Q: I have a small dusk-to-dawn light that’s acting funny. We installed it about three years ago and never had problems with it, then all of a sudden it began to come on for a short period of time and then it would shut off. I got on a ladder and cleaned the dust off the small round light sensor. That didn’t help, so I went to the manufacturer’s Web site and I couldn’t find much information on my model. It’s been doing this for about three months now and it’s very annoying. Can you give me some ideas on how to fix the problem? – Carol H., Spokane
A: Carol, I was blown away when I received your question because I’ve been struggling with a similar problem. I have a similar light on the backside of our home and it’s been as temperamental as your light. It is most annoying when it goes off because it’s difficult to see in the back yard.
I did just what you did: I cleaned the automatic light sensor only to find no difference in performance. I figured then that the automatic light sensor needed replacing. Our local home center had the part for less than $10 so I turned off the power and replaced the sensor. I then turned on the power and, wearing a pair of gloves, I covered the sensor to test it to see if the light would come on. The light came on and I figured it was a go, but I knew I wouldn’t know for sure until later that night.
That night I checked the light and it seemed to be working fine. About an hour later it was still working. Then about 15 minutes later it wasn’t working. I was baffled and figured that the light itself went bad. Our unit was only up for a little over a year, and while it was covered under a lifetime limited warranty, I couldn’t find my sales receipt. I didn’t want to purchase a new light, so I, too, went to the manufacturer’s site only to find nothing on the subject.
I then called the manufacturer. I gave the model number, and while I know most customer services representatives use a cheat sheet, this rep knew her products. Her first question was “Did you change the lamp?” I said “No.” She then explained that the fault normally lies with the lamp if it’s a light with a small round automatic light sensor. If the light comes on and then goes off a few minutes later, first replace the lamp. If this doesn’t correct the problem, then the sensor would need changing.
I purchased and installed a new 100-watt high-pressure sodium lamp (and left the new sensor in) and it was like a new light that evening – it was so bright. Now that I think of it, I remember that the light was slowly losing its glow. That was my first clue and I missed it.
To answer your question, I suggest that you purchase the proper watt lamp for your fixture and see what happens that evening. If this doesn’t cure it, then replace the sensor. My guess is that changing the lamp will put your light back into working order. Let me know how it turned out – or rather, how it turned on.
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