Colortran ENR Series 96 Issue

ScenicKatie

Member
Joined
Mar 20, 2019
Location
Chicago
Hey everyone,

I am the Auditorium Manager and TD for a high school theater and I am working on a “wish list“ of items to get replaced in our outdated theater. Administration is asking me to provide citations for why we need certain items replaced other than “its old”. So- We are running on 2 Colortran ENR Series 96 dimmer racks and aside from the airflow sensor issue and the lack of replacement parts available, I know there was an issue with the construction of the racks and materials that were used that caused over heating and some fires. Does anyone have any further info on that issue? I am searching to find some sort of documentation but have not had any luck yet.

Any info is appreciated!
Thank you
 

RonHebbard

Well-Known Member
Premium Member
Joined
Jun 12, 2004
Location
Waterdown, ON, CA
Hey everyone,

I am the Auditorium Manager and TD for a high school theater and I am working on a “wish list“ of items to get replaced in our outdated theater. Administration is asking me to provide citations for why we need certain items replaced other than “its old”. So- We are running on 2 Colortran ENR Series 96 dimmer racks and aside from the airflow sensor issue and the lack of replacement parts available, I know there was an issue with the construction of the racks and materials that were used that caused over heating and some fires. Does anyone have any further info on that issue? I am searching to find some sort of documentation but have not had any luck yet.

Any info is appreciated!
Thank you
@ScenicKatie Initially, the racks used aluminum for their main internal power distribution buses. Oxidation on the surface of the aluminum buses was part of the problem. They MAY have been using copper contacts on the rear of the dimmer modules thus dissimilar metals at their juncture with the aluminum main buses could have / would have exacerbated the problem.

And then there was the never disclosed issue with initial control modules having their ENR (Electronic Noise Reduction) circuitry permanently disabled by a jumper on the rear of their PC boards. Publicly their marketing and advertisements continued to extol the virtues of their wondrous new ENR technology.
Within the modules one pole of a DIP switch was designated as Enabling and / or disabling the ENR functionality.

What they NEVER wanted anyone to know was the functionality of the single DIP switch pole was negated by a trace on their PC boards bypassing the switch.
Whether you, the end user, chose to enable or disable the ENR circuitry, it was permanently disabled at the factory by a PC trace bypassing this Master ENR switch on each control module.

When I learned this, I discussed cutting the trace on the rear of the PC board and was told, verbally, so doing would void my warranty.
There were a myriad of other problems I wanted corrected under warranty and thus NEVER cut the relevant PC traces.
I've already told you too much; I think I'm hearing large, near-silent, helicopters circling o'er head.

There was also a problem with ventilation fans seizing and racks continuing to operate.
This was purported to have been solved by retrofitting Hall Effect sensors to monitor the up to speed rotation of the fans.
Our bused pair of racks were retrofitted with the Hall Effect sensors; powering down, dropping screwdrivers into the fans and re-powering proved the retrofitting of the Hall Effect sensors had little effect on the operation of the racks.
The Hall Effect sensors were retrofitted across North America (U.S. and Canada, Donnie hadn't built his walls yet) by a team of factory authorized electricians. In the case of the pair of racks entrusted to my care, the team of pro' installers inadvertently pinched an approximatly 22 gauge neutral conductor against the aluminum main buses causing a small fire which harmlessly burned itself out within the racks. The tiny severed neutral wire was discovered by Chris Mentis while he was commissioning and servicing Colortran installations throughout all of Eastern Canada.
It was Chris Mentis who powered the rack down, then dropped a screwdriver and / or nut driver into and through each of the four fans to stall them, then re-powered the racks to see how long it took for the Hall Effect sensors to shut the racks down and / or reduce their output to a deemed to be "safe" level. Chris and I carried out our test experiment at approximately 1:00 a.m. I bought the first round of cold '5 Alives' from our vending machines and Chris bought the second. The bused pair of adjacent racks continued to operate at full capacity for more than an hour with all four fans totally stalled:
So much for the effectiveness of the Hall Effect sensors.
This was in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada's Theatre Aquarius in 1990 or 1991.

In the same dimmer room, three 48 slot / 96 dimmer Strand CD80 racks housing (my memory's forgetting the precise quantities) 268 - ish 2.4 Kw and four or five 6Kw dimmers stood against the opposite wall performing FLAWLESSLY. Neither the theatre's owners nor I wanted the Colortran racks.

For Lord only knows what reasons, the Electrical consulting P. Eng decreed the house and work lights had to employ the pair of Colortran racks for their (in his opinion) greater reliability in "Life Safety Critical" applications. The Colortran racks were a pain from the get go while @Ron Foley 's Strand racks soldiered on reliable as ever.
I've written too much, it's lunchtime.
I'll post and proof read after lunch.
Hello again @ScenicKatie Having had lunch, I've proofed and added to my post.
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard
 
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RickR

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 18, 2009
Location
Spokane, WA the great "Inland Northwest"
The short answer is that they are far past their designated life and will require ever increasing repairs. Given that such repairs can take many weeks, major events might be canceled. The wisdom move is go plan for a controlled transition to a more reliable and repairable technology.
 

TimMc

Well-Known Member
Premium Member
Joined
Feb 15, 2017
Call Colortran/Leviton and ask about parts for your ENR racks... Crickets?

There are at least 2 ENR installations near me that are still up and running because the venue TDs or the contractor had a moment of clarity 20+ years ago and bought modules and replacement components.

