Jump to content
Light-O-Rama Forums
Klayfish

Fire! Help, what did I do wrong?

Recommended Posts

One of my controllers burned.  I only have two, so my show is essentially ruined.  Right now, I'm pretty upset, I worked 9 months on this and it literally went up in smoke in less than a week.

 

Clearly, this was related to water, but I need help figuring out what I did wrong.  Here are pictures.  There in the same album as other Christmas pictures I took, so sorry if you have to dig a little.  They're at the end.  Here's one.  This appears to be the origin of the fire.  The burned areas are near channels 9 and 10.  They were connected to a "mini mega" tree.  It's a 5' PVC pipe with strands of incans attached like a megatree.  It rained all day yesterday.  My GFIs tripped, but they always did last year too in the rain.  Last year it was because of the tomato cages and I asked on the forum and most people said they had similar challenges.  Before resetting my GFI, I checked the connections to make sure they weren't sitting in water, and they weren't.  I should have opened the box too.  I pushed the GFI, which was 75' from the box and was looking at something else.  Suddenly I smelled smoke and saw it coming out of the controller.  Right now, I'm not sure what to think.  Partly frustrated, mad at myself, upset.  Guess I'll have to hope LOR has a controller in stock and get me a new one post haste.  But I don't want this to happen again.  Thoughts?

 

http://s1197.photobucket.com/user/Klayfish/library/Christmas%202013

 

P1030344_zpsc7889c51.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Could have cooked some bacon on that one!  :wacko:  LOR has a great 1yr warranty,  not sure what will happen for your case though.  Good luck!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Man that truly had a hot flame.  It's odd the fuses didn't blow before ignition.  Because of the condition of the PCBA and associated components, it's difficult to identify any one component causing the condition experienced.  My only thoughts are; water entered your enclosure but you didn't mention any wetness inside the case when opened or your vampire connectors had water shorting connections.  You might ohm out your extension cords connected to your the connectors associated with the circuits burned for any shorts. Maybe water got into your vampire connectors to cause this condition since your picture showed them laying on the grass.   When it rains, I leave my lights off until things dry out just for safety reasons.

 

Sorry for your controller loss.

Jim

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, clearly a major oversight.  Now that I think about it more, last year I had the controller (I only had one) sitting on top of a tupperware box, which held the connections off the ground.  I'll double check my vampire plugs, but am pretty sure they're all in good shape.  I didn't open the control box before resetting my GFI, but obviously should have.  I checked all the connections to make sure they weren't sitting in water.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hmmmm. I run my show in the rain all the time....I live in Oregon and when is it not raining?

My controllers are mounted upright on the wall of my house, about 4 ft high or more....chest level. So my controller with its door closed should stay dry and my connections are not in the water there...but the connection points in the yard are on the grass.

My DC elements have waterproof connections but my AC are just extension cords.

I am monitoring my power out. Over current was my concern. One element is 120 watts...Incan rope light train...but most are less than 100 watts. How much power are you pulling on those 2 lines? It could be an over current situation.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Looks like a high resistance connection may have caused that fire.   I don't think it was over current.. The fuse would have blown for sure and not so sure it was water either..

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Cal LOR about it. They may well want that back to do a post mortem on it. As mentioned they are very customer service orientated. Having a customer's controller is bad for customer service. My guess is they will want to know what happened.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

if when it was assembled at the factory if they slide one of the 1/4" spade connectors on so the male went between the sleeve and the female connector, that would cause just what you see with long periods of high current usage. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I always check my controllers AFTER it rains now.  I had one that I thought was closed completely a year ago {and I didn't check them then}, but it wasn't, and it got really soaked and very wet inside.   I had opened it to check connections BEFORE it had rained and didn't close the box completely, locked it with a lock, but forgot to screw in the lids locking screw, which would have secured and sealed the box from the rain.

 

When the show started it didn't catch fire {fortunately!}, but it did blow one triac on Channel 3, and after that, that channel would no longer turn off, and the other channels were on dimly all the time and would not work as they were supposed too.  

 

I figured it was a total loss, but after a few questions here on the forums, I unplugged it, used a blow dryer on low setting and dried out controller as directed, reconnected it and 15 of the 16 channels worked as they were supposed too, just channel 3 was a total loss.. 

