaced the cord with a properly wired extension cord and everything cleared up.

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