Stumped on our outdoor lamps

goodbyekittyJanuary 3, 2010

We have 2 outdoor lamps that flank our driveway. But we can't figure out how they work or find the main switch for them. They turn on radomly at night, but not often. I think I've seen them on in the wee hours of the morning about 5 times since we moved in in 2007.

I'd like to replace the lamp posts with something more updated. They are just a plain white and doesn't really go with our Spanish style home. I guess we could paint them black, but they'd still look out of date. The house was built in '77.

From what we were told by the neighbors, this is a contractor's house. The contractor that built our home, built several of the homes around our block. We have a huge electrical panel in our garage and then another panel we haven't opened yet. But I think that has something to do with the telephone. The big panel had never been marked so by trial and error we marked some of the electrical wires that go to certain rooms in our house.

But even if we found the circuit for the outdoor lamps, shouldn't there be a switch somewhere for them?

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What there should be and what exists are often two different things. If you can't find an obvious switch they may be hardwired with some kind of photocell or timer.

As for tracing the circuit, there are tools to do that. The attached thread is just one example on many that are on the market. I know Home Depot sells a similar one and it goes for about $40.

Here is a link that might be useful: Circuit Tracing Thread

    Bookmark   January 3, 2010 at 12:21PM
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Ron Natalie

Look around outside (on the lamp post, on a electrical box) for a device about the size of a pencil eraser with a nut around it. This is a common light controlling photocell.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2010 at 2:20PM
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There is a technique to locate the ditch line from the posts back to the house or from post to post called 'witching' that could help give an idea where the line inters your home. If you have a basement you might be able to find its entry point. The technique involves walking around back and forth between the post and the house holding two pieces of wire out in front of you. The neighbors will think your cheese slid off your cracker, but it does work rather well and can be explained further if needed.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2010 at 5:32PM
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Ok great info. I think I know what we're looking for now so if we find it, is this something that just needs to be replaced? Or...if we just replace the lamps would that solve the problem? I guess if that photocell is located somewhere else it wouldn't solve the problem.

I know we've looked at the lamps before but maybe not very closely. A photocell shouldn't be covered up I imagine, so we'll take a look again. Thanks!

    Bookmark   January 3, 2010 at 7:58PM
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Photocells are often located in the body of the fixture. For a "post" type, often in the post itself. There are "add-on" ones that screw in between the lamp and the socket. They do fail with some regularity.

It's also possible the photocell is somewhere on the house, under an eve as an example.

Here is a link that might be useful: Photo Controls

    Bookmark   January 3, 2010 at 8:51PM
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