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Compact Flourescent House Light Issues

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by gafftaper, Mar 9, 2008.

  1. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    First off let's all agree that Compact Fluorescents are a TERRIBLE idea for a theater. But it's too late to change that.

    So two nights in a row now when the house lights come up at intermission two circuits don't turn on. They have been working perfectly up until now. The racks were set to the proper setting by the Strand guy a month ago... and until now they've been working perfectly. But now they just don't turn on at intermission. Tonight after the show they stayed off. I tried all kinds of things. I ran the cue that calls for them to come to 55%. They didn't turn on. I went to the stage manager's panel which has a small architectural dimmer. The console runs to the rack as ethernet. The architectural dimmer runs into the rack as the "DMX B" control channel. I selected Dim mode on the architectural and brought them slowly to full while the rack was calling for 55% (The system is set HTP). The other circuits all came to full, but the two circuits in question didn't turn on. I tried the on switch off switch on the architectural control panel. No luck. I flashed on and off while the console held them at 55... the working circuits pulsed from 55% to 100%. Using my computer that is on the network I was able to log onto the rack and check the dimmers directly. The rack said the dimmers were definitely on at 100% but the lights were still off. Turned off the console did a variety of things from different control stations... finally left everything turned off for about 5 minutes and then they worked from the architectural control.

    Any ideas besides buy some scoops to use as house lights? I hung some S4 PARs with XWFL lenses as a back up and they look pretty good. That'll probably be my solution.

    I'm guessing the answer is no, but will an incandescent lamp work in these sockets? Supposedly I have Mark 10 ballasts.
     
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2008
  2. Charc

    Charc Well-Known Member

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    While it's a waste of dimmers and lights, the S4 PARs are definitely your best bet. However, it doesn't mean you shouldn't stay "green" (or at least save your lamp hours), only use your S4 PAR "houselights" during actual shows (previews included), not rehearsals, tempting though it may be. It's not a terrible solution anyways. This way when classes come in they can use the arch controls, and the CFLs will keep on burning, now you won't have to be in a genie changing house-lights practically at all.
     
  3. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    Yeah I'm thinking that's my plan. Although I have had one CFL burn out in the first month of use... weird huh. I also had a HPL750x go after just a few hours (no sign of finger print damage). So these things happen.
     
  4. gafftapegreenia

    gafftapegreenia CBMod CB Mods

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    Be oldskool and get scoops and then your students will know what they are.

    But I guess S4 PAR's are better; just me being me.
     
  5. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    S4-PAR-XWFL with HPL 575/115X lamps and R99 gel:rolleyes:, and if you don't run them at full, ever, should last a good long time. Too bad they don't make a long-life 375W lamp. I'd still throw R114 and Egg-Crate Louver glare shields, or Spill Rings in there.

    From ETC, coming soon is a new buxom lens, that is the same size as all the other lenses, so no more need for the Tinnerman clips which always fall out when changing XWFL lenses.
     
  6. gafftapegreenia

    gafftapegreenia CBMod CB Mods

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    Funny story. I worked a Shake in the Park type event, and the Producer was convinced that every clip light we were using as "houselights" needed R99 "to reduce the glare".

    So, XWFL's that actually fit, oh man. Oh man.
     
  7. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    Back to the question... anyone have any ideas about what might be wrong. I've got a show to do this week with the current system.
     
  8. mike1023

    mike1023 Member

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    Conflicting data going to the rack??? Just a guess.

    Do you lockout your arch stations before using the console for houselights?

    Have you thought of using only the arch station for the houselights...forget about the console all together

    What is the arch system?
    Console?
    Rack?
     
  9. Charc

    Charc Well-Known Member

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    So Gaff, I just want to make sure I'm clear. The issue only occurs at intermission?

    If this is the case... hmm... that's an interesting scenario. I'd suggest fiddling with the cue, take a look at all of its properties again, try recording over it, etc.

    Here is a thought: go to Cue 0 and "go to" another cue programmed to take the house-lights up, then try loading your show file and go through your cues one by one until the board has loaded the intermission cue then load a different cue that calls the houselights up. Compare the results. I'm sure the intention there is clear, see if it's an issue somewhere in the cues prior to intermission.

