How to install lighting contactors

Written by robert sylvus
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How to install lighting contactors
Lighting contactors operate high-voltage lighting systems, such as ballroom lighting, from a remote location. (lights image by MLProject from

A high-voltage lighting system, such as ballroom lighting in a high-end home, must provide a way to energise the light bulbs without jeopardising the operator. Lighting contactors provide a way to activate the lights from a remote location like a wall switch. When electricity from the switch enters the contactor's low-voltage circuit, an electromagnet closes the contact points of the contactor's high-voltage circuit. This allows the high-voltage electricity to pass through the contactor to the lighting system. A contactor's points open when the low-voltage power source disconnects. A contactor's design prevents electricity from arcing while the contact points are open.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Screwdriver set

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  1. 1

    Locate and turn the circuit breaker labelled "Lighting" off. Lighting systems that use contactors operate with high voltage, often 220 volt.

  2. 2

    Open the lighting system's service box. Usually located near the lights, it has three sets of wires leading to it: One wire set leads to the switch; one set leads to the circuit breaker, and one set leads to the lights. The box also contains a step-down transformer with clearly marked high-voltage (primary) and low-voltage (secondary) wires.

  3. 3

    Mount the contactor to the electrical service box's housing with the hex-head screws included with the electrical box. Push the screws through the contactor's mounting holes, located near the contactor's edge, into the electrical box's pre-drilled holes, and tighten the screws with the correct-sized screwdriver.

  4. 4

    Loosen the contactor's terminal screws with a slotted screwdriver. A 220-volt lighting contactor contains six terminal screws: two low-voltage (control); two high-voltage input (Line), and two high-voltage output(Load). The Line and Load terminal sets both contain "L1" and "L2" terminals. A label, usually moulded into the contactor's housing, identifies each terminal.

  5. 5

    Push the wire from the low-voltage side of the transformer into one of the contactor's low-voltage terminals, and tighten the terminal screw with a slotted screwdriver. The transformer's other low-voltage wire connects to one of the wires that leads to the switch.

  6. 6

    Push the remaining wire from the switch into the contactor's remaining low-voltage terminal, and tighten the screw with the slotted screwdriver. This completes the low-voltage circuit: Power flows from the transformer to the switch, then from the switch to the contactor, and from the contactor back to the transformer.

  7. 7

    Push the wire set from the circuit breaker into the contactor's Line terminals. Push the neutral wire--usually the wire with white-coloured insulation--and one of the transformer's high-voltage wires into the L1 terminal. Push the hot wire--usually the wire with black-coloured insulation--and the transformer's other high-voltage wire into the L2 terminal. Tighten the terminal screws with the slotted screwdriver.

  8. 8

    Push the wire set that leads to the light into the contactor's Load terminals. Push the neutral wire--usually the wire with white-coloured insulation--into the L1 terminal, and the hot wire--usually the wire with black-coloured insulation--into the L2 terminal. Tighten the terminal screws with the slotted screwdriver.

  9. 9

    Close the electrical box's lid, and test the lighting system.

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