Sunday, November 28, 2004

Let there be (better) lights

Thanks to my favorite local electricians, our Thanksgiving table was beautifully lit and I am newly enlightened about light fixtures.

The back story: Two years ago, I purchased a dining room ceiling fixture by Murray Feiss at Harold's Lamps in Seattle. The fixture was featured in Seattle Magazine a few months later, so I was mildly amazed that I'd selected something so stylish (nicely frosted and marbled glass and a brushed-pewter metal).

Sometime this past summer, three of the five light bulbs burned out. I noticed this a few weeks ago and trotted off to the store to buy replacements: 40-watt, thin stemmed small clear globes. When I got on a ladder to remove the burnt-out bulbs, to my astonishment, each of them twisted right off the stem, leaving the broken glass stems wedged in the sockets. My attempt to remove the jagged stems with needle-nose pliers worked for two of them, but the third just wouldn't budge. I called the electricians (feeling silly, it was such a small job) and they said they'd try to get to me before Thanksgiving.

In the interim, I fumed, and considered calling Harold's to complain. However, I'd purchased the lamp two years ago, and they are notoriously rude. The last lamp I bought at Harold's, a pole lamp, came in a box clearly marked "lightbulbs included." Since the bulbs were a weird compact fluorescent style, I'd called them to report that the "included" lightbulbs were missing from the package. There was a brief silence on the other end, and the saleswoman said, "oh, well, go get some at a drugstore," and hung up. Nice.

The electrician turned up just after 5 p.m. the day before Thanksgiving and fixed the fixture. Even better, he told me a few interesting things about lighting that will help me prevent future fixture frustrations:

  • Standard incandescent bulbs like the 40-watt bulbs that broke say "120v" on them, meaning they are rated for 120 volts. However, power companies now run voltage closer to 123 volts. He recommend buying a brand of bulb sold at Home Depot that is rated for 140 volts and can better handle the highter voltage.

  • Many expensive fixtures, such as my designer ceiling fixture, use the same plastic sockets as very cheap fixtures. He recommended that if you are investing in a fixture, you purchase one with more durable ceramic sockets.

    Now if only the electricians could fix our stove...

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