    Here is another option if the issue is only present in that one cue, and for some reason recording over it doesn't help (possibly an issue with the cues proceeding it): Record a new intermission cue at the end of your cue-list, and then place links so that when stepping through your cues the end of Act I then goes to the end of your cue-list, and pressing go brings you back to the middle in Act II.

    Thoughts?
     
  10. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    It's a strand classic palette console with C21 dimmers. Strand provided the architectural dimming stuff but it isn't they gear listed on their website currently. Maybe its an older model. We ran this intermission cue for 5 rehearsals/performances. The problem popped up when the director asked me to take the intensity down a little (Dropped from 55% to 45%).

    It can't be a signal conflict. I shut off all the architectural buttons and left the console on. Then I turned it on to full at the architectural and turned the console off. No change. Two circuits don't turn on. The only way to get them on that I've found so far was to shut the whole house light system (architectural and console) off for 5 minutes. Weird stuff man.

    It also can't be a signal conflict as the cue works perfectly in preshow and it worked perfectly before I dropped the intensity down.

    It's got to be something between the dimmers and ballasts when the system is warm. The careful reader will remember I was having a crazy light show with the house lights until the Strand guy came back and set my dimmers to the correct setting. The have been working properly since.
     
  11. Darthrob13

    Darthrob13 Active Member

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    Gaff,
    You're right, signal conflict will look different. It will be flashing between the levels of all conflicting sources of control.

    Have you verified the dimmer level in the status window of the web browser or at the rack itself. Not always convenient to do during a show I know but it is useful to know.

    Also, have you tried swapping the module?

    Is the house light system Primiere? Or VisionNet?
    D
     
  12. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    I'm not sure what kind of architectural system I have. I know for sure that the Strand guy brought the parts with him and installed them as I watched him do it. But they don't look like any pictures I find on the Strand website for Premier or VisionNet.

    The remote stations all have three push buttons (on, off, dim). The S.M.'s panel and the booth have three push buttons, a master dimmer, and 10 (I think) subdimmers. All Ivory colored with gray buttons. I haven't seen any other labels on them that designate them as as Strand product. It's not a programmable set up. I have a 301 mounted in the SM's panel for taking a "snapshot" and putting it on a remote submaster.
     
  13. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

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    So, did it ever occur to you to try changing the lamps? Or stick a meter in the lamp sockets? When Lights don't come on, I usually assume it is something simple (blown lamp/tripped breaker) before trying the complex things (dimmers/control issues, etc.). I would try new lamps first, if not that then meter at the socket, meter at the dimmer. If still nothing then I would look into control issues.

    It also strikes me that you probably have more than 2 lights per dimmer (as CFLs are lower wattage), so having two out would would seem to indicate that it isn't a control issue, but a lamp or fixture or wiring issue.
     
  14. ship

    ship Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    Some compact fluorescent lamps are dimmable, others are not. Could be a bad or flakey lamp issue even if they are dimmable. Lot numbers and or lamps that just don't get the same fill pressure type stuff, perhaps a bit of voltage drop thrown in.

    Best way of verifying if it is the lamps or the fixtures/dimmers is to try to reproduce the results given a known to be good lamp in a known to be problematic fixture - no matter what the type of lamp. Also install the possibly problematic lamp in a known to be good fixture. This will optimize the refining of the troubleshooting process and possibly be easier than tracking down a patch or dimmer problem.

    Overall also on fluorescents, they need to start at full and be brought down from there from what I understand though some can start at a lower voltage than full up until they get old. Dimming a fluorescent lamp is not good for the lamp overall, don't expect any extreme amount of lamp hours and green savings from them over incandescent/halogen.

    Could also be a ventilation question. IF too hot, and or if the ballast got too hot or if the ballast is going, could be part of the problem if not what caused it as a further thing.

    At work, got lots of compact fluorescent lamps not on dimmers but in explosive proof weather tight jelly jar type fixtures. Think the red pendant warning lights to a nuclear reactor in general look. It's a bad design concept about the building but a design concept none the less. Given they are in sealed fixtures, we are lucky if we get like 2,000 hours out of the lamps given the heat build up in them. And no I am not going to wander about the complex with a drill and bit to ventilate.

