Thursday, September 26, 2013

"Fiat Lux," CFL Edition

     Last evening, Tam and I installed the new backyard "barn light," a  $35 gadget with a nice-looking cast-aluminum housing, ceramic (!) mogul-base socket and featuring a 65 Watt CFL bulb that lights up the back yard more brightly than we've had in a long time.

     The only functional question left is, will it shut off once the sun comes up?  It was dark by the time we finished, so it came on immediately. I should've checked last night with a bright flashlight, but I didn't think of it until after I'd put everything away including the ladder. ETA: Yes, it shut down once the sun was up.

     Tam was surprised to find that most of the overhead lights are on the same breaker as the yard light.  Like many old houses, Roseholme Cottage (built in1924) probably started out with a fusebox that had four 110V circuits (and possibly one 220V for a range).  Main floor lighting on one, basement and attic on another, two left for the baseboard sockets, and welcome to the future, Ma'am. It appears that all of the original sockets were on the shared interior wall that runs lengthwise through the entire house, separating bedrooms and bath from living room, dining room and kitchen; subsequent remodels and installation of larger electrical service (and breaker box) added receptacles on the outside walls and additional inside walls, leaving the original wiring in place.  --I need to do something about that, by and by; in the meantime, the old sockets have only a couple of lamps on them and many overhead fixtures have lower-current CFLs.


BGMiller said...

They're a bit pricey compared to the good old incandescent bulbs but you may consider replacing the bulb in that fixture with one of the new-ish LED units. I've found that during the winters here (Iowa) the CFLs struggle to get going on a really cold evening until they warm up their enclosures and this seems to be shaving a fair bit off their expected lives.

After seeing how well the LED bulbs worked in the walk-in freezers at work I'm convinced they're the way to go for low temps.

BGMiller said...

Oh, and the LEDs also seem to survive vibrations better than the CFLs did in the freezer that was constantly having it's door slammed. I'm thinking they might do well for the creaky old garage door opener as well.


Douglas2 said...

If one has to have knob & tube wiring, it sounds like you have the almost ideal situation -- there is really nothing wrong with the stuff as long as:
- it is used within its capacity
- it hasn't been respliced or spliced to modern stuff with illegal splices
- the neutral is unfused
- it hasn't been physically moved around.
- it is allowed to breathe.

On outside walls, people like to add insulation, which is bad news for K&T for the last two reasons above, but it sounds like your K&T is primarily on interior walls which most likely remain uninsulated. The upgraded service installation would have removed any neutral fusing that existed. The system was expanded by adding circuits to rooms, rather than splicing into the K&T.
I'm not saying you want to keep it. But I guess it kind of bugs me that people think K&T is intrinsically dangerous, when the problems really only occur with K&T that has been messed with and abused.

Fuzzy Curmudgeon said...

That fixture sounds like the one I installed for my mother on the back porch in about 2002. I keep waiting for the CFL to burn out, but it keeps on keeping on (and it works in cold weather, too).

Just as a personal reminiscence, there were still homes in Indianapolis served by IPL with 110V service (one hot line and a neutral only -- no 220V) as late as the 1980s -- and for all I know, still today. At some point in the '80s I remember replacing one for a guy who was installing air conditioning and discovered he couldn't do that without a new service drop and ancillary equipment.

And I agree with Douglas -- there is nothing wrong with undisturbed knob and tube wiring that wasn't misinstalled to begin with and isn't being abused in some way.

Roberta X said...

I like knob and tube okay -- I have my concerns about the ancient armorflex cable that feeds it, albeit via the approved little ceramic fixture that screws into the spiral jacket.

So far, it appears whoever did the work understood how to connect tube and knob; all "splices" are soldered and appear to have the correct fabric "friction" tape over rubber tape.

Douglas2 said...

ah, armorflex. Known as greenfield around these parts. Year before last at the big music festival all of these posts popped up in the field, each with a stub of gray PVC sticking out of the soil and transitoning to flexible conduit up to an exit sign about 8' high. It turns out those were to be stations for paramedics, and before the first show each red "Exit" glass was replaced with green glass saying "EMT". I happened to be near one at the same time an electrician was close by, so I motioned him over and asked if he saw the problem... He just looked at me quizzically, so I said "It isn't EMT, its Greenfield"

Roberta X said...

There's flex and there's flex, Douglas2. The very oldest sorts (1920s/30s, IIRC) don't have a good reputation -- the wire insulation is a little fragile and the flexible metal-sprial outer can expose sharp edges if sharply bent or it gets uncoiled. Unlike tube and knob, which (if done right) doesn't rely on the wire insulation, it really should be replaced.

These days, the smallish prewired stuff is very good when used with the whole suite of fittings (plastic thimbles for the cut ends, etc.) and for anything larger there are several good options including "seal-tite" weatherproof flexible conduit, which IMO is as easy as thinwall EMT to work with.

Douglas2 said...

I learn. Thanks!