Motion Detector Light Switches

Posted by mitch on December 03, 2011

I installed a Leviton ODS10-ID Decora Wall Switch Occupancy Sensor in a room in my basement with a cold-start fluorescent tube and an instant-start fluorescent tube (wired in parallel off the same switch) and it works great! I’ve tried some cheaper motion-sensing switches but they can’t control non-incandescent bulbs, especially cold-start fluorescent tubes.

There are some great properties to this switch–the angle of visibility and length of time to run the lights are configurable. The pigtails on the switch are copper, not aluminum, so you don’t need special wire nuts to wire this in properly. There’s no audible click of a relay (not to my ears anyway).

I did run into two small snags while installing this. I was installing this in a standard 2-gang steel electrical box with a GFCI outlet, which was quite tight, but I did manage to make it all fit. If you’re installing this in a cramped box, beware that the unit is quite large–as large as a GFCI–so you may find you need to install a bigger electrical box. Like many installs in steel boxes, I had to snip some of the metal support to make it fit. There’s no scoring on the metal (as there are on outlets), but aviation snips took care of this fine.

The other small issue I ran into was the plastic cover for the settings–this is a small cover on the front of the switch, between the push button at the bottom and the sensor at the top. I left it off, installed the switch into the steel face of the electrical box, and had a heck of a time getting the cover back on. I ended up using an Xacto knife to cut down a bit of the width on one side of the cover to get it back in place.

All in all, it was a great install and I’ve ordered another switch for my workshop lights.

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Built-in Nightlights

Posted by mitch on December 02, 2011

I love lights. Lamps, light fixtures, light bulbs–arranging, window-shopping, actually-shopping, experimenting with–I love lights. In two of the hallways in my house, I had a pair of nightlights plugged into outlets in the hall. I had my electrician put outlets in the halls specifically for the purpose of nightlights when re-wiring the house. However, my house cleaners kept leaving the lights on the floor, or turned off, or on a table in a different room, and so on.

I couldn’t seem to win the battle of the nightlights, so imagine my excitement when I found out about built-in nightlights. (If you’re having trouble relating, let’s just say I was pretty excited.) My local Home Depot only had these in ivory so I had to order them from the Home Depot web site to get white ones. They are made by Pass & Seymour, and unlike some of the competition, they are rated for a full 15 amps (some of the ones on Amazon appear to be rated for 6 amps??).

These are normal Decora-style sockets. You lose a socket, but you gain a nightlight that cannot be moved. There is a photocell and the light comes on and off as you would expect. The look is also very slick and smooth–much better than something hanging out of the wall. The box isn’t very deep and fits well into a standard-size electrical box, even ones with a few wires in them. The entire rear surface is a ground plate. It’s a bit weird the ground screw is at the top of the box vs the usual bottom, but any proper electrical box should have 6″ of length to work with, if it is up to code. Speaking of US electrical code, these are tamper-resistant, which conforms to the 2008 code changes.

All in all, I’m pretty happy with these. They output a good amount of light and the color temperature is in line with other LED nightlight options. But most importantly, it’s a cleaner look–I hadn’t considered it before, but my old nightlights looked cluttered. Now the walls are a little easier on the eye.

Update 11-Feb-2012: Check out my post on built-in USB charging outlets!

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Diving into LED Lighting

Posted by mitch on February 06, 2011

I’ve recently taken the plunge on LED light bulbs. I never found CFL bulbs that I liked enough to put into living areas of my house, so I have been using GE Reveal incandescent bulbs and GE Reveal halogens throughout most of my house.

However, I’ve recently found Philips AmbientLED bulbs, which have excellent color temperature and brightness. I tried a few of the bulbs and liked them so much that I’ve upgraded all the bulbs in my office to these bulbs. I am using 3 x 5 watt bulbs and 6 x 12.5 watt bulbs in the 9 lamps in my office. These lamps were using about 520 watts of electricity before the upgrade, but now that has been reduced to 90 watts. These bulbs aren’t cheap (total cost for the 9 bulbs was $300 before sales tax!), but the light quality is excellent. Electricity costs me $0.16 per KWH, so I’m looking at around 10-11 months for break-even. This estimate does not include reduced air conditioner costs in the summer, since the AC will not need to remove as much heat from the lights.

Beware not all LED bulbs are created even. I bought some cheaper bulbs for my front porch, since the front porch light isn’t on a sensor and we sometimes forget to turn it off. Those bulbs use far less electricity–about 4 watts instead of 120–but the color temperature is very similar to CFLs.

I am pretty new to these Philips bulbs and don’t have comprehensive experience with them, but I have observed that the metal parts of the housing take far longer to cool off than incandescent bulbs and they get far hotter to the touch, so be careful if when changing bulbs.

All in all, I am very excited about these bulbs and looking forward to reduced prices on them as the LED market matures.

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