Luminaire Sleuth Extraordinare

Jim is proving to be quite the lighting detective – if a light doesn’t work, he’s the picture of dogged determination ’til he gets it fixed.  He really tackled a lot this past weekend – and now we have a house full of light…the more the better, as far as I’m concerned.  I’m one of those gotta-have-a-gigawatt-of-light-in-each-room people. With this house being a foreclosure, the lighting was minimal – most of the fixtures were gone, and most of the ones that weren’t gone didn’t work, which is probably why they were still here.  Jim got out his HDM350 Multimeter and went to work:

He used this gadget to check to see if there was power to the light switches, junction boxes, sockets and wires…not only was it for safety, but it helped him troubleshoot various problems.

Mystery #1 – The Strobe Light Spots…One of his first big mysteries solved involved the two eyeball spots over the fireplace in the family room. We had put in CFL bulbs when we moved in, but we soon had a problem:

This was annoying, to say the least. My speculation was a broken wire somewhere. This was way off, which is only one of the reasons I don’t tackle electrical problems around the house. When Jim started investigating, he discovered that there was a dimmer on that light switch – the dimmer was turned way down low. You can’t put CFL’s on a regular dimmer or, apparently, you get the strobe light effect that we did. We did see CFL dimmers at Home Depot the other day, so we will probably swap it out eventually, but in the meantime we just have the dimmer set to full on.

Jim suggested putting in a picture to show how tiny the dimmer slide is so that people wouldn’t think we’re complete morons not to realize that switch had a dimmer: 🙂

Mystery #2 – The Non-functioning Porch Light…Our front porch light has never worked. I ran through my repertoire of troubleshooting skills (a.k.a. I changed the light bulb) with no luck. Jim whipped out the trusty Multimeter and began checking…yes, there was power at the light switch…yes, there was power at the junction box of the light fixture. Thinking that maybe it had just been a loose connection, he put the fixture back and flipped the light switch, sure that it would work. It didn’t. Mulling this over a little more, he decided to check the socket of the fixture…yes, it was getting power.

There’s a little metal contact in the base of the socket – Jim’s theory was that maybe this contact was actually NOT in contact with the light bulb. He bent the tab out just a little and tried it again – Voilà! We now have a working front porch light!
(Picture Source)
Having the front porch light working is just SO great – no more fumbling around in the dark to get your key in the lock (as long as you remembered to turn on the light before you left the house!).

Mystery #3 – Two Non-working Family Room Lights…There are two 6-inch recessed lights in this room which have never worked. After a little piddling, Jim made a discovery – and let me see if I can explain this. There is a single light switch on one side of the room which is a 3-way switch. This switch alone did not turn on the lights. HOWEVER, if this switch is in the ON position, there is ANOTHER switch across the room which will turn the lights on and off. So-o-o-o, if the first switch is off, the second switch won’t turn the lights on…and if the second switch is on, the first switch will turn the lights on and off. Really not the way a 3-way switch should work and Jim will have to figure out a proper fix for this, but at least for now, we’ve got two more working lights in here!

Even when he had the switch thing figured out, one of the lights wouldn’t work until Jim did the old bend-the-metal-contact-in-the-bottom-of-the-socket trick.

Yeah, living in a 28-year-old house can turn up some quirky things…I’m sure we’re just getting started 🙂 Does your house have any quirks you’d like to share?


About donnahuebsch

I'm a wife, a mom to an unschooling teenager, an animal lover, an artsy craftsy kind of person, & a DIYer. We're embarking on our BIGGEST do-it-yourself project yet - renovating an entire house!
This entry was posted in Renovation and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Luminaire Sleuth Extraordinare

  1. eof737 says:

    What wonderful sleuthing you guys re doing… I might try #2 for one of our outside lights TY! 🙂
    Keep up the good work.

  2. Peter Weis says:

    Got shocked doing electric work once. Not fun.

    • donnahuebsch says:

      Yikes – definitely not a good thing…glad you’re around to tell the tale.

      • Peter Weis says:

        wasn’t to bad only a 120v. I have heard getting zapped by 240 however is not as pleasant. I try to leave electrical work to the pro’s when ever possible. Almost anything else I’ll try DIY a least once. You learn so much more doing thigns the DIY way.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s