    Beyond that, different brands of lamp, much less different lot numbers of lamp will react differently especially to dimming much less heat.

    Assumed it was not bad lamps but perhaps if while they might work under certain conditions the lamps could not work under low voltage / voltage chopping conditions.
     
  15. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    I got a day off today so I don't have anything new to report.

    Although I agree with Alex that you should always start with basics first when diagnosing a problem. These lights work fine at call time don't work at intermission or curtain call but then do work 40 minutes later. It's also specific circuits that are having the problem.

    Darthrob13 is suspicious that it's a dimmer curve setting issue and has been coaching me on the side. There are apparently multiple fluorescent settings for the C21. He's given me some things to check when I do go in tomorrow.

    Thanks Ship on the idea of it potentially being an inappropriate lamp or an overheating design. I had this happen at home and switched brands and it worked perfectly. I'll check it out. The overheating is also high on my possible suspect list. The temperature up in the catwalks must be pushing 90 degrees and these lights are in a can with no ventilation on top. From what I can tell the ballast sits on top of the lamps. So all that heat goes up into the ballast and is trapped in a very warm external environment.

    Lots of interesting things to check out. I've got my fingers crossed for the wrong dimmer setting. I also am asking the Dean for a couple grand to order S4 PARs with XWFL lenses.
     
  16. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    Looks like the problem was the dimmer profiles. It turns out that the C21 has three different Fluorescent settings and it appears I was in the wrong setting. I'll find out tomorrow for sure when we run our pickup rehearsal. Thanks to Darthrob for helping me through!

    P.S. Rob you should stop by the new member forum and introduce yourself.
     
  17. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    The plot thickens...

    Tonight was a pickup rehearsal. I had the dimmers set to the proper mode for the first time. Got to intermission... no house lights on the same two circuits. I've tried just about everything on the control end. The computer monitoring the network shows that the dimmers are on at 100% but the lights just don't turn on. The circuits in question are on two separate modules so it's really unlikely to be bad modules. I also had two other circuits not turn on briefly one night.

    I've pretty much ruled out everything on the Strand end of things and I'm moving on to wiring, ballasts and lamps as potential problems. The electrician who was in charge of all the wiring is coming to the show tomorrow night to see it happen.

    Weird stuff!
     
  18. jmabray

    jmabray Active Member

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    It is entirely possible at this point that you have killed those two lamps. Not being in the right Dimming profile can do that this quickly. The behavoir that they were exhibiting can be that of a dying lamp. Look at the lamps and let us know if you see black spots on the ends.

    Remember that when you install the new lamps, you really do need to burn them in before you start to dim them. If you don't you will probably run into the same problem of a short life span. Leave them on at full for 100 hours straight....

    Do you have a spring break coming up where you could do that?
     
  19. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    No they aren't dead they work just fine before the show and seem to come back to life a half hour or so after the show. It's also actually two circuits that are having problems with four fixtures on each circuit. I have a total of 9 circuits of house lights. 5 circuits work perfectly every time. 2 circuits didn't turn on after the show once. 2 circuits consistently work fine before the show but don't come on at intermission or for about a half hour after the show.

    Oh and back when I was originally having problems I left them on for a week straight just like you suggested.
     
  20. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

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    Warning, this may be rambly and incoherent, as it is kind of a train of thought idea.

    Can you replicate the situation outside of a performance? Have you tried having the lights on, dimming them out, leaving them out for an hour and then dimming them back up? Maybe run a couple other cues in there, raise the heat a little?

    So when you go home at night you turn off the lights right? But they all turn back on just fine in the morning? Do you ever turn the lights off during the day and then back on later? Do they keep working? What happens if you have stage lights on and house lights on, and then take the house lights out and try to turn them back on?

    From the way you describe it, it would seem like a heat issue, but it would also seem odd that none of the other fixtures are affected. I have seen fixtures that have thermal switches, such that if they get too hot, they shut off. However, the fixtures that I have seen with thermal switches will just cut the power, they won't wait until the lamp is off. It may be worth a look though.

    As was mentioned, it may be worth getting the installers back in, if that is possible, as bad house lighting is a safety issue.
     

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