Low Energy Security PIR Floodlight from Lite Works
The Floodlight unit was destined to fit above a garage door to light a driveway. Once the fine spring 2009 weather arrived we put it up. The unit is a bit of a cheat as it is a completely unmodified PIR security floodlight. The supplier simply throws in a special CFL (that fits the Unit) in addition to the original bulb. There is no reference to it in the instructions. It is of an unknown brand - not Megaman and not "Ingenium". Installation was very simple. We simply drilled a hole in the wall and threaded the power cable through. From there we threaded it back to a 13amp three pin UK wall socket where we wired in a 13amp plug. Then the unit was wired in. We popped in the CFL and tested it. It seemed to work so we screwed on the face plate and left it. However, it didn't then work. A couple of days later we spent some time diagnosing the problem. It turns out that the CFL is TOO BIG for the floodlight case because when you screw on the faceplate it presses down on the CFL and dislodges it to break the electrical connection.
After trial and error we screwed on the faceplate as far as we could dare to go then used mastic to seal the unit against the weather. A bit of an unhappy compromise but, hopefully, the CFL should last a good few years so we won't have to take it apart in a hurry. Fingers-crossed.
Note: the Halogen retrofit CFL, included with the kit, came under the Brand Name "Landlite". It is a 24W unit entitled "F118-24W 4000K" Compact Fluorescent Lamp 118mm/R7s. It has the claimed lifetime of 8+ regular halogen bulbs or 8000 hours. The 24w light output is claimed to be equal to 300w from a halogen equivalent. This CFL is obviously a lot cooler running at only 75degreesC whereas the Halogen reaches a dangerous 140degreesC. The packaging claims the safety limit for touching something is 85degreesC.
Polperro 4 sided Lantern from B&Q
As revealed above - a conversation with a Megaman salesman suggested that their new "Ingenium" range are compatible with PIR's. Again, there is no published information to be found on the web to back up this claim. We decided to test it. As we could not install the Azure unit we checked online for standard PIR Lanterns that we could pick up at an out-of-town DIY store. We checked with UK retailer "B&Q" (www.diy.com) and, much to our surprise, found that they advertised a "Waldwick Energy Saving Auto Lantern" online for £29.98 (as of May 2009). So we headed down to our local B&Q but could not find the item on the shelves. So, instead, we looked at a 'regular' PIR Lantern and picked up the B&Q "Polperro 4 sided Lantern with PIR" for £16.98 (as of May 2009). We carefully read both the outside of the box and the instruction leaflet before purchase. The box said the unit could use a CFL. The instruction leaflet was very clear that you must NOT use a CFL. Strange! We decided to buy it anyway and see what happened.
After opening the packaging (back home) we noticed that the technical data sticker on the unit did confirm that a CFL could be fitted. We assumed that this was a recent technical change to the unit but this change had not been reflected in the Instructions. Within a few days we had the unit mounted on the wall outside the front door as a straight swap for an older style lantern that had no PIR and was operated by an internal light switch. (We actually removed what was a double light switch and swapped in a single switch thus hard-wiring the new PIR unit. This was to prevent householders from accidentally switching the PIR unit off.) The lantern had only one obvious flaw in its design - there was almost no space at the rear of the unit to coil up the excess wiring. Since the mounting bolts are low down on the unit then it cannot be made to sit flush with the wall. Instead the 'springy' & stiff wiring forces the top away from the wall. To resolve this we got out the trusty mastic gun again and liberally sealed in the resulting gap to make the unit weather proof.
Another minor problem was the excessive sensitivity of the dwell time dial. It goes from 5 seconds to 12 minutes in the space of a few millimeters. It takes quite a bit of fiddling to try and get a reasonable dwell of around 40 seconds. Our ham-fisted attempts seem to oscillate between 10 seconds and 2 minutes! It was time consuming having to test the dwell each time. Note that there is a light-level meter on the underside of the unit that switches it off during the day. The unit comes fitted with a self-adhesive label over this sensor so you can test the PIR. Do not forget to remove it when you have finished testing. This is a nice thought but the instructions are a little vague about the location of this sensor and it is easy to over look it. We nearly did.
