Philips compact fluorescent bulbs with built-in photocell automatically turn on your porch lights

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I recently reviewed the Belkin WeMo Switch and said it was one of the steps I was taking to automate my home and increase its security. The Switches work great to control lamps plugged into outlets inside my house, but my porch lights don’t plug in to an outlet. I had first thought that I might use the new WeMo light switches with my porch lights, but I think my house wiring is too old to use with them. I like to have my lights automatically turn on and off with the sun, and I used to use a screw-in base with a photocell when I had different fixtures and used incandescent bulbs. I have smaller fixtures now, so that separate base was too big. It was a moot point anyway, because you apparently can’t use most photocell sensor fixtures with most CFLs.

I had just been leaving my porch lights on 24/7 so I was sure they were on when I needed them, but I was tired of wasting the extra energy. I found my answer while digging around on Amazon one day recently. The Philips 405852 Energy Saver Compact Fluorescent Dusk-to-Dawn 14-Watt Twister Light Bulb has a photocell sensor that turns the lights on at dusk and off at dawn. Because they are designed for use in outdoor fixtures, the base can be twisted around to properly position the photocell after the bulb is securely screwed in to the fixture. The 14W bulbs are equivalent to a 60W incandescent bulb, and the package says they will save you $48 over the life of the bulb. Philips “warrants that this bulb will be free from defects in material and workmanship for 11 years based on up to 3 hours average usage per day/7 days per week, when used as directed.” These bulbs are available at Amazon for $9.97 each, and they qualify for Prime shipping.

So I have the WeMo Switches controlling my lights indoors, these Philips bulbs controlling the porch lights, and a Dropcam and the Dropcam app monitoring the interior of my house. What else do I need for increased security and automation?

Update April 18, 2015:  Although I moved to a condo since I wrote this, we still own the house where these bulbs were installed.  Both original bulbs are still installed on the front porch, and both still operate perfectly.  They come on at dusk and go off after sunrise without fail.  They improve the safety of my house by helping keep the front well-lighted at night.  It’s a great security feature for $20!

15 thoughts on “Philips compact fluorescent bulbs with built-in photocell automatically turn on your porch lights”

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  2. Janet, please reconsider lights that are on from dusk to dawn. My wife and I love to star gaze but so many neighbors have security lights that the night sky is getting washed out. If you use a motion detector to turn on the light, you’ll scare the daylights out of intruders when the light comes on all of a sudden.
    for Julie’s question about the water heater (no email but will turn off the water).

  3. Janet Cloninger

    @Julie I do have a programmable thermostat, though it’s older and not accessible through the internet. A leak detector would would be a great thing, and not just for our water heater. We sometimes get water in the basement from heavy rains. We once had 4.5 feet of water!

    @Mike I live in a city of over a quarter million people. My porch lights aren’t a drop of sand on the beach compared to the overall light pollution. My neighbors house has been broken into twice this year, so I’m afraid my lights will have to stay on for a while. I do agree that a motion detector would be a better way to have light at night. I’m sure it would give the wild bunnies in the yard and me heart attacks when it comes on! 😉

    1. We have motion lights and it’s always funny when I get an automated email from my Dropcam that shows a raccoon or some animal walking on the sidewalk by the garage in the middle of the night 😉

  4. I assume you have a intruder alarm system ? I have a monitored system with motion detectors internally, a sensor on the front door and a huge bell box ( actually a decoy) with flashing LEDs on it.

    If the system detects motion inside the house I get a phone call from the manned monitoring service. I also have a Home Monitor webcam (Y-Cam) so I can remotely see what’s going on in the house and take appropriate action.

    In surveys of ex burglars here in the UK the vast majority said they would not attempt to break into a house with such an alarm system.

    I also have a light in one of the living rooms that is controlled by a timer switch, and a ‘fake Tv’ light to make the rear of the house appear occupied when I’m away.

  5. Front porch lights are often a bit more “dressier” than the lights on the back of the house and the bulbs are usually more visible. Too bad that Philips didn’t include a nicer bulb design.

    The WeMo light switch for $49 includes more flexibility and allows for the use of any bulb. Entering your location (i.e. zip code) tells the switch when dusk and dawn is and it will turn the fixture on and off as required.

  6. @David We’ve had a monitored system installed some time ago. I have one of those FakeTVs in my living room; I think it looks like a real TV when seen from the outside.

    @Charles My front porch lights have stained glass panels in the front and my side porch fixture is all frosted glass, so you can’t see the bulbs in any of my outdoor fixtures. I considered the WeMo light switch, but as I mentioned in this post, my house’s wiring is apparently too old for the switch as I don’t have the neutral wire that’s required.

    You can see my reviews of the FakeTV and the WeMo Switch for wall outlets listed in the Related Posts, listed above the comments.

  7. Janet Cloninger

    @Julie Whoa! I’d love to have a water sensor for the basement, but I have two areas I’d need to monitor and $175 for each adds up quickly!

  8. @Julie It seems that a lot of the water sensors I’m finding seem to be for people with hydroponic “gardens” in their basements… Maybe it would be cheaper and easier to just put a WiFi camera down there so I can just look when it’s been raining a lot!

  9. Spendy for detecting water. I worked for a small company a number of years ago with a very small server room. Their AC would malfunction and leak sometimes. They couldn’t afford to purchase the necessary equipment to allow for monitoring.

    My solution ran about $45. An old dlink router, a simple circuit/relay I built and a network script to monitor. If there was a leak, the water would complete the circuit turning the router ON. At which time it would be on the network and PINGABLE. My script would see that it was up and email me (and a few other people) that there’s a leak. I made a similar thing later for home gutting an old “leak-frog” I picked up for a few dollars at a garage sale.

  10. @Nathan Phillips Those do look good, but they can only communicate when my smart device is within 100 feet of the sensor or so. I would really like something that I could check from anywhere I have internet access, so I’d know if I needed to hurry home to clean up the flooded basement.

  11. Nathan Phillips

    They actually do have a way to upload the data without a smartphone. “You can upload your data to our cloud service for analysis via our free app, or use the optional Wimoto Cloud Cube to do it for you in realtime via Wifi.” That device is a little pricey though, being $99 by itself. Anyways, i’m looking forward to all the neat things companies are coming up with making use of the “internet of things”.


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