In my last article I talked about maintaining your audio system. While lighting systems may seem like something that shouldn't need much attention, there are several things you should be doing on a regular basis to keep your lighting system working effectively.
1.) For a basic theatrical system, dimmers should be kept clean, and any ventilation vents and filters should be vacuumed or blown free of dust on a regular basis. At the church where I worked, we tried to clean the filters of our ETC Sensor dimmer rack, as well as remove each dimmer module and vacuum them off, once a quarter. Dimmer packs can come in a lot of shapes and sizes, but all benefit from being kept clean to keep air circulation at its best. Accumulated dirt can cause poor cooling, and heat is a destroyer of electronics.
2.) Next, keep your lighting console covered when not in use. Dust doesn't help much when getting into the faders and rotary controls, so a dust cover is a good idea.
3.) When a lamp burns out in a fixture ("lamp" is the proper term; the "bulb" is technically the glass attached to the base and surrounds the filaments), inspect both the socket into which the lamp is inserted as well as the old lamp's pins for signs of corrosion or arcing. Sockets tend to loosen up over time, and this can cause arcing and carbon build-up, which will lead to early lamp or fixture failure. At the first signs of arcing, replace the socket of the fixture. Sometimes you can buy just the contacts and wires of the socket assembly and replace them, making for a more cost-effective repair. These are inexpensive, so it's good to have some on hand.
If you own moving lights (aka intelligent fixtures), this requires a whole new level of diligence in maintenance. Moving lights have lots of moving parts, and if they have arc-source lamps (as opposed to an LED light source), they generate a lot of heat. Eric Loader, sales director for Elation Professional, commented to me that an arc-source moving light is basically a robot with an oven in the center. And while cooler, even LED fixtures generate heat internally.
Moving lights should receive quarterly maintenance. Cleaning the fans and making sure all are operating is critical to keeping other components from suffering heat damage, and clean the optics with denatured alcohol. Inspection of the lamp and making sure you change out the lamp before it reaches its rated hours is also important. If a lamp runs beyond its rated life span, you run the risk of the lamp exploding, not merely burning out. If it explodes, other components of the fixture can be seriously damaged.
If you don't have someone on staff or a volunteer who both is comfortable with performing all that's required for maintaining moving lights and has the time in their schedule to maintain them regularly, consider arranging a maintenance contract with a local lighting contractor to ensure maintenance is performed regularly, properly, and safely.
Next time, we'll talk about video system maintenance.