I replaced an outlet with a GFCI and my light switch quit working

I once had an electrical outlet with a light switch next to it, in a bathroom. When I replaced the outlet with a GFCI, the light switch quit working.

When you have a GFCI and a light switch is involved, you have to wire things a bit differently so it all works.

Here’s how I fixed it, using a length of wire (use black, or if you only have white wire, put some electrical tape on it) and a wire nut.

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Where the red wire goes in a light fixture

Where the red wire goes in a light fixture

A friend was replacing a light fixture in his bathroom and ran into something confusing–a red wire in the electrical box along with the usual black and white wires. And when he hooked up his new light fixture, he did what I would expect the majority of homeowners to do–he connected the white wire on the fixture to the white wires in the box, and the black wire on the fixture to the black wires in the box. And then his light switch wouldn’t work–the light stayed on all the time.

He was on the right track when he asked what the red wire is for. That was the key to solving his problem.

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Enerlites HOSS: an occupancy sensor switch without ground

The Enerlites Top Greener HOSS is an occupancy sensor switch without ground wire requirements, and it’s pretty cheap too, at $12. A Lutron switch costs almost twice as much.

But the HOSS does come with some compromises. The HOSS does require a neutral (white) wire. But most switch boxes will have the whites in there and accessible, so that’s not a big deal. It’s also a bit trickier to wire than a Lutron, and it doesn’t look as nice.

That said, it’s nice to have an option for older houses that may not have a ground connection available. People in older houses need energy savings too. Read more

The power company’s aid in saving energy

My local electric company is going to start including a power usage comparison on the monthly bill.

For the last several years, they’ve been sending one annually, but it’s not all that hard to miss it. This is why I generally know I use less electricity year over year, but I don’t know how many people actually see the report. Read more

CFL bulbs burn out quickly? Here’s what to do.

CFL bulbs burn out quickly? Here’s what to do.

I’ve been hearing a lot of complaints about CFL bulbs lately. I’ve written about how to address premature CFL burnout before, but I guess it bears repeating. It’s a five-minute fix, usually, to get the bulbs to last a while. So here’s what to do if your CFL bulbs burn out quickly. Read more

The Feit Electric G25 LED globe from Costco

I spied a 3-pack of LED globe bulbs at Costco last week, priced at $20. This is a ridiculously good price on LED globe bulbs–typically I see them at $15 apiece at the home improvement stores. After verifying that, I picked up a package to try out on my next Costco run. While they aren’t the best LED bulbs I’ve seen, they’re easily the best deal I’ve seen on LED globes, and I’ll be buying more of them. Read more

How I fixed a dead electrical outlet. Sort of.

As I was getting a property ready for inspection, I had to take care of some electrical issues. All of them were trivial, except one. In the end, I had one last dead electrical outlet to figure out.

All of the advice I found online said to call a professional. All of it. Here’s the exception, and here’s how I found it.

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How to attach trucks to Lionel train cars with screws

Frequently the trucks (the wheel/coupler assembly that sits under train cars) come unattached. Lionel trains from the 1970s and first half of the 1980s are especially prone to this, though other makes of trains aren’t immune either. And sometimes you just want to change the trucks–some Lionel and Marx O27 cars are just the right size for American Flyer S scale, for example, only the trucks are the wrong gauge.

It’s tempting to try to just re-attach them with a nut and bolt, but as the train runs in circles around the track, the nut loosens and eventually works its way out.

The key is all in the type of nut you use.

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Review: First Alert PIR725 motion sensing socket

I bought a First Alert PIR725 motion sensing socket, which has the distinction of working with CFLs, as well as incandescent bulbs. The premise is simple. Screw it into a bulb socket, screw the bulb into the socket, and it turns the light on when it sees you, then after it senses there’s no one in the room, it waits four minutes and turns the light off.

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My household’s energy usage dropped 19% in 2011

I got a letter from my utility company Saturday morning. Inside was a chart, comparing our household’s energy usage from 2010 and 2011. It dropped 19 percent.

Considering our total bill for 2011 was over $900, that’s hardly chump change. Read more