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Is my old wiring adequate?

If the wiring worked for your earlier lights, it will work for Alpenglow lights just as long as it is a 12-volt DC circuit. In fact, they are even less demanding of the wiring than older lights, because they draw less power and are less affected by low voltage from voltage drop.

My CFL Light has low or dim light output. What is wrong?

Does your light put out the same brightness on both high and low? If so, it could be a switching problem, and we can send you a new switch. If not, you may have purchased defective or inferior bulbs. We find that the quality of bulbs vary from batch to batch. When we purchase our bulbs, we do random testing from the batch for brightness and quality, and have had to return entire batches at times.

Here are some things to try:

Try Another Bulb

To eliminate any possibility of it being a bulb problem, I would suggest swapping bulbs with another light. The reason for doing those things is that we want to be 100% sure that it can’t be a supply problem or a bulb problem before going further.

Check the Circuit

There may be high resistance somewhere in the circuit to the light. With resistance in the circuit, if you measure the voltage it will show normal until a load is put on the circuit. The more the load, the more voltage drop and the lower the voltage at the light. Use a multimeter to measure the voltage at the light (with the light connected, touch the test leads to the bare wires) with the light turned off, then on. You will probably find that the voltage drops dramatically when the light is turned on. That indicates high resistance somewhere between the breaker and the light location.

The most common cause that we have seen for this is a crimp-on terminal accidentally being crimped on the insulation rather than the stripped bare wire. It can pierce the insulation just enough to barely make contact. It sometimes will work okay initially, then fail later. The red works because it uses very little power, so the voltage drop is low. The red night vision is hooked up to the main power wire before it goes into the ballast, and draws much lower power – .10 amp, as opposed to the white on high (.85 amp) and .40 amp on low power. As soon as you turn the white on, the load is about 20 times higher, so the voltage drop is also that much higher.

It Might Be the Rocker Switch or Power Supply

Check the voltage at the rocker switch. When you test the voltage at the switch, have the light turned on. A high resistance in the wiring will not show up as a voltage drop unless there is a load on the circuit. Alternatively, you could remove the light and any crimp-on terminals and touch the leads directly to a battery to eliminate any possibility of it being a power supply problem. We have seen high resistance many times from crimp-on terminals when it was inadvertently crimped mostly on the insulation. It works for a while — sometimes for years — before showing up.

Check the Capacitor

Another test you can try if the above things prove it to not be supply or bulb is this: Locate the orange capacitor soldered to the back of the switch. Does it look fine, or burned up? If burned up, we need to replace the capacitor. To test the capacitor if not burned up, with the light turned on, use a screwdriver to short together the two terminals that it is soldered to, and see if it goes brighter. You must use a screwdriver with an insulated handle and be careful not to touch the shank. Those terminals carry high-voltage which can give a very nasty shock.

It’s Rarely the Ballast but…

It is possible that it could be a ballast problem, but usually if the ballast fails, it fails completely. In over 23,000 lights, we have seen less than a half-dozen ballasts fail, but still provide some power. It is worth a little investigation before going to the trouble of replacing the ballast. If you have a digital amp meter in your system and can determine the actual power consumption (by comparing system amps with the light on vs. off), that would tell if the ballast is operating at the correct level.

Alternatively, if you have a decent digital multimeter, you can disconnect the light and measure the amps directly with the meter. If the amp draw on high is around .75 amp to .9 amp, then the ballast is likely okay. It’s best to allow a couple minutes of warm-up time before reading the amps. On rare occasions we have seen a ballast’s output drop to about half of normal, but that is a defect and is not an age-related thing (and the power consumption also drops). It would be a shame for someone to go to the trouble of replacing a ballast for nothing.

Bulbs are always the prime suspect, and it’s possible that you have a substandard replacement bulb. Probably the best test before going to the trouble of replacing a ballast would be to swap bulbs with the newer light that appears brighter, and see if the ‘dim’ problem moves with the bulb, or stays with the older light.

I just hooked up my light out of the box and it won't work. What's wrong?

It's probably just a reverse polarity problem. If they are wired backwards, they won’t work — but it won’t harm them. Boat wiring isn’t very well standardized so you can’t really rely on the color coding. Try reversing the leads.

If you’re using wiring from previous lights, refer to ‘Is your old wiring adequate?

Also check your connectors. We have seen crimp-on connectors that were crimped mostly on the insulation with just the slightest bit of wire touching.

My CFL light stopped working. How do I know if it is the bulb or the ballast?

A fairly typical symptom of a failing bulb is that, it (the bulb) will go out, then come on, then flash, and then go out completely! Usually, just replacing the bulb will take care of it.

However, once in awhile a failing bulb will draw several times the normal power during the last few minutes of life, and it’s possible for that to overload the ballast. This is why the instructions recommend replacing the bulb at the first sign of abnormal operation. It is possible that’s what happened — and the failing bulb took the ballast with it. That’s uncommon, but it can happen.

It’s also possible that one of the components in the ballast just failed, such as a resistor. If so, then the bulb would still be good. If this is your only Alpenglow light, and you are certain that the replacement bulb is a new one, then it likely is the ballast. If you have other Alpenglow lights, then I would suggest swapping bulbs with another to verify for sure whether it is the bulb or the ballast. If you have determined that it is not the bulb please see ‘How do I test my ballast?’.

Another possibility: Lightning strikes or voltage spikes have also been known to take out a bulb and/or ballast.

Your light will flicker on startup and you will lose the dual power (high/low) function in your light if you have purchased an over-the-counter bulb and not modified it. This can eventually over-stress the ballast which will cause it to fail. Please see ‘How do I modify a CFL bulb?’ to fix this problem.