Shed A Little Light

It seems like we are forever replacing light bulbs here. I’m not sure why. It doesn’t matter if they’re old school incandescent, CFL, LED or halogen. Our light bulbs expire before they should. Inside and out. Especially our exterior front lights.

One of our exterior light bulbs just exploded on July 4. DH raised the garage door to check out the activity in the neighborhood, and as he looked around he heard glass shatter to the ground. There was enough light from the next nearest fixture to see the large shards and get them off the driveway. They were from a light bulb.

In the light of day, I cleaned up the rest of the glass, and unscrewed the element portion that was left in the light fixture. That fixture, btw, was the brand new one I installed when the house was painted. Temperatures had been ungodly hot, and we leave the exterior lights on from dusk to dawn now. And they had been left on continuously for a couple of days by accident. We liked the 75 to 100 watt brightness. I think all that combined may have caused overload and contributed to the explosion. However, it has happened before, with every one of the exterior light fixtures I installed (correctly, under the watchful eye of the contractor). It’s so frustrating.

Because I don’t like coming home to a dark house when I have to work late, and because we are not good about turning the exterior lights on and off regularly, I needed a solution. The light sensors in two of the replacement fixtures weren’t working properly two years ago. I painted over the sensors — do not judge! I also determined that the gizmos that could go in the fixture with bulbs screwing into them, were not a good option for us. If we could just leave the light switch on and have the bulbs turn on/off automatically, this could alleviate much of the overload problem, if that even is the problem.

So it was timely Providence that I stumbled upon an awesome solution on a blog by Becky, Flipping the Flip, through HomeTalk. First of all, I love this blog. I feel for her as she struggles to undo and redo bad things a flipper did to their house. I have encountered bad things the contractors did to this house back when it was built, so I totally understanding where she’s coming from.

Anyway, Becky mentioned the dusk to dawn light BULB she was using. A bulb with a sensor built in! This was new to me. Standard bulb, check! LED, check! Easy, check! Not a long term commitment, check! Since I had to replace the exterior bulb, anyway, I decided to look at this one.

“intelliulb,” indeed!

It was on sale at Menard’s for about $6.50, I don’t recall exactly. I had a rebate voucher, so that worked out to nearly free. (Right now the online sale price is $4.99, AND you get an 11% rebate!) It was worth a try.

It works great! That one bulb stays dark until after sunset, no matter how early in the day I have to flip the light switch on (leaving for work at 4 pm like ya do). It shuts off in the early morning light, before I remember to flip it off again. It will accommodate changes in season without any work. The 60 watt brightness is just fine. It’s almost like magic! There’s only one thing. Sometimes I like to turn on the lights if I’m expecting someone, especially in the morning, so they can look for the house with the lights on (the house number is shaded then). This solution won’t let me do that. This requires more thought.

Right now my goal is to replace at least two more bulbs as I get more rebate vouchers, or when I have money left in the monthly home repair budget. The bulb at the front door may or may not get replaced with one of these. If one or more bulbs blows again, well, that plan goes away, and I’m not out effort or much money.

And, if that happens, there will be other serious issues to address. So let’s say a prayer for “the little light bulb that hopefully can.”



Not My Biggest Fan

Readers, I apologize for not having more before and during photos. I’m trying to remember, really I am.

About two months ago, I heard a bump-thud that I thought was AO#2 dropping something. Several minutes later, I heard more of a crash and a sharper dropping sound. It wasn’t the kid. An unusual scraping noise followed, and it was coming from the garage!

There have been security issues in our neighborhood, even during the day. I did not want to open that door. So I listened, and it sounded not like a person moving around, but like an “issue,” so I bit the bullet.

In the center of the garage ceiling, we have a ceiling fan with a light fixture, which is invaluable in triple-digit heat. The fan had lost a blade, and the light globe was broken. The bulb was missing. The fan was on the highest speed; it is always set on the lowest speed. What the HECK?!

The light switch and the fan were immediately turned off while I threw on some sturdy footwear. After sweeping, I used the ShopVac to pick as many of the tiny shards as possible, and further assessed the situation. The bulb was a coated LED, so it didn’t shatter, but it was no longer working. And the bracket had broken off.

