Wednesday, October 08, 2008

New lights in the Kitchen

Ever since we moved in, the light level over the sink has been terrible. Well, that's the excuse we use for rarely doing the washing-up! Now that it's getting darker in the evenings, the problem is only worsening. A couple of weekends ago we took a trip to Lowe's to find some kind of light fixture that might improve our situation. I measured the length of wire we would need to reach a socket, and we had fairly clear criteria in mind: We must be able to turn it on and off easily while standing at the sink; it must cast enough light from the ceiling to give us a bright working environment; and we needed to install it without causing too much damage to the (rental) house - so no chasing the walls to tap into the house's wiring.

For once we found the required department of the home improvement store right away. Usually it is a painful process just to get yourself in the vicinity of whatever you're looking for, but the lighting dept. was pretty obvious! However, we weren't having much luck meeting our expectations for a kitchen light. The under-counter lights seemed like the right idea, but they were rather dim and we would need to extend the cord and have some kind of switch...wait - they have those extension cords with switches on, don't they?
After a good half-hour of attempting to cobble together a neat solution with components we thought a good electrics dept ought to have, we finally sought out a store employee for some further advice. We were politely pointed in the direction of a retired electrician, who was more than happy to wonder around the aisles, pulling a plethora of products from the shelves and offering a variety of solutions that still didn't quite sound like they would work out how we'd planned. Sadly, despite his enthusiastic support, we left empty handed, planning to re-evaluate the possibilities rather than take an arm-load of goodies home and rig up a bodge job.
It happened that Kristal's parents came to visit over the weekend, and we were discussing the conundrum with her Dad. As usually seems to happen, it wasn't long before he recalled that he had just what we needed back home in a shed somewhere, and he'd be happy to take a look for it and send it along to us. Thus on Tuesday, the perfect little light bar arrives, with two spots that take regular bulbs. I scrounged a couple of screws from my toolbox that seemed made for the job at hand, and had it installed in minutes. The only problem was turning the lights on and off, without having to take the plug out every time. I headed back to the hardware store for a clicker-wheel switch.

Now, I done a fair amount of tinkering with British electrics (yes, I was one of those kids who took everything apart), so I assumed it'd be plain sailing to fit a simple in-line switch. As it turns out, I had no clue what I was meant to do with this tiny thing. The answer, of course, was to find one in the house that was already assembled, dismantle it and see how it goes back together. Apparently, the neutral wire runs straight through the switch housing, and just the live gets cut, the blunt ends kinda wedged in. When you reassemble the housing, copper spikes piece the sheathing on the cut ends of the live wire to complete the connection through the clicker wheel. I was rather impressed with the simple elegance of it, as I had planned to have to strip wire-ends and insert them into impossibly fiddly connectors.

Anyway, it you want to see some photos, head over to my flickr page. Mostly we are re-enacting for the camera, but you get the idea. It really brightens up the place a lot, and does it neatly and safely, which is soothing to my ever-so-slightly-OCD-tendencies. In fact, the two 15W energy saving (60W equivalent) bulbs are so bright I've had to point them at the ceiling!

Thanks Don!

1 comment:

  1. dude, seriously, its like a 500 words post about fitting some lights. Now I know your life is more interesting than that!
    However, i like the idea of the easy fit switch!
    We had a new boiler fitted this week (the old one died, no hot water for 2 weeks) the £2k it cost has nearly killed us tho! Glad you are know illuminated. take it easy