“Did I leave that on again?”


Yeah, I’m writing a blog post about leaving a light on. It’s been that kind of week. Also, this is what ten years off-grid does to you.

Every morning I rise, put drops in my eyes, put on my leg, pull up my pants, grump down the loft ladder, spend five minutes scratching Little Bear’s belly and assuring him he’s a good boy, he’s a daddy’s angel, probably brush knots out his hair, which he hates, start coffee, and then pull a composition book down off the shelf…
I record the date, time, indoor/outdoor temperatures, battery voltage, and the state of the sky. I just do this for comparison’s sake; sometimes it comes in handy. Later I’ll record anything repetitive I did, so later I can look up when I did it if I want to. Like if I have to replace a propane bottle: Did the last one go six weeks or ten days? It can help me spot problems.

And this morning under “voltage,” I saw…
…which, considering that it read 12.3 when I went to bed, was not good at all. That’s way too much overnight volt drop. But I know I was futzing around in the powershed late yesterday afternoon, so, “Did I leave that damned light on again?”

I grumped out of the cabin and around to the powershed door, which is way too heavy and saggy and which I spent hours repairing two days ago, not for the last time…
You know those pictures of cute, neat tiny houses with lots of throw pillows and no storage at all? Yeah: The Lair is neither cute nor neat, but it really needs its powershed for keeping stuff out of the weather. Spent many years gathering those tools. To say nothing of all my storage food. And my winter clothes. And my power system, of course. It’s in here somewhere.
And last year my older brother kindly sent me a bunch of 12 volt LEDs including four of these floodlamps intended for outdoor use. Except they’re not nearly bright enough for the purpose. The box says 900 lumens, which is crap: I had to hang two just to illuminate the inside of an 8X8 shed.

And having done so, I all too often forget to turn them off. Which gives me an unpleasant though not seriously bad surprise the following morning. This time of year it doesn’t matter much, but in winter…

Yeah. I’ve said it before: Nothing turns you into a lightswitch nazi faster than living off grid.

And this morning I decided what I’m going to do about it. I still have two of those floodlights, which are made to be used outdoors. I’m going to hang one of them outdoors, on the wall of the shed, aimed at the kitchen window. It won’t serve very well for illuminating the yard, but it’ll shine enough light into the window to let me know I forgot to turn off the shed lights again. Heh.

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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7 Responses to “Did I leave that on again?”

  1. plblark says:

    would a motion sensor switch or a timer switch help out?

    I don’t know if the motion sensing switches have a parasitic draw when the light isn’t on (they’d almost HAVE to though, wouldn’t they?)

    But a timer would limit your OOPS to say 15 minutes …

    I like your solution as it will work with what you have on hand 😉

    does your system use standard switches? How does one go about hitting up your mail drop?

  2. Chuck says:

    Anyone make motion sensing switches that work on 12 V DC?

    (Years back at Company X the Facilities Wizards wanted to put motion sensing light switches everywhere. Money saving, doncha know. The suggestion was made for Facilities to try them first, so they did. They were removed after 90 days because Facilities guys got tired of suddenly being in the dark every 8 minutes when sitting at their desks. A few of them developed spastic twitches, waving an arm every 5-6 minutes to keep the lights on….)

  3. Joel says:

    A motion sensor is a thought I never had, I must confess. Might even work; I rarely spend that long in the shed, and I’d venture to guess never that long motionless. Whether anybody makes one that would work with 12V, I don’t know.

    My system does work with standard switches, a manual switch is a manual switch and I’ve encountered no problems using a household switch with 12V. Although of course you do want to bump up the conductor size.

    As to the mail drop, go to the top of the page and click on “Send Joel Stuff,” and you’ll find an email addy. Send an inquiry there, and I’ll respond with a snailmail addy.

  4. Ben says:

    I think a low-tech rotary bathroom fan timer would be perfect. They do make 12-volt proximity sensor switches, but this is a case where simpler is probably better.

  5. plblark says:

    Ben is probably right … simpler is better.

    My dad’s senior cooperative saved a BUNCH of money by putting in motion sensors for their garage and the garbage room. Amazing what taking lights that were on 24×7 and putting them down to 10 minutes around every use will do for power use. Though of course they do have the issue with some residents taking more than 10 mins to put the garbage in the dumpster 😉

  6. Joel says:

    I agree – especially since I just got an email from a reader willing to send me a surplus timer switch. 🙂

    So we’ll see how that goes. I like the idea, and it’ll probably mount in the existing switch box which means less wiring for me.

  7. Phssthpok says:


    Put a circuit interrupter on the door (think: refrigerator light). Door closes, circuit opens, lights go off.
    For times when you need to be inside w/ door closed you could rig up a manual override that would require you to ‘un-do’ the override in order to open the door to exit (preventing future memory lapses.

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