What is this thing on the ceiling of a hallway of our new house?
April 4, 2020 12:43 PM   Subscribe

We bought a house before the pandemic - a good move it turns out, thank goodness - and were finally able to move in this weekend. While the move has been surprisingly smooth, we're puzzled by a 3-4" something on the ceiling of a small hallway above the laundry nook. It neither looks like a sprinkler or an electrical box. Any ideas?
posted by eschatfische to Home & Garden (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Could have been a clothesline-dispenser thingy. Is there another one somewhere that lines up with it?
posted by Huffy Puffy at 12:53 PM on April 4, 2020

Although it's not usually on the ceiling, maybe a retractable laundry line fixture?
posted by XtineHutch at 12:54 PM on April 4, 2020

Response by poster: Pretty confident it's not a laundry line. There isn't a place it can reach (it's on a high ceiling where it's out of reach, hence my potato-quality photo) and the center nub is clearly not extendable.

My partner was able to take a couple of much better photos, where it looks much more like a sensor of some sort, but there's no security or HVAC system in this house I would expect it to feed into. [Better Photo 1, Better Photo 2]
posted by eschatfische at 1:02 PM on April 4, 2020

I'm pretty sure that it is a Mr Beams motion sensing LED light, or something very similar. It probably got put up there, the batteries ran out, and nobody bothered to change the batteries.
posted by rockindata at 1:05 PM on April 4, 2020 [8 favorites]

Could the center-nub have been the anchor point for a rod, broken off and now missing, that had extended down towards a light fixture or chandelier? If so the the small hole is where the electric feed could have emerged...
posted by armoir from antproof case at 1:05 PM on April 4, 2020

I think the center looks like a spotlight type bulb.
posted by fritley at 1:05 PM on April 4, 2020 [4 favorites]

Seeing the better photos, I'm no longer so sure.
posted by rockindata at 1:06 PM on April 4, 2020

Oh just saw the Better Photos. Nevermind.
posted by armoir from antproof case at 1:07 PM on April 4, 2020

It looks like it could be a light fixture. Can you tell if the second off-center "hole" (with the red dot in it) is a switch? Is the red dot possibly a power LED? I'm thinking that part is either a switch or a light level sensor.
posted by Rob Rockets at 1:13 PM on April 4, 2020

I think battery-operated LED sensor light is a good guess. Do you have a ladder to see if the cover comes off?
posted by rhizome at 1:13 PM on April 4, 2020

Response by poster: This thing is fairly flush with the ceiling, only a couple of millimeters thick at most. The LED-like thing in the little hole is almost certainly IR, it's not visible without a camera. There's not enough thickness for a battery, even a super-thin Li-ion one.

I thought at first it might be an occupancy sensor for the HVAC system, but I looked at the HVAC and it doesn't seem to have an occupancy sensor controlling it. There's no automatic lighting in the house.
posted by eschatfische at 1:19 PM on April 4, 2020

That does look a lot like a high-power LED under the centre part. Could the depth of it be in some kind of wall-box built into the ceiling?

A visible doorbell or phone ringer? Was the previous owner a person with hearing impairment? Emergency lighting?
posted by scruss at 1:34 PM on April 4, 2020

Any chance it could be one of these: Sylvania 72404 - Dot-it Golden Dragon LED Motion Activated Night Light - White version, but they do make them in black
I found a black one!
posted by gwyhir at 1:49 PM on April 4, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: And a silver one
posted by gwyhir at 1:52 PM on April 4, 2020 [5 favorites]

It really looks like that Sylvania light. As to why it is flush- did someone have a brilliant idea to cover up something- water damage, etc- by just putting another layer of 5/8" drywall up there, and just mudded around the stick-on light because they assumed it was a sensor or something?
posted by rockindata at 2:05 PM on April 4, 2020 [1 favorite]

There are a lot of puck style LED fixtures now where the visible section is only a few millimeters thick and the disk is only 3"across (and therefor smaller than a regular electrical ceiling box). That centre section sure looks like an LED behind a diffuser. Besides a motion sensor the little opening to the side could be for an IR remote.
posted by Mitheral at 3:20 PM on April 4, 2020

I'm with rockindata: that is a Sylvania. ‘a small hallway above the laundry nook’ with possible random drywall = uhoh.
posted by scruss at 4:23 PM on April 4, 2020

Response by poster: Thanks gwyhir, that seems to be it! Despite initial impressions, it doesn’t actually look flush, just nearly so, so it’s just an abandoned night light. Thanks!
posted by eschatfische at 5:40 PM on April 4, 2020

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