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Small mysteries

A few years ago, I had a handyman replace the outdoor floodlight fixture over the garage. Last winter, one of the light bulbs stopped working; I presumed it had burned out. I bought two replacement bulbs, figuring it wise to replace both at once (especially since the fixture is in a location I can't get to). I bought pricy, super-long lasting bulbs for the same parenthetical reason.

When the house painters were here, I asked them to replace both bulbs. They did. But the fixture didn't work. It has a motion detector and I could see a bit of an orange glow come on that seemed to indicate it was detecting motion, but no floodlights. My best guess was that there was something about my pricy, super-long lasting, fancy-dancy bulbs that didn't work in the fixture.

The guy at Lowe's thought any of their floodlight bulbs should work when I talked with him while buying lower-priced replacement bulbs. Of course, by the time I got around to doing that, the painters were long gone. One of these days, I really do have to buy an extension ladder....

The summer passed, with no floodlights, ever. I finally turned the switch off, flipping it every once in awhile wishing that hope might triumph over experience, but it never did.

On Monday, my neighbor came down to work out with me. (We've just started doing this; hope it sticks!) It was dark when she left, and she asked me to turn on the light. I told her it wasn't working and flipped the switch to demonstrate.

The floodlights came on, of course. They've been coming on regularly (when they should) for 48 hours now. They go off a bit more quickly than I would prefer (or that I remember them doing before), but they come on! I should know better than to look at this gift pony's teeth any more closely.

"Should know better" so rarely trumps "because curiosity."

I don't know enough about electricity to know if shorts or other wiring problems can be temperature sensitive. The Interwebs tell me that resistance typically increases as temperature increases, and, as a Wikipedia article says, "As a consequence, the resistance of wires, resistors, and other components often change with temperature. This effect may be undesired, causing an electronic circuit to malfunction at extreme temperatures."

Only it seems that my circuit resumed functioning as soon as it got cold. Besides, Massachusetts spring, summer, and fall temperatures can hardly be considered "extreme." Even this cold snap isn't extreme.

And if there were damage to the wiring, caused by mice or squirrels, for example, it hardly seems likely that there are rodent electricians in my Flamingo Loft, repairing damage done by their cousins.

So why did the fixture stop working as soon as the new floodlights were installed...and why did it start working 6-7 months later?

Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
batwrangler
Nov. 20th, 2014 12:56 am (UTC)
Motion-sensing lights sometimes have modes/resets that are triggered by turning them off for differing amounts of time. Possibly yours reset itself after being off for a couple of minutes but by then, since it hadn't worked before, you'd already stopped trying?
gerisullivan
Nov. 20th, 2014 05:12 am (UTC)
Not likely. I'd tried a broad spectrum of on and off switch flips over a period of a month back in the spring and could never get them to come on at all.

But thanks for the reminder that the "turning off sooner than I would like" mode that it's currently in may well be remedied by the correct series (and pacing) of switch flips.

If I dare turn it off, of course. :-)
marsgov
Nov. 20th, 2014 01:26 am (UTC)
The change in the resistance of the wire is most likely negligible. But the socket that holds the bulb may have squeezed a bit tighter, or perhaps a short circuit fixed itself, or some other odd explanation.

Or, and this is a long shot (but happened in my house): perhaps the circuit is not correctly installed, and you need to have some other light turned on to make this one work?

Good luck on the workouts, btw.
gerisullivan
Nov. 20th, 2014 05:25 am (UTC)
Your socket theory might well account for it. It accounts for the fixture going non-functional at the moment fancy-dancy bulbs were put in (if the screw mount on those bulbs is just a tiny bit smaller than the old bulbs), and not working, if the fixture is now contracting the tiny bit needed for the new bulbs to make full contact.

Thanks for the good wishes. I'm 10 days in. Today is the first day that I did fewer total minutes on the elliptical than the day before (22 vs 27). I don't know if it's the cold snap or something else, but everything's been considerably more achy today. I'm starting slowly and working on building stamina and other good things.
maruad
Nov. 20th, 2014 01:53 am (UTC)
I don't know why your lights are weird but I do know my studio door will not close properly in the winter but will all summer. Happens every year when the ground starts to freezes and the house shifts.
cakmpls
Nov. 20th, 2014 11:20 pm (UTC)
We have several doors like that in our house.
maruad
Nov. 21st, 2014 04:03 pm (UTC)
It is the type of thing that gives a house character. People who don't know any better mistake it for a defect.
pameladean
Nov. 20th, 2014 03:41 am (UTC)
Our motion-sensing light -- installed by previous owners -- has a weird series of codes involving how many times and possibly how long you turn the switch on and off. I have no understanding of them at all. The light stops working and starts again at random. I don't know if cats are leaping at the switch or if there's something else going on. It's always in the same position, which seems improbably if it's cats. Anyway, such lights seem intrinsically strange and prone to weirdness.

P.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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