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Thread: CFL-safe photocells

  1. #1
    Flashaholic* pedalinbob's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2002

    Default CFL-safe photocells

    This is more of a public service FYI than anything. I thought the CPF folks might benefit from my research. I know Playboyjoeschmoe stated his exterior CFLs tend to burn out quicklydue to his fixtures, so this info may be helpful.

    I have exterior light fixtures which have both photocells (dusk-to-dawn), and motion detecting. They remain at 50% power until they detect motion, then they increase to 100% for a preset number of minutes, before dimming again.

    I liked them at first, and my wife likes their appearance.
    BUT, they can only use incandescents. The photocells and dimming are deadly to fluorescents, so I set out to find a screw-base photocell based exterior light which was safe for CFL use.

    There aren't any, at least not for a reasonable price anyway. I found a very nice line by a company called Maxlite, but they use Gu24 fluorescents, and I want the option of using standard screw base bulbs if needed. It is also nice for using those screw-in adapters for Christmas lights, etc.

    A side note here: I want the lights automatically on at night, and I want them to run all night for safety and security.

    So, I decided I could bypass the electronics in the fixtures (making it essentially a "normal" light, and use a photocell adapter.
    I looked high and low for a simple, reasonable-length (to allow use in an enclosed fixture), CFL-safe, screw-base adapter with photocell...there are two made by Amertac: FLC8BC and SLC6CL.

    I cannot find the FLC8.
    The SLC6 is available at Lowes for about $9. The problem? It uses a programmable timer (1-12hrs) along with the photocell. We have 14+ hours of darkness here during winter. 12 hrs is not long enough for my needs, but might work for some.
    The other issue is in the programming itself: you have to cover the eye, and wait for flashes to confirm the programming. But, I cannot reach the eye when the unit is installed. Bummer.
    Even more annoying is that it loses programming in a few minutes if power is lost. I believe it defaults back to 2hrs. What were they thinking?

    Intermatic also makes one: NE200C. The problem? It is 5.5" long! Even with one of the newer ultra-short CFL's (and considering our fixtures have a lot of internal space), they simply will not fit. Arg.

    So, with more searching, I found some hard-wire photocells at Home Depot. They happen to be made by Amertac, and are OK with CFLs. The model I purchased is SW103CT, about $10 (there are two other models for roughly the same price, having different shapes for different mountings).

    I tested it, and it works fine. There is no flickering, and no detectable current leakage which could harm CFL's. appears that there could be a market for a SHORT CFL-safe screw-in photocell which is purely dusk-to-dawn.

  2. #2
    Flashaholic* Phaserburn's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Connecticut, USA

    Default Re: CFL-safe photocells

    Very good info, thanks! I would be very interested in short dawn to dusk CFL friendly photocells as well.
    The Phaser: A nice EDC with great throw; heat and runtime can be issues.

    Best Diffusion Film!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2009

    Talking Re: CFL-safe photocells

    I found the above post by pedalinbob by a cold Google search after having struggled with the CFL dusk-to-dawn issue with the same results as pedalinbob. So I followed his suggestion exactly, getting the ST103CT at HomeDepot and modifying my old outdoot fixture to accomodate. Perfect results! I am now using just the ST103CT and a 23 Watt garden variety CFL and otherwise just straight 120VAC and it all seems to work perfectly. Thanks so much. I went ahead am joined the forum.

  4. #4

    Default Re: CFL-safe photocells

    Lithonia, Enertron and COoper all make Dusk to Dawn CFL fixtures.

    You guys don't see photocells much because it is more common in commercial applications. They are out there. You ahve to remember, a photocell is nothing more than a switch. It's in 'inline - screw in' PE's you have to worry about....IE: the cheap screw in's at home stores.

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