I deduced that when the bracket broke, the falling blade must have caught on the chain, adjusting the speed. It was projected across the garage, and away from my vehicle, thank goodness. The resulting wobbling from uneven weight and high speed caused the bulb to work its way out and crash through the globe. There was excess stress on the fan, causing the awful sound. Just, wow.

First, as to the cause of the broken bracket, I believe that when DH put his foot through the ceiling just above the fixture several years ago, it put a minor stress fracture in the bracket. It happens. I’ve since added flooring (and 250 sq. ft. of storage space) in the attic, so no more accidents. Over time, and possibly with the fan not getting balanced, and with extreme heat and cold out there, the bracket just gave up and broke off. At least no one was in its path! This is also not the first time we’ve had issues with vibrations and that fan/light. About 15 years ago, the globe just fell and shattered out of the blue. I did not bother replacing it until I found one at the Habitat ReStore five years ago for $2. I appreciated the diffusion the globe provided, and was glad I got it.

At first, I debated which new fan I should get. Menard’s was having another 11% rebate sale, so that was enticing. I could get a comparable, same-size replacement for about $35. Then I dreaded the installation. Multiple switches and wires, very high ceiling, heavy fan. What other options did I have? Who would I call to install it, since this is not something I felt I could do? I headed to Menard’s to scout out many things, including a fan.

Well, lookie there….fan parts! I got a set of new brackets for about $6. A replacement globe was $10; I just wasn’t up for a trip to ReStore, and wanted new parts.

Turn of the Century® 42


I decided to replace all of the fan blade brackets, not just the broken one. Since it was a simple process, it made sense so that the fan wouldn’t be out of balance. I was able to climb the attic ladder (which was pulled down, fortunately, for some reason), and use a cordless screwdriver to remove the old brackets with the blades attached. I carefully put the screws in my pocket so I could reuse them. I also carefully removed the broken globe and handed it down to AO#2, who placed it in the glass recycling bucket. The fixture got a good wipe-down while I was up there. That took about 10 minutes total.

Inside, I removed the old brackets from the blades and gave the blades a quick sponge bath. They were laminate, and I didn’t want them to swell, so they didn’t sit in water. Omigosh, I vowed to never let them get that dirty again! That took about 20 minutes. I let them dry for two days before attaching the new brackets to the blades. One side of the blades has a lovely gold paint detail. I turned the blades so that the plain white side would face down, helping the fan to “disappear” against the ceiling.

See where we patched the hole in the ceiling? Fortunately, the fan is near the attic ladder and an I-beam.

It’s a garage! It doesn’t need to look pretty! It functions and my eye is not drawn to it.

DH went up the attic ladder to assist by holding the fan steady, while I climbed an extension ladder braced against that I-beam. That put me at eye-level with the work. I checked the fan balance, and it didn’t need adjustments. In went the new bulb, and the new globe. This took only about 10 minutes.

For $16 in new fan parts, and a little time and effort, our fan and light are working just great again. I don’t have to worry about the safety of a re-wire job, or scheduling and paying for a handyman. Plus, there’s the satisfaction of having done it ourselves. I do have a plan to check and clean the fan and light more regularly now.

About that fan balancing, you really should check all your fans regularly. The screws can get loose, and the brackets can bend because of that. When I was sprucing up the guest room this spring, I got a fan balancing kit from Home Depot for less than $2. The most valuable part of the kit for me was the instructions. I didn’t need the parts. If you don’t want to spend $2, research it online; there are many videos on this subject. It’s very easy to do. In order, you make sure all the screws are tight, the measurements of each blade from the ceiling are equal, the angles of the blades are equal, and the lighting fixture is securely attached. Most brackets are bendable, so until stress fractures occur, minor adjustments should be fine. A kit contains weights if that is necessary. Balancing can eliminate noise and vibrations, and ensure best air flow. Nice. I checked all the indoor fans, but just didn’t take this idea out to the garage. My bad.

This was a surprise project that needed immediate attention (100+ degrees for days). But $16 fit just fine in the home repair budget for that month. I always try to keep a buffer in that budget, for things such as this.