The Shocking Truth About Low Voltage Systems
– And How To Troubleshoot Them – Part 1
While the title of this week’s blog is provocative, the subject at hand is a serious one – regardless of whether a system is low, medium, or high voltage, it only takes a tiny amount of amperage to cause the heart to stop. The National Electric Code defines a ‘low voltage system’ as anything under 49 volts – which could apply to a lot of systems in your house. Today, however, we’d like to discuss the systems most commonly interacted with by our electricians – landscape lighting, doorbell systems, phone, data & media, thermostats, and touch-plate switching and wiring systems. Please note: although low-voltage systems are considered ‘safer’ than high-voltage ones, this can be misleading as low-voltage systems can carry higher current – which is more dangerous. As always, don’t ever be afraid to call a licensed electrician to help with any electrical system or problem you might be facing.
Landscape lighting is a place where a little bit of light can go a long way – especially at night – into generating a feeling of serenity and beauty. Not only can it highlight natural or built features of your yard space, it can also light paths, decks, steps, etc. – mapping a layout through your yard and ensuring nighttime explorers safety.
For the homeowner, 12-volt, or low-voltage, systems have several advantages. Most important, low-voltage equipment is easier to install. Except for the transformer that’s connected to a 120-volt circuit, the entire system runs on harmless 12-volt current. Low-voltage wiring is lightweight and can be laid on the ground or buried just below the surface…Another advantage of low-voltage equipment is that it can be relatively inexpensive. And, when you do the job yourself, the bottom line for low-voltage looks even better. Not only can the capital outlay for a standard high-voltage system be greater, but you may need to hire a pro for part or all of the installation.
According to Buyerschoiceinspections.com, these systems bring value and aesthetics into your outdoor spaces, and can often be installed by homeowners looking to secure their properties. While it describes 12 volts as a ‘harmless current’, there are circumstances where 120 Volt current still exists – such as before a transformer – and also circumstances when 10 Volts can be enough to cause your muscle system to begin short circuiting. And don’t worry; you don’t necessarily need an electrician to design, install, and maintain these kinds of systems – there are plenty of low voltage specialists and landscape lighting experts you can call in if things don’t go as expected.
If you’re just looking for some basic troubleshooting information, consider these offerings:
These are getting less and less frequent since the advent of wireless doorbell systems (starting at $15!), but they are still an issue that comes up regularly – especially for customers who have had the same wired doorbells for some time, or special chime systems they cling to. Since doorbell systems are wired in 12 Volts, they are considered a low voltage system – however, repairing them requires knowing where the transformer, chimes, and every button is; this can be difficult when dealing with a home that has more than one button or buzzer, or where remodelling has hidden these access points from sight or convenient accessibility. People also get creative with their doorbells; they customize them and make them an extension of their personality and taste. This might be another reason they are still very much in use.
Phone, Data, & Media
Phone, data, and media cables are becoming more and more common – and necessary – in this day and age. With people moving closer to wireless phones, cell phones, and voice over IP providers, the wired in landline is becoming a rarity. They still do exist, however – and there are customers who have to have them (sometimes in a businesses case, multiples). Recognizing one is easy – usually a phone jack looks like this:
and just in case – How To Wire a Telephone Jack
Media System Wiring
Audio visual (a/v systems) and the wiring associated with them is becoming a pressing priority for new and modern homeowners. Who wouldn’t want piped in sound to ceiling speakers, or true, in-home theater experience media room? The answer is – we’d all love it! But media wiring can also include things like HDMI cabling, coax for cable, and even the wiring for your home projection system (as well as its’ surround sound). Professionals in the know call this ‘structured wiring’. Broadband Utopia describes it this way:
Modern Home Wiring is referred to as structured wiring. To create your structured wiring solution simply run cables from individual rooms to one of the structured media center distribution panels. Select one of the pre-configured panels or create a custom configuration by selecting the voice/data/audio/video modules to perfectly match your individual requirements.
For more information, consider:
Better Home & Garden’s Wiring Your Home for Today’s Electronics
Coax Cable Wiring Systems
Last, but not least – wiring information for your coaxial cable systems. These systems can carry a lot of information – but they are also very delicate and specific. The rubber sheathing, metal mesh, foam insulator, and copper stinger all play important roles in the cable’s performance. If you’re looking for information on how your coax systems work, check out these resources:
The Family Handyman’s Tips for Coaxial Cable Wiring – a brilliant piece if I might say so!
This week, we addressed landscape lighting, doorbell systems, telephones, and media wiring. Please join us next week as we delve into data, thermostats, and touch-plate systems. Remember – don’t ever be afraid to call a licensed electrician to deal with any of your electrical problems, regardless of voltage.
Swartz Electric – Your Colorado Springs Electrician performs electrical work throughout Colorado Springs, Monument, Black Forest, Fountain, Falcon, Woodland Park, and everywhere in between. We are the electricians in Colorado Springs to solve your electrical problems and meet your electrical requirements.
Call, e-mail, visit our website, or stop by our office today, and allow Swartz Electric to serve YOU.
This is an original article written by Mai Bjorklund for Swartz Electric. This article may not be copied whole or in part without the express permission of Swartz Electric, LLC.
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