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Background: I live in a rental unit whose living room doesn't have a ceiling light or a place to install one. I have a floor lamp that works great for illumination, but I'm not a fan of having to choose between being able to see and not having a big glare on the TV.

One option I've considered is battery-powered lights, but the brightest I've seen them go is 300 lumens, and the room is about 215 square feet, so I'd need at least six of them and I'm worried I'll be burning through batteries every week.

A plug-in option would be great. I've got an outlet right in the horizontal center of one wall and a big painting above it that would hide a cable beautifully. The only options I've seen like that so far are pendant lights, which would defeat the purpose, since they hang low. If there's a plug-in light that's relatively flush with the ceiling, that would be perfect.

EDIT: I can drill into the walls/ceiling, just can't do any rewiring or anything like that.

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    How much can you make holes in the ceiling and maybe wall? And I don’t mean large holes, I mean fastener holes - 1/4” or smaller.
    – jqning
    Jul 26, 2023 at 3:12
  • Yeah, often your lease will allow you to create small holes, sometimes up to the size of a US quarter (25-cent piece). Landlords understand that people have things they want to hang on a wall, or furniture that must be anchored for safety reasons. If you can string a light(s) on the ceiling, using screws to fasten, would that be sufficient for your purpose?
    – Huesmann
    Jul 26, 2023 at 12:09

2 Answers 2

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There's a few options that might work - depending on how much light you need.

I've had great luck with indirect lighting - basically point the lights upward and bounce it off the ceiling with something shading the light at eye level.

If you're going for battery powered lights, 12v is fairly a common and reasonably bright option, there's 'rolls' of LEDs or strips, and you can power it via USB PD with a trigger cable.

There's also plug in cord kits you can shorten - either by looping the cord or chopping it.

Consider something like this Ikea Strala Cord Kit, or what amazon seems to list as an electical cord swag kit - via this google search it is not that different from a pendant light kit other than its longer and it ends with a plug

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Hide the surplus cord behind the painting, hang a hook on the ceiling and you essentially have a pendant light. You can keep the hanging part as short as you want I suspect, and its probably light enough that 'better' self adhesive hooks might be enough to keep it up.

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  • Swag light was my solution. Screw hook into ceiling, chain supporting the moderately heavy light fixture, wired with a long cord that runs up through chain, across the ceiling (with a few additional hooks to support it) and down the wall to a smartswitch plug-in and an outlet. Note that if you're comfortable rewiring a fixture to have a long enough cord, as I was, you don't need a "kit" to assemble this -- just lamp cord, a plug for lamp cord, possibly a few wire nuts inside the lamp depending on how its cord was previously attached.
    – keshlam
    Aug 23, 2023 at 3:33
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Right. The problem is, they give you a receptacle controlled by a wall switch, and say "Plug in a light, see'ya".

And the receptacle is always in the most inopportune place.

Well, the answer is a nice long extension cord around the perimeter of the room, to an appropriate, glare-free location for the light.

However, depending on how the circuit was wired, it's possible they ran /3 cable through all the receptacles in the room, so all the necessary wires are present in each junction box so that any of the receptacles could be jumpered to become the switched outlet. In that case you can simply have the landlord's handyman change it.

It may help to use a different type of lamp. One of the best lamps ever made, except for all the building fires, inefficiency and overloading the electric grid, was the "Halogen Torchiere" - the light is taller than you and aimed straight up so it's all bounce light off the ceiling. LEDs solve all those problems, and they're being made again.

I would not fool around with battery operated lights; that's just absurd. That's not thermodynamically possible with AA batteries or even D-cells for that matter. You might be able to do it with rechargeable lead-acid or lithium packs, but figure on $20 per running hour of light. (of course you could recharge it.) No, that's just bonkers.

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  • "the light is taller than you" Maybe taller than you but I hate most of those lamps because the bulb is just close enough to the top of the shade that they blast my eyeballs with a blazing bright point of light if I glance in their direction. I found some torch lamps with a kind of CFL "loop" bulb that give a pleasing soft light. They are bright but not all from a single point like a halogen that burns the eyeballs. They also produce the same lumens for about 1/10th the power.
    – MacGuffin
    Aug 23, 2023 at 3:39
  • A bit of searching tells me that the bulb type I have might be "4-pin GRY". I don't buy them often as they last a long time, and I know what they look like so I pick one out off the shelf that looks similar. It might not matter what they are called, the point is that if looking for a torch lamp that isn't a power hog and fire hazard then consider looking for the kind with a CFL loop bulb in them. A torch lamp for the common edison base bulbs means buying some fire hazard incandescent bulb or some compromise LED or CFL bulb. The loop lights spread the light better and last a very long time.
    – MacGuffin
    Aug 23, 2023 at 3:53
  • @MacGuffin oh yes, I love concentric fluorescents. Ballast is a bit tricky since they are dissimilar (shame the inner can't be a spiral to make them the same length). My frustration with halogen torchiere substitutes is they usually fall considerably short of the standard 9000 lumens. Which is a recurring theme in alternative lighting, where they're really saying "endure less light". No, add more LED emitters! "that would cost money" Aug 23, 2023 at 15:07
  • The lamp I have doesn't have "concentric" anything, at least as I understand that word. I believe I saw what you describe before but not for some time. There's likely many variations on the theme to pick from. The larger point is that there's options on lamp styles, not just halogen or "too dim". Though I may be overestimating the light output from my lamps or any other similar lamp, making them fit the "too dim" types.
    – MacGuffin
    Aug 23, 2023 at 17:32

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