Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Volume 2, Number 5: Seeing the Light

(Note: This is a re-posting of an entry I made in February 2007 on a Yahoo! GeoCities blog.)

The other day, I went to change the light bulb on the front porch. I did, and when I turned it on, pop! I thought, Crap, the bulb must have been bad, but I'm not about to go back into this chilly weather to change it again.

A half-hour later, I was getting ready to bake some cookies in the kitchen when it dawned on me, it's getting dark outside so I should turn on the light in the kitchen. So I flipped on the switch, and it didn't go on. Well, I thought, it had been a while since I changed the bulb in the kitchen; maybe that died, too.

So I changed the bulb, and I still had no light. Darn, first the porch light, and maybe now the switch in the kitchen. Electrical problems, that's the last thing I wanted to deal with.

As it turns out, the electrical problem I had wasn't bad at all. I did not know it at the time, but two wires had broken inside the porch light, and they just happened to be touching each other when I turned that light on. That pop I heard wasn't a bad bulb--the wires had tripped a circuit.

This affected the light in the kitchen because it is on the same circuit as the porch light. So when the circuit tripped, I lost not only the porch light, but the kitchen light, as well as the whole living room (which is between the kitchen and the porch).

I figured it was time to replace that porch light anyway--those wires looked too dangerous and I never liked replacing bulbs in it for that reason. I just wished that those wires had broken a few months back when temperatures weren't so darn cold--heck, maybe I should have replaced that fixture myself when I bought the house in 2000.

In my search for a new porch light, I decided to go on the Web first. Why? Because it's better to get some idea on how much a replacement fixture would cost and evaluate the designs available from the comfort of my own home, rather than drive out to a whole bunch of stores (wasting both time and gas in the process).

I checked several store web sites, including those for the two biggest home improvement store chains in the country: The Home Depot and Lowe's.

The Home Depot probably has a very good selection of light fixtures. I say "probably" because they didn't show much of it on their web site--if I wanted to see the full selection, I'd have to go to the store. Searching for "outdoor light fixture" on their web site reveals a limited selection, with most costing $50 or more. Search for "porch light," and you get nothing.

Sears and Wal-Mart both showed limited selections on their web sites as well.

Lowe's, on the other hand, did exactly what I expected the other store web sites to do: Show me what I'll see in the store--not just part of it. That web site showed me all kinds of porch lights, ranging from the cheapo "jelly jar" ones that go for $3 to ones better suited for McMansions.

Guess who got my business?

I selected one of the cheaper models; it cost me around $10 (you have to bear in mind, my house is one of those post-World War II cookie-cutter "starter" houses. I'm not about to put a McMansion lantern on a "starter" house--that's like putting Cadillac wheel covers on a Chevy pickup). The real reason I picked it is that it is similar in style and color to the old porch light. (But a big difference is, at least the socket isn't hanging from a pair of exposed wires.)

That's all for now. See you next time...

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