Why do my lights spontaneously turn on?
September 7, 2006 7:12 PM   Subscribe

Why do my lights turn on by themselves? Do I have poltergeists?

My entertainment center has some accent lights that are controlled by one of those touch switches that's operated by static electricity. For the last few months, those lights spontaneously turn on by themselves. In fact, I just turned them off, and before I got back to the couch, they came on again.

There doesn't seem to be any schedule to it, and the humidity in our condo doesn't seem to have any effect. They never spontaneously turn off - always on.

Any ideas on why this is happening? Is the switch bad (how would I test it - I have some basic electronic skills), or is something else going on here?
posted by jknecht to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Not sure if this helps, but that switch doesn't operate through static but through a capacitive effect.
posted by phrontist at 7:19 PM on September 7, 2006

i have the same problem -- i've never investigated the source, but these lights have been with me for 2 apartments and they've done it in both places. my assumption was that it had to do with the barometer or something, as i've noticed it tends to happen more often when the weather is volatile.
posted by sonofslim at 7:54 PM on September 7, 2006

My husband would set off the touch switches every time he walked by! I finally had to get rid of them. I have four children and none of us ever had any problems. I thought it was because he has such a warm body temperature. He is like a furnace if you are close to him.
posted by kgn2507 at 7:59 PM on September 7, 2006

My little sister's bedside touch light used to turn on every time we got a phone call. Those things are just twitchy.
posted by Popular Ethics at 9:15 PM on September 7, 2006

You don't have ghosts. I have a lamp with that in my living room, and it used to constantly turn on spontaneously. The worst was when it turned on at 3 AM around Halloween, after I had stayed up late watching a scary movie and left my bedroom door open. After that, it pretty much stopped. So I'm guessing its goal was to basically scare the ever-living shit out of me once, then retire.
posted by MrZero at 10:31 PM on September 7, 2006 [2 favorites]

Actually, some of those switches do (or did?) operate by static, or more precisely, by detecting the 60Hz hum coupled into the touchplate by your finger. It might be that all modern touch switches are capacitive sensors, though.
posted by hattifattener at 11:02 PM on September 7, 2006

Coupling 60Hz hum into a device would properly be described as a capacitive effect.

Since your static charge level varies greatly from moment to moment, any attempt to use your charge level to control something would be pretty futile.
posted by Chuckles at 2:44 PM on September 8, 2006

We have those touch switches in our china cabinet. After months of assuming we had ghosts that turned the lights on and off when we weren't around, my husband discovered the truth - the "on" button of our cordless phone acted as a sort of remote control for the lights. Whenever the phone rang, or you turned the phone on or off, the lights would go on or off.
posted by xsquared-1 at 5:11 AM on September 10, 2006

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