Thursday, December 7, 2017

The joy and frustration of modern nightlight technology

I recently heard a nurse mention there were inexpensive motion-activated nightlights that could help prevent falls. Nightlights once used little 7-watt incandescent lamps, like the replica of a Coleman lantern shown above. It used a photocell so it was off during the day.

When I looked at the nearest Walmart I found that for just $8 I could buy a GE Ultrabrite Motion-Activated Light #12201 using two soft-white LEDs with an output of 40 lumens (slightly more than the 36 lumens from an incandescent lamp). It stayed on for only 90 seconds after sensing motion. As shown above, it plugs into the upper socket of a duplex wall outlet, and only consumes 1.5 watts when lit up. We got two of them for our bedroom, and put another two in the hall.

For $10 Walmart also had a GE LED Motion-Boost Light #38769 whose light output increased from 3 to 25 lumens. I thought that model would be perfect for putting on the wall above our cat’s food bowl, but found instead it has a major design flaw. The plug on its back is positioned so high that it blocks both sockets on a duplex wall outlet. I'm going to take it back for a refund.

Of course, there are other simple options with just light sensing rather than motion sensing. SnapPower makes ones that can almost instantly replace the cover plate for either a wall switch (SwitchLight) or a duplex outlet (GuideLight).

The image of a Coleman lantern nightlight is from Wikimedia Commons.

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