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Sometimes Electronic Ignition Systems Don’t Make Electrical Sense

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Before I proceed, let me preface this article by saying we at Koahi Systems are very familiar with low voltage electricity.  In fact, all of our products are powered using low voltage, and with hundreds of installations under our belt and thousands of units sold, we feel we are qualified to speak about this “phenomenon.”  I say phenomenon because technically what I’m about to tell you shouldn’t have work and to this day I have no explanation for it. 

We were at a job installing bamboo inspired tiki torch sleeves (which can be found here http://www.koahi.com/products/Ohe.html) that incorporated our electronic ignition torch module.  From the very beginning the electrical baffled me.  We definitely had enough power from the breaker, but we were getting extremely fickle results when all the torches were started.  The courtyard tiki torches would come on fine, then the pool side torches wouldn’t start.  The spa torches lit immediately, but the pair of tiki’s outside the guest bedroom wouldn’t even have the hot surface ignitors glowing.  If powered individually, they all started and performed extremely well, but any time we tried to power all 12, they reverted to this randomness.  Until a friend of ours, who is an electrician, said to switch the wires going to the automated torches.  Now, every electrical manual/book/pamphlet will tell you that low voltage A/C (i.e. 24vac which is what our electronic ignition tiki torches and fire pits use) does not have polarity.  So when he said switch the wires, I had to ask, “WHY WOULD I WASTE MY TIME SWITCHING WIRES!”  As you can see, I was a little upset at this point, but without any other options, we switched the wires (btw my electrician friend just laughed and hung up the phone, not giving me an answer).  We started systematically and switched the first pair of wires, this didn’t help, or at least it didn’t seem to do anything.  We decided to switch the pair that had been giving us the most frequent problems; our white whale, the automated torches next to the spa.  EUREKA!  All the torches came on beautifully!  We thought to ourselves, this can’t be, we must have gotten lucky.  We turned them all off and then back on again, it was a thing of beauty seeing all our tiki torch modules light up those custom torches at the same time. 

I’m sure many people will have their opinions as to what “actually” happened and switching the polarity didn’t do anything.  But let me tell all the naysayers out there, this wouldn’t be the last time we used this trick.  Many a job since this one has been saved from being a total failure by switching the wires.  Anything from tripping the breakers on the transformers to not enough power to the solenoid has been solved by the “ol’ swap the wires” routine.  Moral of the story?  When you’ve eliminated all the probable causes, you must explorer the improbable, no matter how impossible it may appear.  To comment on this article or to drop by and just say “Hi”, please go to http://www.koahi.com and make yourself known.