Thirty years is probably the end of ENR's "best when used by" date. That some critical parts are no longer available except as pulls from other old inventory it should be a given that replacing the Colortrans with new-ish dimmers from a company likely to be in business 20 years from now would be a Really Good Idea. Maybe not in this year's budget cycle, perhaps not next year, but soon. Real soon.
 

BillConnerFASTC

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 30, 2010
Location
Clayton NY 13624
You problem is replace dimmers or go all LED.

The dimmer modules will probably outlast all of us but the control modules will degrade and fail eventually. Unlike some other dimmer racks, where a new control module can be bought, I don't think there were enough ENR racks to justify that development. So, it's a matter of time.

I strongly encourage you to start planning - plant the seeds - for conversion to all LED, replacing the rack with relay panels, maybe a new console, adding data distribution, but biggest money in replacing instruments. It will happen someday.

In the meantime www.litetrol.com or https://goknight.com/ can probably keep your dimmers operating indefinitely. Call Litetrol and ask Steve Short directly how long he can keep them going. But is it worth an every year or every other year service call. Hard decision.
 

Stager33

Member
Joined
Jan 23, 2020
Location
Las vegas
Hey everyone,

I am the Auditorium Manager and TD for a high school theater and I am working on a “wish list“ of items to get replaced in our outdated theater. Administration is asking me to provide citations for why we need certain items replaced other than “its old”. So- We are running on 2 Colortran ENR Series 96 dimmer racks and aside from the airflow sensor issue and the lack of replacement parts available, I know there was an issue with the construction of the racks and materials that were used that caused over heating and some fires. Does anyone have any further info on that issue? I am searching to find some sort of documentation but have not had any luck yet.

Any info is appreciated!
Thank you
Hey if the cooling fans on top are not running at full speed is one ( you can replace the bearings in them )
Less the $50 baring cost

The other thing that is over looked is you have to have all your dimmer modules in place or they shut down
All so blow the dust off the sencer a d push in on the control module it work on our rack
Hope this helps
Ps. Shut off the power and lock it out before working on your rack

JMHO
 

RonHebbard

Well-Known Member
Premium Member
Joined
Jun 12, 2004
Location
Waterdown, ON, CA
Hey if the cooling fans on top are not running at full speed is one ( you can replace the bearings in them )
Less the $50 bearing cost

The other thing that is over looked is you have to have all your dimmer modules in place or they shut down due to cooling air entering via the gaps where modules are missing rather then being drawn in past the air flow sensor in the lower left front corner of the rack.
Also blow the dust off the sensor and push in on the control module, it worked on our rack.
Hope this helps.
Ps. Shut off the power and lock it out before working on your rack.

JMHO
@Stager33 and @ScenicKatie We seem to go around this loop every time someone brings up Colortran ENR racks.
IF you're going to pull your control module (or modules), while you have them out, burnish the contacts lightly with a white or grey drafting eraser then clean with your favorite contact cleaner / de oxidant. Inserting and removing the module (s) several times prior to re-powering your rack(s) ought to be enough to lightly burnish the female contacts within your rack(s).
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard
 
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microstar

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 19, 2014
Location
Lawton, OK
The short answer is that they are far past their designated life and will require ever increasing repairs. Given that such repairs can take many weeks, major events might be canceled. The wisdom move is go plan for a controlled transition to a more reliable and repairable technology.
I've dealt with Steve Short at Litetrol on several major ENR rack issues for various clients. His superb service and FedEx next day or second day delivery have never taken "many weeks", only a few days, so I don't think that qualifies as a given it would take that long.:)
 

Les

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 24, 2004
Location
DFW, Tx.
I know there was an issue with the construction of the racks and materials that were used that caused over heating and some fires. Does anyone have any further info on that issue? I am searching to find some sort of documentation but have not had any luck yet.
I believe this particular issue existed when the ENR very early in its manufacturing run - some of the first units shipped. It was discovered and corrected soon after, so if yours are still running after ~25 years I would bet that they were built after the design revision. @derekleffew might have some anecdotes, but I doubt any proper documentation exists aside from some NFPA reports buried somewhere. Particularly useful for your endeavor? Probably not, unfortunately.

I think extolling the virtues of LED (and adding relays so there can be less of a reliance on dimmers) would be a better rabbit hole to go down.
 
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RickR

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 18, 2009
Location
Spokane, WA the great "Inland Northwest"
I've dealt with Steve Short at Litetrol on several major ENR rack issues for various clients. His superb service and FedEx next day or second day delivery have never taken "many weeks", only a few days, so I don't think that qualifies as a given it would take that long.:)
Well that certainly beats my experience with the "factory." Parts sent for repairs that still misbehaved, and more. Can't get the config tools, etc. Phone support won't call back until the next day.
 

JimP0771

Active Member
Joined
Jan 13, 2017
Location
Upstate NY
I have an old Lee Colortran ENR 96 Dimmer Rack that I have up and running right now in my theater. I originally was in my High school and when they did an renovation of the auditorium they put the Lee Colortram ENR 96 Dimmer rack and the Status 24/48 board up for auction and I was the only person that bid for it and won the bid. We finally got that system installed about 4 years after the Spectrum Design and Development lighting system we had originally went to lighting heaven in the sky. I still have the Lee Colortran ENR 96 Dimmer rack system running today. Have to turn it off and remove all the dimmers vacuum it out from time to time put the dimmers back in and from time to time clean out the air flow senser openings on the control mods. Other than that I am keeping the system running as long as I can and plan to keep it running as long as I can till it decided it is time to join its friends in the Lighting system heaven.
 

TimMc

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Premium Member
Joined
Feb 15, 2017
Ghost dimmers in the sky..... (arc flash cracking sound here)
 
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