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handymike 06-08-2010 02:20 PM

Outdoor post light - random blinking bulb
Long time lurker, first time poster. Although not a contractor by trade I do consider myself above average in knowledge on most home repair/remodeling topics, but this one has me stumped.

I have an outdoor post lamp, single bulb, that goes on at dusk and off at dawn controlled by a sensor in the post. Not long after I got it (last Sept) I installed a CFL bulb. I had done this at a previous house and it lasted forever. This time however the light started going on and off at random intervals throughout the evening. Replacing the CFL bulb with a regular bulb worked for a while but then the blinking started again. This time I replaced the light sensor and everything has been fine for over 6 months.

A week ago I finally had to replace the bulb from all those months ago because it burned out. Within a few days of replacing it with the exact same make and model (60-watt) incandescent bulb the light has started randomly turning on and off again in the evenings.

Maybe it's the sensor again? I'm out of ideas.

HouseHelper 06-08-2010 02:35 PM

Check the center contact in the bulb socket for corrosion and poor contact. WITH THE POWER OFF, use a small screwdriver or dentist's pick to clean the surface and gently lift the tab for better contact.

brric 06-08-2010 02:44 PM

Are there any other nearby light sources that could be triggering the photo eye?

handymike 06-08-2010 02:51 PM

HouseHelper - thanks for the corrosion tip. I'll check that out.

brric - I live in a typical newer subdivision so the other houses are close and so are their lights, but none of these other light sources have changed in the last few days.

sparks1up 06-08-2010 06:00 PM

Are you using one of those photocells that screw into the socket and then the lamp screws in on top of that?

handymike 06-08-2010 06:03 PM

Nope. This is a standard threaded photo cell that resides in the lamp post, a few inches from the top of the post but below the light. Replacement photo cell came from Home Depot. Can't remember the brand. Maybe they only last 6 months??:mad:

brric 06-08-2010 07:08 PM

Put some black tape over the photo cell for the night and see if the lamp still acts up.

Yoyizit 06-08-2010 07:40 PM


Originally Posted by handymike (Post 452983)
the light started going on and off at random intervals throughout the evening.

Does the sensor somehow see light from the controlled light?

If using a bulb with substantially higher wattage changes the symptom I'd say it was a bad connection.

handymike 06-08-2010 11:25 PM

I'll try the black tape tomorrow (storms tonight) and see what happens.

The fixture is rated for a 100W bulb and I'm only using a 60 so there shouldn't be issues with too much light. And the light doesn't overhang the sensor so I don't anticipate an issue there.

Here is a link to the post light in question if that helps.

handymike 06-14-2010 02:29 PM

Future reference for anyone with a similar problem.

The light completely stopped working a few days ago. I bought a new sensor thinking that was the problem. Turns out the GFCI had tripped because water somehow made it's way past the lamp and into the post, settling into the wire nuts which had their open ends conveniently (sarcasm) pointed in an upward direction. I'm glad I replaced the sensor because it enabled me to find the wire nut issue (fixed by keeping closed end of wire nuts facing up and wrapping with electrical tape). I also found the ground wire connection was completely corroded inside the wire nut and likely contributed to the sporadic behavior of the light in the first place.

Everything is working fine now. Cheap fix and good learning opportunity.

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