help! what just happened to outdoor light.. pics

andrelaplume2August 11, 2012

We have a light over the garage door. It has a cfl in it for a while. It has some weird 20 year old timer contraption that controls it from in the garage. I walked outside and as I was walking away I heard what sounded like a bug zapper zapping a bug for maybe 5 seconds. Then I saw smoke (lightly) coming from thelight fixture and it smelled bad.

I took the bulb outand its base is blackend. I shut the thing off. I tried another later bulb but I do not think the timer is working since the red light no longer comes on. I left the bulb in...it is suppose to rain later...its the one in the first picture. CFL issue? Timer Issue? Ekectrical issue? Should I remove the timer, put in a regular switch and replace the fixture with a motion detector fixture.? Or is the problem in the wiring? See Pics below and Thanks! First pic is simply of the light fixture.

The blackend bulb:

The lightfixture base with bulb removed:

The 'old' timer in the garage:

Thanks!!!!

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alan_s_thefirst

The lamp holder is fried. I'd bet the timer may be ok, but you'd have to check the voltage at the fitting, if you're up to that.

If you really love that light you may be able to replace the lampholder (use a new ceramic one) but I'd probably junk it, get rid of the timer and use a motion sensing/light dependent fixture.

Only thing is, you usually can't use CFLs in those, because they don't fully "switch," there's always a tiny bit of current there. You could use a regular light bulb, which is only going to come on when needed, or you may be able to use a new LED bulb. Besides, if you get a real winter where you are, CFLs don't work too well when it's cold.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2012 at 2:38PM
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brickeyee

CFLs and solid sate switches are a bad combination.

A CFL that is designed for use on a dimmer may survive.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2012 at 5:35PM
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Ron Natalie

That thing is an older intermatic mechanical timer. It's rated for fluorescents up to 400 Watts. I suspect the real issue was the heat from the ballast inside that rather constrained fixture. I've seen a number of CFL ballasts go like that.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2012 at 5:45PM
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suburbanmd

Looks like an Intermatic EJ341 electronic timer. It may well be ruined. I went through a couple of those before realizing that a bad outdoor socket was killing them.

Here is a link that might be useful: Intermatic EJ341

    Bookmark   August 11, 2012 at 8:29PM
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elltwo

I don't think it's supposed to be used with anything but incandescent or standard fluorescent 40 watt minimum (not CFL) lamps.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2012 at 8:29PM
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alan_s_thefirst

Those cheap bakelite lampholders always fail sooner or later. I suspect a CFL would run cooler than the max-rated incandescent, but poor contact in the lampholder creates more resistance, which creates more heat, which creates more resistance.... goto 10.

Andre, in answer to your part 2 question, I'd replace the timer with a switch, and put in a motion-sensing fixture. You can probably re-use the white base that's cut to follow your siding unless it's part of the fixture.

Failing that, you will have to find some way of making a weatherproof bridge between the fitting and the siding. These days they put a block of Smart trim on the OSB or plywood and (often) one of those shallow 'octagonal' (actually round) boxes that's surface mount, then the siding people butt up against that.

That's what they do in BC and for some reason I think you're in Eastern Canada...

    Bookmark   August 11, 2012 at 9:27PM
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andrelaplume2

ok new fixture ans switch coming. I had that cfl in there for over a year mated with the timer. In fact I have the same threesome (fixture/bulb/timer on my front door...might as well replace the pair I guess....so that smoke a noise was 'normal'?

    Bookmark   August 11, 2012 at 9:46PM
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alan_s_thefirst

LOL. "Normal" under the circumstances. Desirable? No. You could have had a fire. Good idea on replacing the front door one, they're probably in similar condition, and this way they'll still match :)

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 12:06AM
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brickeyee

" put in a motion-sensing fixture"

Very likely to have problems with a CFL since they almost always use a solid state (triac) switch.
A dimmable CFL might survive.

The triac switch distorts the voltage and current going to the lamp, even when 'fully on.'

This can quickly destroy the power supply in anything not designed to handle the distortion, and cause a fire (though usually they just overheat and fail releasing the 'magic smoke').

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 12:12PM
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bus_driver

If one must have a timer or motion detector with lamps that have their own ballasts or drivers, one way is to have that device operate an electromechanical relay, one that has contact points. The points will make or break the power to the lamp, just as a conventional switch does. But all this will not mount into the existing wall box.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 12:39PM
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brickeyee

"If one must have a timer or motion detector with lamps that have their own ballasts or drivers, one way is to have that device operate an electromechanical relay"

The relay coil may be damaged by the triac.

Distorted current waveforms and inductors (coils or transformers) do not play well together.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 3:52PM
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andrelaplume2

would have never thought the timer would be uncompatable with the cfl....the cfls have been in there a year! I better get the other cfl bulb out...

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 10:37PM
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alan_s_thefirst

It depends on the type of timer. If it's mechanical as someone said, with a clock motor or similar, with actual contacts, it's ok. You're better off with motion sensing, as we said.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2012 at 12:51AM
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bus_driver

It is possible that the motion sensor is not compatible with fluorescent lamps. Some of them specially state such in the instructions.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2012 at 7:51AM
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brickeyee

"You're better off with motion sensing, as we said."

Except they rarely have a mechanical switch.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2012 at 10:39AM
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weedmeister

I picked up a motion sensor module designed several years ago designed to be inserted into lamps like that. It fits in the box behind the lamp. The sensor is remote mounted with a 10ft (or there abouts) cord. It happens to have an internal relay. I can hear it click when it activates. HD, made by HeathZenith I think. I kept a CFL in the fixture for several years but recently replaced it with an LED (better cold weather performance).

    Bookmark   August 14, 2012 at 2:24PM
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alan_s_thefirst

Who cares about a mechanical switch? With motion sensing, OP can either use an incandescent, since it will only run when triggered, or use an LED bulb, which is dimmable? AFAIK, dimmable LEDs are ok with electronic switches. CFLs are contraindicated for cold weather (although I use two on hard switches outdoors, and they're ok once they warm up.

I like Weedmeister's gadget, that would be very handy indoors and out.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2012 at 3:14PM
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pharkus

For the record, since I haven't seen it mentioned, there *ARE* some electronic timers, motion detectors, and other automated controls out there that are electronic in nature but still use an electromagnetic relay for the final switch. I don't really know how to identify which ones they are without buying them, although being labeled as suitable for use with fluorescents and cfls would be a good hint... if you can find one 'on display' somewhere, look for an audible "CLICK" when it turns on/off - that's the one you'd want for use with a cfl.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2012 at 6:41PM
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andrelaplume2

to hell with the cfl...new fixture and regular bulb to follow! Thanks all... I never would have thought the cfl would be an issue with the timer....

    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 12:13PM
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andrelaplume2

however...begs another question...I use a few spotlights at christmas plugged into electrical cords (along with xmas lights) that end up at an intermatic outdoor timer...there are cfls in these...is this an issue...?

    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 12:15PM
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brickeyee

Any control that does not use a mechanical contact can cause problems for a CFL not designed for us eon a dimmer.

"Who cares about a mechanical switch? With motion sensing, OP can either use an incandescent, since it will only run when triggered, or use an LED bulb, which is dimmable? "

As has been repeatedly said, any light suitable for dimming with a conventional dimmer (not a 'magnetic dimmer') should work OK with a motion sensor, daylight sensor, etc.

It is the ability to operate on a conventional dimmer that limits the damage from a solid state switch.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 2:55PM
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