Wanted: Electric Ceiling Troll. Must Self-Entertain.
September 22, 2010 7:18 PM   Subscribe

What cool, reasonably small electric thing would you like to have running all the time in your kitchen, that you don't need to see, touch, or turn off and on?

Our kitchen has a peaked 14-foot ceiling and there's a sort of shallow shelf at one end, about a foot and a half down from the peak. I climbed up there recently to check it out and discovered a grounded electric outlet up there and a really old set of track lights. Only one bulb was screwed in to the three-light set (it had been unplugged); I guess the idea was some kind of up-lighting at the peak of the vault.

But this is kind of weird.

One, the electric outlet is live but we can't find a light switch that controls it. So whatever goes up there can't easily be turned on or off.

Two, the vault doesn't need any more lighting. There are recessed lights and a chandelier. What purpose would up-lighting serve here? I've considered a remote-control outlet so that we could turn a light on and off without having to get a ladder... but still, we don't need more light. (I also don't want to set up Christmas lights or anything like that that would clutter up the ceiling.)

And three, the outlet and lights are invisible from the ground. The shelf is about six inches deep and has some molding that projects out even further; anything sitting on the shelf can't be seen from below. It's not a display shelf, so setting up something pretty with accent lighting wouldn't work.

So... we have an always-on outlet mounted on a shelf about 12 feet up that's invisible from the ground.

What cool or useful electric thing can we set up here to run happily by itself?
posted by woot to Home & Garden (19 answers total)
How about a radio or other music device that you could operate with a remote control? Or for that matter a light that you could offer with a remote control. Or set up a switch and use something that doesn't have to be on all the time.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 7:23 PM on September 22, 2010

Best answer: Wireless network repeater/booster.

Emergency lights that charge when the power is on, and light when the power is off.
posted by tilde at 7:24 PM on September 22, 2010 [4 favorites]

Revolving disco ball, obviously.
posted by maryr at 7:27 PM on September 22, 2010 [3 favorites]

BTW, if you want to control say, a light or radio up there, a Clapper might be of use.
posted by maryr at 7:28 PM on September 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

Wireless webcam. Check on things when you're away.
posted by Right On Red at 7:32 PM on September 22, 2010

Sounds like a place for an electric clock.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:32 PM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Seconding electric clock. When my parents had their kitchen remodeled years ago, the contractor put wiring for a clock in the soffit over the sink, because he couldn't imagine a kitchen without it.
posted by Quietgal at 7:38 PM on September 22, 2010

In addition to whatever gadget you decide upon, you could add a cool silhouette on top of it, plug the track lights back in, and have something shadowed out onto your ceiling.
posted by carsonb at 7:41 PM on September 22, 2010

Yup a really big clock (but somehow the disco ball is awfully intriguing).
posted by kch at 8:04 PM on September 22, 2010

Well I like to listen to the radio while doing food prep and kitchen cleanup, so I'd put a good speaker up there with remote control on/off.
posted by Orinda at 8:28 PM on September 22, 2010

Best answer: Rooms with very high ceilings can be difficult to keep warm, since the warm air always rises to the top. A gentle fan, maybe with a thermostat, can help keep the temperature equalized. It's possible such a fan could be kept always on so that the residents didn't have to think about it.

Also, maybe a really awesome smoke or CO detector?
posted by amtho at 9:13 PM on September 22, 2010

A lava lamp, of course. When people ask, tell them it belongs to your pet bird. When they ask about the pet bird, simply say, "Oh, we haven't seen "him" in a while, but we leave his light on in case he needs to find his way back to his nest.

At least that's what I would do, but then I love messing with people's heads. At least kids seem to like my attitude. ("Seen your bird lately, Mr.? What's he look like? You really don't have a bird, do you")
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 9:37 PM on September 22, 2010

Or a flyzapper! We always had one in the farm kitchen. But if you're not in Australia, YMMV.
posted by honey-barbara at 9:44 PM on September 22, 2010

Here's what you do: plug in a clapper. Then plug in a music device that will start playing loud when you clap, with something like the benny hill theme.

Now, forgot you've done this. In about eight months or so, you'll drop a dish, and it will shatter. The noise will trigger the clapper, and your mood will immediately improve even though you've broken the dish.
posted by davejay at 10:14 PM on September 22, 2010 [7 favorites]

alternative: on clapping, some disco lights start up, along with a recording of Michael Jackson's "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough"
posted by davejay at 10:30 PM on September 22, 2010 [3 favorites]

You could probably install a switch connected to a piece of string ... to cycle the power outlet.

These are quite common in old Australian houses. Seem to be called "pull cord lighting switches"

it might give you few more options
posted by jannw at 1:08 AM on September 23, 2010

Response by poster: Wow, you guys are terrific.

My heart is breaking over the impossibility of the disco ball/lava lamp... much as my kitchen (and lifestyle in general, let's be honest) could benefit from their benign influence, the shelf isn't in the right place to do this. But I will keep them on the list just on principle. (And davejay, as I am sure you know, DStYGE is surprisingly appropriate for pretty much any situation and time of day.)

Same issue with the clock... the shelf is on the wrong end of the ceiling to be visible from the room and therefore a clock up there wouldn't be seen. I do yearn for an electric clock in general but alas this is not the spot for it.

I'm really liking the network repeater idea, and the fan. Thank you.

And yay Clapper! I was focused on the idea of an RF remote outlet and was getting wrapped up in various home automation systems.... don't want to go there yet, cool as they are, just to enable a single outlet like this. But *sound* activation might do the trick. There's also the option of a plain-old timer on the outlet, so it would turn on for a few hours a day to do whatever it is it's supposed to do.

Thanks, you guys!! Your brilliance and creativity never ceases to amaze!
posted by woot at 4:01 AM on September 23, 2010

Guessing as to *why*, maybe the track lights and outlet were part of the oldest installation, and the recessed lighting came later, but they didn't remove the old outlet?

Also, have you seen this kind of thing? You'd plug the plug part into your outlet, and then the remote light-switch would control it. I've never owned one, but I think the switch is only as thick as the plate, no cutting holes in the wall, etc.
posted by aimedwander at 6:36 AM on September 23, 2010

I have had one of the switches that aimedwander linked to. They work well. There was a few times thought that I would walk in to my office and the lights would be on. So there is a chance of interference.

As for what to put there, I would hang one of my neon beer signs.
posted by Climber at 1:04 PM on September 23, 2010

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