Saturday, November 08, 2008

Another handy household hint

Compact fluorescent bulbs are getting better. No longer must you endure the ghostly pallor of 'daylight' colour temperatures typical of fluorescent bulbs of the past.

(They are not perfect and they certainly don't deserve to be made mandatory. We will hardly save the planet by putting all their mercury into landfills, and whatever heat I used to get from incandescent bulbs needs to be made up by burning natural gas, at least in winter

But there is still a problem. CFL bulbs do not work with the little $25 solid-state motion detector switches that fit into a standard light switch box -- they will flicker like crazy -- so I have been using incandescents. But when incandescent bulbs burn out, they often burn out the $25 switch at the same time because the surge of current toasts the circuits.
What to do, what to do...

The solution, I think, is a bit of both technologies. I have a motion detector switch near the back door that operates a ceiling fixture in the back hallway. The fixture is an old enclosed glass thing that accepts a pair of bulbs, 40W maximum each, due to the heat buildup inside the glass hemisphere. My solution is to put a 40W conventional bulb and a 13W CFL in the same fixture. The result is lots and lots of light, about half the heat, and no flickering. When that little 40W bulb eventually burns out, I am hoping that the switch survives, although there is no reason why it should, I suppose. But in the meantime I have way more light and lower fire risk.
I should keep my eyes open for a more robust mechanical switch, like the ones you find in outside light fixtures (you can hear them activate). Till then, two types of bulbs will share the spotlight.

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