 

And fortunately I didn't have a fire, unlike yours that went up in smoke and flames.    

 

Have no idea why your controller would have flamed up like that, woould have figured as soon as you flipped the GFCI back on, it would have possibly sensed something like that, and then tripped back off before a fire would have ensued.    So this one is puzzling to me as to why it happened in the first place.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I didn't measure the watts it was drawing, but I measured the amps.  Each channel had 2-4 incan strings on them.  The area where the fire appears to have started was channel 9 and 10.  Those each had 4 incan strings on them, so it wasn't a heavy load. 

 

Plasma, can you tell me more about a high resistance connection?  I assembled the controller.  No soldering, just plugging everything in.  I'm pretty sure I had everything plugged in where it should have been, I checked it several times to make sure I was doing it right.  Possible I didn't????

 

The GFI did trip again after I reset it, maybe 5 seconds later.  I reset it, and was looking at something else as I stood where it was.  I heard the GFI click off again and thought "WTF??"  So I started following the cord toward my control box when I smelled the unmistakable smell of burning wire and plastic.  I looked up and saw smoke coming out of the box.  Fire was already out, so it didn't last long.  Maybe 15-20 seconds??

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

From what you have said. I believe you had your controller laying on the ground. This I would never do. Yes I am sure that there are those who do every year, for years and have had no problem. But then too, ask the guy who had escargot and a hole burnt through his board. I noticed that you have a hole burnt through your board on the lower edge. And I have to ask, what is all of that fiberous stuff in the first picture near the I.C. and connector? Might of fact what is all of that stuff all over your board? Is it possible that you fried a small critter? Your grass is still green. Makes me wonder more if some small critter made it into your box cause it was warm. I highly doubt it was water in the vampire connector unless it too is slagged. The problem is on the board and I would start with where it got hot enough to burn through the board.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think Max-Paul is correct, I think you "fricaseed"{sp?} a small critter, possibly like a lizard in there.  I had one get fried in one of my controllers a few years back, fortunately he only got fried to a crispy critter and no shorts or  fire ensued.{thank the stars!}

 

So now I prevent any critters from climbing into my controllers via the cat5 entrance/exit. 

 

I buy those styrofoam pipe insulation covers for PVC piping, cut small pieces and jam it at both the top and bottom of the cat5 entrance/exit areas so that it's sbug and tight.  haven't had another fried critter or any critters getting into my controllers now for over 2 years using this method.  And those coves are cheap, less than $2 at most Home Depot or Lowes stores for a piece about 6-8 foot long, which will do a lot of controllers.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

****MAJOR EDIT AND A POSSIBLE CLUE****

 

It wasn't the controller I built, it was the one I bought already assembled from LOR.  I'm not pointing the finger at them at all, just clarifying.  I bought it in July 2012 during the summer sale, and received it in Oct or Nov of 2012.  Also, a clue.  My wife just said that when she came home last night (I was still out) she saw one channel on the mini-mega trees on and staying on.  The other channels were dancing, but this one was steady on.  I just went outside and had her show me which one.  It was connected to channel 9.  Same area where the fire appeared to be.  It was raining at the time.

 

 

Max-Paul,

I saw the hole burned in the board too, no idea what happened there.  Hot part of the fire?  I also saw the fibrous stuff, but don't know what it is.  There is black soot all over the board.  The top of the cover inside is burned and melted. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Oh, and I suppose there could have been a critter, but unless it was really small, how did it get in?  There aren't really any opening big enough for anything large to get in.  I don't see any real critter remains...unless it completely burned away quickly...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

From what you have said. I believe you had your controller laying on the ground. This I would never do. Yes I am sure that there are those who do every year, for years and have had no problem. But then too, ask the guy who had escargot and a hole burnt through his board. I noticed that you have a hole burnt through your board on the lower edge. And I have to ask, what is all of that fiberous stuff in the first picture near the I.C. and connector? Might of fact what is all of that stuff all over your board? Is it possible that you fried a small critter? Your grass is still green. Makes me wonder more if some small critter made it into your box cause it was warm. I highly doubt it was water in the vampire connector unless it too is slagged. The problem is on the board and I would start with where it got hot enough to burn through the board.

