How to Troubleshoot Issues with Low Voltage Commercial Lighting Systems


When it comes to lighting in commercial spaces, low voltage lighting systems are very common. They allow for accent lighting, spotlighting, and creative lighting designs. However, like any electrical system, low voltage lighting can develop problems. As the owner or facilities manager of a commercial property, it's important to understand how to troubleshoot and resolve issues with low voltage lighting to keep your building looking its best. In this article, I'll provide an in-depth look at how to diagnose and fix common low voltage lighting problems.

Understanding Low Voltage Lighting Systems

Before we get into troubleshooting, let's review what low voltage lighting is and how it works.

What is Low Voltage Lighting?

Low voltage lighting runs on 12 or 24 volts, compared to the 120 volts used by standard lighting systems. Low voltage allows for smaller gauge wiring and makes lighting fixtures more compact and flexible. The power originates from a transformer that steps down the building's higher voltage to a lower, safer voltage.

Components of Low Voltage Lighting

A low voltage system consists of three main components:

Advantages of Low Voltage

Some key benefits of low voltage lighting include:

Common Low Voltage Lighting Issues

Low voltage lighting systems are generally reliable. However, here are some of the most common issues that can occur:

Fixtures Not Turning On

If some or all fixtures won't turn on, there are several possible causes:

Dimming or Flickering Lights

Lights that flicker or don't dim properly may indicate:

Buzzing or Humming Noise

Buzzing or humming from fixtures points to:

Steps for Troubleshooting Low Voltage Lighting

Now let's go through a systematic approach for diagnosing low voltage lighting issues:

1. Check the Breaker and Transformer

The first place to start is confirming the transformer has power. Check the breaker or fuse supplying the transformer and reset or replace if needed. While here, listen and feel for any signs of the transformer buzzing or overheating. Signs of a faulty transformer include:

A faulty transformer will need to be replaced.

2. Inspect the Low Voltage Wiring

Next, check the low voltage wiring between the transformer and lighting fixtures. Look for any:

Repair or replace any compromised wiring.

3. Check for Faulty Fixtures

If the transformer and wiring check out, individual fixtures may be malfunctioning. Try the following troubleshooting steps:

4. Verify Compatibility of Controls

For lighting that flickers or doesn't dim properly, make sure dimmers, switches, and controllers are all rated to handle the load and compatible with the fixtures. Replace controls if needed.

5. Test Transformer Voltage

Use a voltmeter to check output voltage at the transformer and fixture. If voltage is too high or low, the transformer may need to be replaced. Make sure the transformer matches the voltage requirements of the lighting.

When to Call an Electrician

If you've methodically worked through these troubleshooting steps and lights still don't function properly, it's best to call a qualified electrician. They have the proper tools and knowledge to identify issues like:

Only attempt low voltage lighting repairs if you have training and experience in electrical systems. Always shut off power at the breaker before servicing.

Maintaining a Low Voltage Lighting System

Along with troubleshooting issues as they arise, some maintenance can help prevent problems:

Proper installation and maintenance will maximize the longevity of your low voltage lighting system. But being prepared to diagnose and fix problems will keep your lights shining.