Repairing an ETC Sensor Dimmer Module

The Damaged ETC Sensor Dimmer Module

My first clue that something had gone wrong was when I returned to the stage from a meeting in the Department Chair’s office.  The normal bustle and pace of the workers on stage was unusual in a way that it is hard to quantify.  Also, there was a whiff of metallic ozone tang to the atmosphere.  The Master Electrician presented herself to me and told me “One of the dimmers caught fire”.   I found my staff ATD in the dimmer room standing next to the 3 almost-new ETC Sensor dimmer racks holding one of the 144 almost-new Sensor dual dimmer modules in his hand.  I have never seen anything like it.  One of the choke coils was completely charred and misshapen.

It seems that  a couple of the electricians had hooked up 4 of the Altman Q-lites that we use as work-lights to this single 2.5K dimmer earlier in the day with a series of cables and two-fers.  It turns out that when they ran the dimmer up after hooking them together, nothing came up.  It being the end of their 2-hour work session, they passed that information along to the unfortunate ME.  Knowing that the 4 instruments were lamped with 500W lamps and knowing that the 2.4Kw dimmer should be able to handle the load, she knew enough to check the breakers.  As it turns out, she did not know enough to know not to reset the breaker without checking to see if the dimmer wasn’t “parked” in the on position.  She reports that after resetting the breaker she walked away, returning immediately when she saw “magic smoke” escaping from the dimmer rack.

A later inspection of the instruments, cables and connectors revealed a mis-wired two-fer that led to a hard short.

ETC Sensor dimmer module under repair

I called Jerry Onik of Heartland Scenic in Omaha (he sold us the dimming equipment installed just last fall) to explore my options.  When I asked him if I should send the module to ETC for repair, there was a pause, then he said “well, you could”.   Then there was another pause and he said” But I am not sure that ETC will consider this a warranty issue”.  I was speechless.  It had never dawned on me to think of this type of stupidity as a “warranty issue”.  After explaining this to him, Jerry put me in touch with Ben Farmer, one of  his colleagues in the repairs department at Heartland Scenic.  We decided that he could sell me a replacement Right Choke Assembly  and a #Q141 Power Cube and that I could do the repair myself.

Once I received the parts I pulled the dimmer and replaced the damaged choke and power cube (or thought that I had).  When I tested  the presumably repaired module, I found that the Left/Lower/Even-Numbered dimmer functioned properly, but that the Right/Upper/Odd-Numbered dimmer was locked in that constatnt-on circumstance that

"Repaired" ETC Sensor dimmer module before discovery of the power cube mix-up.

I have found common in dimmer cubes that have been “zapped”.  Puzzled, I retraced my actions and examined the repaired dimmer module.  When I compared serial numbers, I discovered that the power cube that I thought I had replaced bore a higher serial number  than the one that I thought that I had replaced it with.  Long story short, I had put the old “zapped” cube back in the module after first removing it.  Once I actually replaced the old cube with the new one, everything was copacetic.

That’s all for now.

Have fun (after all, they don’t call it a play for nothing).  But be safe!



2 Responses to “Repairing an ETC Sensor Dimmer Module”

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