Since you really didn't have that much load I on it I think Max may have hit the nail on the head with this one. 

 

If that is the case, that would not be a defect.. just bad luck from putting it on the ground. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Orville, I was thinking the same thing. I do not own any of the LOR boxes. But looking at the victims box, I have to say that the entrance of the Cat 5 cables is my first choice too. Actually I am thinking it was George who had the slug on the board. So I am thinking a slug could very well have gotten in that hole. But so could a worm and you said it was raining. I always see lots of worms when it rains.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

IMHO, that looks like you created a heating element.  

 

Something, be it animal, vegetable, or mineral appears to have bridged between the hot and neutral.  When you powered up, you turned this whatever into a heating element that probably very quickly got hot enough to start burning the board - think along the lines of what happens inside your toaster.

 

The fibers are most likely from the burning of the board itself -  typically boards are made of glass cloth and resin.  These can vaporize and then when they cool produce strands and whisps.

 

I will tell you that board is no longer serviceable and not repairable.  You should open a trouble ticket on our helpdesk (if you haven't already) so we can get you back up as fast as possible.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I am so sad for you I really hope you find a replacement controller

 

Papa

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks Mike!  I've got a help desk ticket open already.  I also placed another order for a new controller, so if you've got ready to go at the warehouse, can you get it out the door first thing Monday?  I'd really like to get the show back up and running.  It's depressing having 9 months of work...well...not working. 

 

We have plenty of field mice, small frogs and worms here.  Don't think it was a frog or worm, because I see no bones or other small animal remains.  Worm or something like that?  Guess I'll have to make sure I get them well up off the ground.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wow I feel really bad for you. Now I'm going to keep all my controllers mounted on the wall or on a Tupperware of some sort. Good luck!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sorry about your meltdown!  It is possible something short circuit from the line side of the fuse to a hot circuit causing the problem. Usually high resistance failures take some time  to burn up a connection. If there is severe arc flashing at the failure it would happen quicker. Or as Max Paul mentioned a critter may have bridged across a ground or neutral and hot connection. You should use a stanchion of some kind to elevate your electronics. I built my own stanchions which keep the controller about 2 feet off the ground. I have openings not sealed and in 7 years have not had trouble, lucky maybe but going forward keep your controllers upright as the box was designed for. 

 

I have plastic covering my 3R enclosures as well , just in case!  They are exposed to rain , snow and sub zero weather sometimes here in my area. If you cant get a controller , I have one spare CTB16-PC I just repaired if you are in a bind. I have two more CTB16-Ds I am building. So I could spare this one.

 

Good luck !

Marty

www.pbase.com/hejhog

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I rested my controllers on the ground for my first few years, elevating the top up on a board or brick to make sure water didn't go up through the bottom.  One year I went inside one and found out snow was drifting in (not a lot, but enough to alarm me) through the hinge since it was at ground level.  That was enough for me to elevate the controllers a couple feet of the ground on stakes in future years.  They don't have to be any thing fancy - just bang a 1x2 in the ground and screw the controller on it.  That's basically what I do (I actually make a "T" so it hangs better).

It's unlikely that a small-enough critter would find their way into my controllers in December - it was -11 when I woke up this morning lol.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sorry about the fire, we got rain that day too and I always shut down during the rain. The equipment is just too fragile to risk it, even with wet connections after the controller. Snow is never a problem. For the right price I'm sure this stuff could be made for scuba diving but we would be gasping for air.

Hats off to Marty for offering up a spare.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I agree with Tim,  too cold for critters.  Probably something else.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Marty,

Thanks for the offer!!  LOR has been very responsive so far, so I'm hoping they'll be able to get me a new controller in the mail first thing Monday morning.  But if not, I'll be in touch. 

 

I wish I could figure out what it was that caused it, but I guess I may never know.  Definitely getting them off the ground and won't even attempt to run the show in the rain. 

 

The day it rained, the temperature actually started out around 60 degrees in the morning and sank into the 40s during the daytime, so perhaps something did crawl out.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...