Modernizing Security Lights Can Save Electricity
LESLIE: In Tennessee, Walter listens to The Money Pit on Discovery Channel Radio and you’ve got an electrical question. What do you want to talk about?
WALTER: Yes, I’ve got a security light that I wired to – you know, just like where a regular outside light would be wired to a switch.
WALTER: And I ended up buying an additional one to put on the back side. I have a guest house behind my main house and it’s kind of dark out there on my property. I was wondering, will I overload the circuit – far as if I join those two in together …
WALTER: … and put them on the same switch? It’s like the mercury vapor light and … one is a mercury vapor and then there’s another one that said it was more economical than a mercury vapor, that I bought a few weeks ago. I put it in the guest … I don’t even remember which … what they said it was; what kind of bulb it was.
TOM: Probably a compact fluorescent.
WALTER: That could be it. I haven’t taken it out of the box. It’s just one of those big old … like you almost would see in an industrial business park.
TOM: Right. Well, what else is on this particular circuit? Is it just a lighting circuit? Because, frankly, adding two lights to a lighting circuit is not very likely to overload it.
TOM: You know? Your typical minimum size circuit in a house is 15 amps.
TOM: And, typically, a circuit … a lighting circuit almost never pulls more than a couple of amps altogether.
TOM: So I wouldn’t be overly concerned about overloading the particular circuit. I can’t tell you for sure without knowing what else is on there. But it’s not likely that adding one light to an existing branch circuit is going to cause a problem. And if it does and it starts tripping, you’re going to know right away.
WALTER: OK. So basically … I just, basically, run like a conjunction box and run some conduit down and then tie it all in and I should be fine long as that’s the only thing on that circuit.
TOM: Yeah, but don’t tie it in … don’t tie it in at the breaker because that would be what’s called a double tap. You can’t put two wires into the same circuit; you’ve got to tie it in before that in a properly secured and wired junction box.
WALTER: OK. So the same thing would basically apply if you’ve got a single security light, far as a spotlight coming off of your house, and you want to take that down and put a double security light? And I just found some economical … like the fluorescent bulbs that only burn like 26 watts, as opposed to the 90 watts.
TOM: That’s going to use less electricity, not more. Yes, the compact fluorescents use a quarter of the electricity compared to an incandescent.
WALTER: So, basically, it wouldn’t be a problem at all, then …
TOM: Not an issue.
WALTER: … if I went around all four corners of my house and upgraded to a two … two sockets, if you will?
TOM: No. No, especially if you’re going to use a compact fluorescent like that. Because the actual consumption is so much less than what you had now.
WALTER: OK. And I should get brighter lighting also. OK. Well, yeah, I was just wondering about that because I’m not … on the electrical aspect, I’m … obviously, you don’t want to burn anything up, you know, so …
TOM: Well, yeah. And I will say, if you’re uncomfortable doing this wiring and you don’t really know exactly what’s going on, then this is a smart thing to hire a professional to do. We don’t usually recommend that people who are not totally familiar with electrical wiring do jobs like this. I mean, certainly, it’s easy to remove and replace a couple of wires ….
LESLIE: Yeah, the consequences when something is done wrong are very great.
TOM: Yes, exactly. So we want to have you approach this very, very cautiously. Because, Walter, we need every single listener we have, OK? (laughter)
WALTER: Right, right.
TOM: You hear me? (laughing)
WALTER: I understand.
TOM: Thank you so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.