I want to switch off my room lights without getting out of bed.
January 2, 2013 7:31 PM   Subscribe

I am embarrassingly lazy, and wish to switch off my ceiling lights without getting out of bed. What kind of contraption can I rig, to make this happen?

The wiring runs through the walls. So, alas, it is not as simple as plugging my light into a remote-controlled wall plug. I've tried getting several types of floor lights before, but they simply weren't bright enough, and failed to light up the whole room.

Is there some kind of remote-controlled contraption that can physically flick my light switch up and down?

Can this be done cheaply? Or is there some other method that I haven't thought of?

Ideally, I would wire a second switch right next to my bed, just like my dorm room back in the day. But I'm pretty sure my landlord would say no, and I would probably electrocute myself in the process.

Also, I am unwilling to spend $200 on Philips Hue wifi lightbulbs.

Please forgive me for being cheap and lazy! :( Believe me, I know it.
posted by Xere to Grab Bag (27 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I used a series of eye bolts in strategic locations and monofilament to rig a thing that I could reach from my bed that would pull the light switch down. It looked pretty ratty but worked fine.
posted by jessamyn at 7:40 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't know how cheap is "cheap," but you can get remote dimmers like this that would do the trick.

Less cheap, but much more flexibly (more likely for others reading the thread), any home automation system (Crestron, Control4, Savant, etc.) can do this kind of thing and much more.
posted by primethyme at 7:42 PM on January 2, 2013

An X10 Remote Control Lighting Kit would likely do it, unless you use CFLs.
posted by scruss at 7:42 PM on January 2, 2013

replace the light switch with one of these.
posted by HuronBob at 7:43 PM on January 2, 2013

The ceiling light is controlled by a light switch on the other side of the room, correct? If so, have you looked into replacing the light switch with a remote light switch? This model from Lutron replaces your light switch with an infrared receiver. The remote control can turn the light on/off or provide a fader control. The cool thing about this model is that you can program a universal remote, such as a Logitech Harmony Xbox 360 Remote or URC R5 Universal Pre-Programmed & Learning Remote, to control the switch.
posted by prinado at 7:45 PM on January 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

Seconding the Lutron. I have it and it works.
posted by StrawberryPie at 7:52 PM on January 2, 2013

I remember seeing advertisements a few years ago for a system that worked by clapping hands to do exactly that. It's certainly not new technology so hopefully you can get it on the cheap. Can't remember the name but a Google search of "lights" and "clap" seems to bring up a variety of products.
Now, we'll see if you can find something cheap and easy to install!

Good luck!
posted by CelebrenIthil at 7:53 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

What about getting a lamp (or lamps) that you plug into a wall socket and then outfit the socket with a remote controlled outlet switch socket? This is what I have in my bedroom and it is AWESOME.
posted by joan_holloway at 7:57 PM on January 2, 2013

I use duct tape and string to accomplish this... stick a four inch piece of duct tape about four inches below the switch, but with a smaller piece stuck to the bigger one (sticky part to sticky part) that buffers the string from getting stuck (probably a better way to say that). Tie a loop in your string, feed it through your duct tape loop, pull from anywhere in the room and it will apply downward pressure to the switch. Has to be reset every time you want it to work and it's not the prettiest to look at, but effective nonetheless. I can post pictures if you would like.
posted by pwally at 7:59 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Get one of those "clap-on/ clap off" lights!
posted by windykites at 8:17 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

posted by greta simone at 8:20 PM on January 2, 2013

I am lazy too. I have a bed-side lamp that I turn on when getting into bed, and flip the ceiling lights off before getting into bed. The bed-side lamp is plenty bright for anything I'm doing in bed, and I can reach it from where I sleep.
posted by DoubleLune at 8:20 PM on January 2, 2013 [4 favorites]

I too had the eye-bolts and string system, works great and is super cheap. No chance of electrocuting yourself while installing it either.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 8:39 PM on January 2, 2013

Before I rigged up an elaborate string system to control my turntable I used to use a really long stick with a small hook to flip the lever to lift the needle and switch it off from bed. Perhaps you could try that?
posted by ooklala at 9:05 PM on January 2, 2013

I do what DoubleLune suggests and it's great. It looks a bit cleaner than the eyebolt rig, and it's nice to have a "mood" setting for going to bed. My tabletop lamp is a bit dimmer, warmer, and throws light differently than the ceiling light, which helps my brain with the whole winding down for bed thing.
posted by k8lin at 9:06 PM on January 2, 2013