These niggles to one-side, the unit does appear to work. We just screwed in a standard CFL (we had spare) and it worked fine. You don't need a Megaman Ingenium CFL. So the PIR unit itself has been adapted for use with CFL's. Hats off to B&Q for supplying this to the UK market. A casual glance at www.diy.com shows that B&Q now supply a vast range of such PIR units with CFL bulbs. Oddly enough they charge a £15/unit premium if the bulb is pre-installed. The diy.com website does NOT tell you that the CFL's now appear to work with their standard units. This may be a simple reflection of the fact that these are new on the market. However you could be cynical and suspect that B&Q are milking their competitive edge. Well, if they invested the money then good luck to them but remember that you do not need to spend £30. The £17 units also work fine with a bog-standard CFL. So the B&Q range now looks ready for the days when old tungsten filament bulbs will be outlawed. If you have an older light fitting then try the Megaman Ingenium. We have not had the opportunity yet.
"Azure" CFL Low Energy Wall Light with PIR and Plug from Lighting Direct
The Azure product was very expensive. It is a modern bulkhead wall light design but we had intended to use it to replace a lantern-style light outside a front door. It didn't look appropriate. Things got worse when we opened the box and found the instructions told us to get a qualified electrician to fit it. Why? On the underside of the light fitting is a 13amp three pin UK power socket. At first we believed this was a novel way of powering the light. When we opened the instruction sheet it told us to provide two separately wired power sources to the unit. Since the intended installation was to replace an existing light fitting in an area where we could not route another power cord this stopped the project right there. The unit sat on the bench for several months whilst we wondered what to do with it.
After a lot of head scratching it suddenly dawned on us that the 13amp 3 pin UK socket on the underside was not (as we first thought) a power input. It was actually a power output. It wasn't what we really needed. However, as it came mail-order we were not keen to try and return it. So we thought hard about what to do before concluding that we could mount it to the front of the property between the new garage light and the front door light described here. We could drill a couple of holes through the garage wall and to supply the independent power sources via the RCD demanded by the instruction sheet.
The installation went reasonably smoothly but we hit a snag when we used an old Flymo lawnmower cable to power the external socket. Since it was a bright red/orange colour and designed to be used on an external appliance (it had a moulded on 13amp plug) then we assumed it would be perfect. However after fitting everything together we found, to our utter surprise, that the cable was only twin core. It had no earth. So we had to wire the earth together with the earth from the power cable for the lighting circuit. Not perfect but we plugged both circuits into an RCD so it is fully protected - even if the pro electrician might shudder at the thought. The ultimate irony is that when we tried to plug an actual Flymo into the new external socket, under the light fitting, it wouldn't fit because of the long 'tail' on the moulded-on plug clashed with the lighting unit casing. The makers had fitted the socket the wrong way around.
The light itself does work. The sensitivity and dwell time only appear to have "on" and "off" modes operated by a complicated set of DIP switches mounted INSIDE the casing. This is patent rubbish. Who would design such a fitting this way? Clearly such a unit requires a variable adjustment system via the external casing. Every other unit on the market manages this so why not the Azure? It comes with two CFL bulbs with plug-in pin mounts. They are slow to light up from cold. They initially flicker like old fashioned fluorescent tubes. It isn't clear if this will be an issue in practice. The light will be useful if you intend upon working in that area but passing traffic will have been and gone before it supplies useful light. In our opinion the Azure unit is over-priced, flawed and next to useless. Considering that fact that you can get something far cheaper and simpler from B&Q (as detailed above) then we wouldn't recommend this to anyone. If you wish for an external power socket for your home then simply pop down to Wickes and buy a DIY system with RCD dedicated to the purpose.
All three units tried were not without their flaws. However, in the space of a year the market has turned around from offering almost no choice to offering a wide range of options via a well known retailer in the UK. There should be no need to hunt down what you need on the internet as we had to. This is good news for Post-Carbon Living. We can recommend the B&Q units as being functional, simple and decorative. We probably should not recommend the floodlight option because the bulbs don't fit it. Hopefully this will change but you have been warned. The final option - the "Azure" - is not really a runner due to its unnecessarily high cost and confusing instructions. They do not even intend it for the DIY market.
It has been a very useful experience. We look forward to the day when any CFL can be plugged into any light fitting and just work without the need for detective work or experimentation. The consumer deserves better.