English: Fluorescent lamp
Fluorescent lamp (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What a day! Over the years I have come across many different problems in my line of work and I often say to myself that it never ceases to amaze me when some new problem arises. It isn’t the problems themselves but more the fact that some of them wouldn’t be problems if manufacturers and designers of equipment realised they were building them into their goods. Often no feedback mechanism exists to help in eliminating problems and to improve designs. I had two small jobs to do on Thursday morning and I expected to have them both completed within two hours but unfortunately I was away from home for more than six! A lady had bought a new light fitting and I was to install it. The existing lighting, recessed downlights did not give enough light though they were halogen lamps. The reason for that was most of them had been changed to LED lamps but of a far lower equivalent rating to be bright enough. The easy answer would have been to put higher capacity lamps in but she and her husband had decided to purchase what they thought was a twin-tube LED fitting instead. Actually they had bought a modern fluorescent lamp fitting and two LED tube lamps to fit in it. Now I have seen fittings of this type before, they look like an ordinary fluorescent fitting but are different. I gave it no thought and proceeded to install it but first I had to locate the supply to the existing recessed lights and divert it to the new fitting. That was a job in itself for the supply could have been anywhere in the false ceiling but I located it quicker than I had thought I would. It took some time to install the new light fitting and when I had finally succeeded I discovered it wouldn’t work. I checked the supply and all was well so the problem lay in the light itself but there was nothing evidently wrong. We contacted the supplier from where she had purchased it and I explained the problem. They allowed me to bring back the internal part of the fitting and have it replaced rather than having to remove the whole unit from the ceiling. I drove there with the lady as my passenger and the salesman was unable to reason why we were having problems. The manager came to the desk and we discussed things. It turns out that they had sold the lady a fluorescent fitting with LED lamps in error. It could only work with fluorescent lamps and not LED lamps. That explained a lot for I had been under the impression that its internal components were LED ‘drivers’ but in fact they were choke units, the devices normally found in a fluorescent fitting. Ironically the fitting could have been modified to use LED lamps but that would have meant cutting the internal wiring and partly rewiring it, something you wouldn’t do with a new fitting. The supplier admitted their error and offered the lady a larger fitting for the same price and she accepted it. It was an LED lighting unit that had the LEDs built into it, no separate lamps to install. It actually looks much the same as the fluorescent fitting in the picture above. We drove back to her house and I installed it. However, although the light worked first time with no problems when it came to fixing the diffuser it was a nightmare! It had been manufactured to hold the diffuser in place with 16 or so metal clips which were almost impossible to fit into place and even when I had managed to do that it was extremely difficult to clamp the diffuser in place using them. In the above picture you can see two of the four clamps of a similar nature holding the diffuser in place. A much simpler way of fixing the diffuser would have saved so much time and frustration if it had been designed that way. I took the rest of the first fitting back to the supplier as I’d promised and by chance I spoke with the manager again who confessed that he had installed the same LED fitting at home and had exactly the same problems in fixing the diffuser. The second job I had been to replace a small lamp holder and it took me a mere ten minutes by comparison! I didn’t get back home until mid-afternoon. Some days you wished you’d never gotten out of bed.

Shirley Anne


An easy job!

Almost Easy
Almost Easy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On Monday I was to travel a few miles to fix a broken light for an elderly lady. Her daughter telephoned and asked me on her mom’s behalf. The old lady was 93 years old and a little slow getting around so I was asked to be patient whilst waiting for her to answer the door. When I arrived I was greeted by the sound  of a barking dog. Now I love dogs, they are my favourite animal but when they bark persistently it really annoys me. Fortunately this dog was well-behaved and when I entered the house he treated me like one of the family. Not I suppose ideal for a guard dog, especially as he wanted to follow me all around the house like a long-lost friend. Evidently the lady had been without a light in the bathroom for some time. It was one of those compact fluorescent fittings made for a bathroom and it appeared to have a faulty lamp. I don’t carry a stock of lamps in my van except perhaps one or two standard ones which meant I had to go and purchase one. That meant a round trip of a mile and a half. When I tried the new lamp in the fitting it still would not work. That meant the fault lay inside a sealed compartment in the unit which could not be accessed and a new light fitting would be needed. So off I went to return the lamp and purchase a completely new fitting. Another one and a half mile round trip! On arrival back at the house I unpacked the new fitting  only to discover much of it was damaged and it looked as if someone had returned it to the store previously. Why the store staff returned it to the display shelves I will never know, it should have been discarded or returned to the manufacturer. Another one and a half mile round trip to get another fitting. Now at last I could install it! Aha! Not quite as simple as I thought. The instructions were written in microscopic print and needed a magnifying glass to read them. Fortunately I carry a magnifying glass. It had to be assembled before it could be fitted to the ceiling which I thought wasn’t a good design strategy. Part of the unit was made of glass and could easily be broken whilst fitting it to the ceiling. Not only that but I found that if I used all the spacer washers suggested in the assembly I then would not be able to fit the final cover beneath the lamps. Three times I played around with the assembly until I was satisfied everything was correct, or as correct as I could make it. Remember, this was a brand-new fitting! I sometimes wonder how designers come up with the ideas they do, they obviously need to experience installing some of their own work. Perhaps then we would have less problems, problems which need not be there in the first place! I needed to use special fixings for the ceiling as it was made of plasterboard. The manufacturers supply plastic wall plugs which are totally unsuitable for mounting something on a ceiling! Just to add insult to injury and with all the messing about, I had forgotten to purchase the actual lamps for the fitting! I returned to the house a couple of hours later after keeping another appointment in a town ten miles away. The old lady was very understanding. That second job was hardly worth the travel as it didn’t take long to fix. Later I travelled back to my town to install yet another light fitting. Thankfully that too was very easy. My job can be very frustrating at times but I still enjoy the challenges it sometimes presents to me.

Shirley Anne