Help! Adding new light fixtures vs. strange problem.

justjill3February 7, 2010

First, the problem. I have two flush-mounted ceiling light fixtures on my front porch. Bulbs are constantly (1 yr) blowing out. This is frequently accompanied by a spark. It seems as though I recall having a spark at the wall switch,as well. I have tried fluorescent as well as incandescent bulbs. Along with this problem, I hate opening the fixtures. Goodness knows what lives in them. I want to replace these flush-mounted fixtures with pendant fixtures. That will allow me to just reach up and change the bulbs. Could there be a short or an overload?

Secondly, I want to beef up my security by having more security lights under the eaves & at the corners of my house.

Now, I have used two electrical businesses. I am reluctant to use them again, because they wanted to sell me an annual maintenance contract. To complicate matters more, my breaker box has no empty spaces. In fact, both electricians have told me that the circuit that is screwed to the exterior of the box shouldn't be there. Will my box have to be upgraded for the new lights? Do I need a maintenance contract? Should I go with a big company?

Any answers would be GREATLY appreciated.

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spencer_electrician

Maintenance contracts are a joke. One of my customers has one with the city's largest residential (heating, cooling, electrical, plumbing) companies. One day a main fuse flew in his main disconnect and instead of calling me, he called them up. They did not cover the fuse which they charged $140 for and another $60 for the service call. He pays $600 a year on top of the $60. My service call with trip and the fuse would of been under $150. Unless the service panel burns up and has to be replaced (for only $60, plus whatever rediculous material charge, probably $1000 for them instead of $200) Never would really benefit. Just a good way for a company to get guaranteed income, you should be able to just tell them you are not interested and would rather pay when something is needed. The box probably is due for an upgrade but adding two lights should be able to be shared with another branch circuit granted the circuit is grounded and does not prohibit lighting to be added. Example would be a nearby junction box that has wiring for general purpose receptacle outlets and lighting.

You might ask your friends if they know of a good electrician. Big companies are often not the best (employing barely qualified people). I'm a 2 to 3 guy company and people mainly gain my trust through referrals. There are a lot of "chuck in a truck" small business electricians that would not have a clue what they are doing. Calling themselves and electrician because they have a cell phone, a pair of wire strippers and their buddy's license.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2010 at 2:01PM
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Billl

Re: light burning out - I would change out the switch. Like everything else in life, they do eventually ware out. The switch mechanically closes the circuit, so if it isn't quite working right, you get a bit of arcing (the visible spark). That will cause the bulb to fail prematurely. A new switch costs about a dollar. If you can't change it out yourself, it should be very cheap to get done.

Re: companies - the best way to find a good contractor (electrical or otherwise) is by word of mouth. Ask around and get recommendations for people who have done good work for friends and family. If you can't do that, there is an excellent service that will do it for you. It is called Angie's List. You have to pay a small fee to join, but you will have access to endless reviews for just about every professional service you might ever want to hire.

Re: Security lights - you may or may not just be able to add those easily to your existing lights. I'm sure you would be able to add more small lights (60 watt bulbs) with little issue. If you want to start running multiple 400 watt flood light, then you are talking about a much larger power draw and someone will need to verify that you won't be overloading any circuits. I'm sure a good electrician would figure out something for you even if there was a minor obstacle.

Alternative - they sell self contained solar powered security lights now. They are a little more expensive, but they are basically idiot proof and don't require any wiring.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2010 at 9:35AM
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sparky17

An annual maintenance contract,for a single residential home?
Can honestly say i have never heard of that,and i can't imagine the electrician trying to push that on you with a strait face.
Don't use any company that would try to rook you into that deal,they are thieves!
And as for a full panel,you can buy(depending on your panel),tandem breakers.Not to be confused with 2 pole breakers,these tandems can replace a single pole breaker,in effect giving you double the breaker spaces in you panel.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2010 at 11:30AM
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justjill3

Thanks Spencer, Billl, and Sparky.

Sparky, not only has ONE electrician tried to "push" this, but TWO (from a different company) have tried. I think that some companies use that as a business model. Regarding tandems, my box is FULL of tandem breakers. Perhaps there are a few spots that I can convert. Thanks.

Billl, I have changed that switch three times. Maybe that's why I cannot recall the last time a spark came from the switch. Maybe that problem was fixed. As far as the solar light goes, too much of my house is shaded densely. And thanks for mentioning Angie's List. Kudzu.com offers the same service for Georgians. I've had great luck with them, and will check them out again.

Again, thank you all.

Thank you.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2010 at 7:33PM
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