I'm looking to buy/make some lights that turn on when they detect light. My wife and I live in an apartment that's small and poorly-lit. We can't install permanent light fixtures, and all the lamps we've looked at take up too much floor space or would have to be placed in walking areas to be useful. So I'm looking for some kind of light fixture that can be mounted on a wall or ceiling with command strips or small nails.

I'd like some lights that turn on when other lights are turned on. Like the opposite of a night light. That way we can still control all the lights in a room with one switch without changing the wiring. The light controlled by the switch would turn more lights on.

I think I could easily build a circuit to do this, with a photoresistor and some NPN transistors, but I don't have the tools to make something that would look nice right now. Is there already a commercial product that would fit our needs?

closed as off-topic by ThreePhaseEel, Daniel Griscom, mmathis, Machavity, Tester101 Nov 27 '17 at 11:50

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  • Once they see light they would be on all the time unless the photo detector was focused at a single light source. But it would be easier to get a dusk to dawn photo control and reverse the logic with a relay that could carry the total lighting load. – Ed Beal Nov 15 '17 at 0:25
  • Yeah once you turned them on the first time they would never go off since they would see each other. Try some LED night lights plugged in to your receptacles and see if that helps. – ArchonOSX Nov 15 '17 at 0:39
  • Good points. I'd have to position them so they don't turn each other or themselves on. – Michael Hoffmann Nov 15 '17 at 0:42
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    Why not look at wireless remote control switches. One switch could turn on several plug-in lamps with no new wiring. – bib Nov 15 '17 at 2:45
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    Can you install brighter (but cooler) LED bulbs in the existing fixtures or temporarily replace existing fixtures with ones that support more bulbs or brighter bulbs or more directional bulbs? – RedGrittyBrick Nov 15 '17 at 11:30

You'll need to get power to it somehow. What I'm thinking is surface conduit from your existing switch or light to wherever you need to go. Simply run the switched-hot through the surface conduit to where you need to be.

Surface conduit such as Wiremold is fully code legal and allowed for permanent wiring, which saves you doing some goofy, illegal horked up thing.

Or if the problem is getting switched-hot to the switches, but you can run always-hot to them, then go with X-10 or some other smart-switch control system, of which there are plenty today. (X-10 goes back to the 1970s).

You could also consider low-voltage lighting if you don't want to use surface conduit, the rules for cabling low-voltage circuits are relaxed as compared to mains circuits.

  • "Surface conduit" -- I'll have to remember that turn of phrase considering that "surface raceway" seems to be alien lexicon to folks who don't read the Code regularly – ThreePhaseEel Nov 15 '17 at 5:25

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