FWIW, I bought my lazy son The Clapper as a gift several years ago. The act of clapping turned things on and off when he wanted them to be on/off. But so did any other loud noises, like a loud stereo, the vacuum running in another area of the house, or laughter, or sneezing. A good coughing fit could turn his bedroom into a disco. Something to keep in mind if you seek solid rest.
posted by mcbeth at 9:30 PM on January 2, 2013 [7 favorites]

Mod note: This question is asking about the ceiling lights, so let's concentrate on that, and assume that a bedside lamp has already been considered.
posted by taz (staff) at 10:16 PM on January 2, 2013

Response by poster: Yes... thank you, taz! I have indeed already considered bedside lamps/floor lights, as mentioned in the post ... and have eliminated them as undesirable. I'd really appreciate ceiling light suggestions ONLY. So floor lights, bedside lamps, remote-controlled socket plugs, and the Clapper are out. (However, someone else might find those useful in the future. Just not me.)

So far, the Lutron looks the best. It doesn't seem to work with standard CFLs though, might need to buy special dimmable CFLs for them.
posted by Xere at 10:43 PM on January 2, 2013

Many ceiling fans come with a remote control unit that includes the ability to turn on/off the lights (as well as the fan). The unit I have installed even came with a bracket for the remote, so you could mount it to a wall or your headboard or wherever.

This suggestion is only useful if a) you want a ceiling fan and b) your landlord will allow you to install one.
posted by 1367 at 10:50 PM on January 2, 2013

If you go with the Lutron, Costco has excellent dimmable LEDs for around $15. I've heard lots of bad reports about dimmable CFLs.
posted by monotreme at 11:07 PM on January 2, 2013

Seconding dimmable LED's rather than CFL's.

I realize that you may not be able to replace the switch. However, if you can, and if there is any possibility at all that you would ever want to control more than just one light, you may want to look at home automation technologies. Someone already suggested lighting automation technologies such as Crestron, but you can also look at things like Insteon, ZigBee, or Z-Wave. With the Insteon system, for example, an Insteon-capable wall switch can be paired with a wireless or wired bedside remote, and that remote can potentially control several other devices as well.
posted by jgreco at 4:03 AM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

I am assuming, since you don't otherwise state, that this is a single switch ceiling lamp?

I'm lazy, too, sort of. I wired up my disconnected garage with a spare Keyence programmable logic controller activated by a spare radio based transmitter/receiver and wrote a program that keeps the lamps on for variable times depending on how long I press the button. If I did this for you, it would be maybe $500 for the parts, enclosure and labor, so it's out of your price range. (It's only $500 because I have done it before.... a new design would be in the 2k range, in case you are interested!) There are safety features, NEMA enclosures, high-quality wiring, junction boxes, etc. involved. This was all designed to use stuff I already had on hand and to preserve the function of the original independent switches. It safely disconnects, too. (It's a sickness this habit I have... yes.)

point is.... the outputs of my PLC PARALLEL the switch contacts. You can easily ADD functionality with a parallel set of contacts or a solid state relay. A few hundred watts of lighting would only be a few amps of current, so it's in the ballpark of most relays and small SSRs.

If you are considering running thread through eyebolts, you obviously are tolerant of aesthetic shortcomings, so mounting a box near the switch and paralleling your wall switch with a set of contacts you can manipulate remotely opens up a lot of possibilities. Xbee radio modules, ethernet control, sound, optical, time based... yada yada. Good place for an overkill solution like a Raspberry Pi computer, too. With a little effort, this project could be a master's thesis and learning experience.

Cheapest and equally ugly solution is an X-10 module, though. $50-75 and you are in business for a minimalist lazy man electronic solution.
posted by FauxScot at 6:23 AM on January 3, 2013

If the light bulb is above your bed, you can get one of these and attach a long string to it. Cheap, fast, and easy. Plus, it works with any kind of light bulb.
posted by fimbulvetr at 9:27 AM on January 3, 2013

I'm in the process of training my dog to turn off light switches. Certainly not the cheapest option in the long run, but hands down the most aesthetically pleasing.
posted by Grandysaur at 9:40 AM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

This may seem a little low-tech, but have you considered moving the bed over next to the light switch?
posted by kythuen at 11:17 AM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Clap On! Clap Off! The Clapper!

I just used a long mailing tube but your room might be bigger.

I don't know if The Clapper is even still available. Years since I saw an ad for it...
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 6:48 PM on January 3, 2013

I came in to recommend the pull chain. Most any overhead light can have one added, either with the socket fimbulvetr linked, or by an electrician. Add a long cord, tie it to the bed post.
posted by theora55 at 6:45 AM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

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