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UK Dimmer

  [vote for,

I've been amazed to find that in the UK you have to turn your bathroom light on and off with a pull string. Although that seems very quaint and old-fashioned, I do feel sorry for the poor Brits who would like different levels of lighting in their bathrooms. Knowing nothing about English building codes or really even the electrical system, I feel perfectly qualified to tell them how to do things.

The device is a replacement for the shaver plug. A shaver plug is apparently a 1 Amp plug that you can only use for shavers and electric toothbrushes. What you replace this with is a shaver plug with a dimmer switch. "Why would I want to dim my shaver?" one might ask. The dimmer doesn't control the shaver plug, but is a wireless device that is powered by the shaver plug and controls another wireless device up in your lighting fixture. Only two devices need to be installed (one of them twisting right into your light socket), and there is no additional danger of electrocution.

Feel free to control lighting in your bathroom, no stings attached.

Also available with built-in nightlight.

Worldgineer, Mar 11 2004

Shepherd's Delight http://www.halfbake...pherd_27s_20Delight
Inspired by discussion here [Worldgineer, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 05 2004]

Pull cord dimmer http://www.dimpull.co.uk/main.html
Seems to be some bakedness of the half version [RobertKidney, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 21 2004]

Dimpull details http://www.tlc-dire...s/Other/Dimpull.htm
Looks like it comes on full, then dims. [Worldgineer, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 21 2004]

UK Wiring Regs for Bathrooms http://www.iee.org/...ireRegs/updates.cfm
See third Link: Amendment No 3 AMD10983 [Nick Perry, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 21 2004]

<tangent>Shaver plugs are not safe! http://www.hanford....ell/ll99/199954.htm
Why do they have radios in the bathrooms of nuclear power plants?</tangent> [kbecker, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 21 2004]

Immersion proof switch http://www.yamatake...SS2-CVG900-0100.pdf
[kbecker, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 21 2004]

Electrocution information http://www.prl.res....TH/html1/chapt3.htm
How much does it take? [Ling, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 21 2004]

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       //quite high up the wall // Yes, but I assume reachable.   

       //skipping the shaver-socket powering aspect and simply opt for an IR remote control// I don't like the idea of having lighting controlled by something that takes batteries, but it's certainly possible. Although I assume you mean one that is wall mounted, or you'll have a hell of a time finding the remote in the dark.
Worldgineer, Mar 11 2004

       Ideal if you want a seductive atmosphere in your bathroom. Or for other reasons, possibly.
kropotkin, Mar 11 2004

       Here it's quite common to have dimmed bathroom lighting - it makes for a more relaxing bath not to have glaring lights on you, though sometimes you need enough to read by. Which is actually an arguement for the IR remote, as long as it's in combination with a powered wall-mounted dimmer.   

       There's also the issue raised in the Shepherd's Delight link that dimmers are very nice for middle-of-the-night trips to the restroom.   

       //there's no real demand for dimmable bathroom lighting// then my guess this is a don't-know-what-you're-missing phenomenon. Are there at least bathroom nightlights there, or do you have to blind yourself with bright lights at 4 in the morning?
Worldgineer, Mar 11 2004

       world the UK solution is more basic, main lights contolled by the pull switch by the door, then a light generally over the sink with the shaver socket provided you can make it into the bathroom without light then there is the option for dimmed light.
engineer1, Mar 11 2004

       Sounds barely civilized.   

       Though it does leave open the possibility of a prank involving a few dozen balloons on strings placed in someone's bathroom in the middle of the night.
Worldgineer, Mar 11 2004

       What I had in mind when I mentioned this on the other idea was a rotary dimmer built in to the socket (so as to be far, far away from their electicity fearing fingers). Pull one string to turn the dimmer one way and another string to turn the dimmer the other way. (With a glow-in-the-dark pull on the "make-the-light-brighter" string so it can be found in the dark.)   

       What might be better is an electronic control that increases the brightness in small increments as long as you're pulling on the string. The rate at which the brightess increases could be based on how hard you pull the string. A quick tug and release while in the "off" level could go to full brightness. A quick tug and release from any level but "off" would turn the light off.
half, Mar 11 2004

       I was thinking of something more mechanical. Pull down a little, and it comes on a little. Pull down almost all the way, and it comes on all the way. Pull down a little further and it snaps back up, like rolling blinds. Then I realized how silly the string concept is, and started on my mission to modernize the UK.
Worldgineer, Mar 11 2004

       Hah. For normal on/off use a string is about the same as a switch for ease of use.   

       A switch would certainly be better if you need a dimmer, but what use is it if it's not by the door? (Guessing you would market it as an extra for existing sockets, which tend to live above sinks.)
RobertKidney, Mar 11 2004

       As a replacement socket, it's meant to control a secondary light. You use the nightlight to find it in the dark for middle-of-the-night uses, or turn your main light off for bath uses.   

       For new construction, you could build it into the wall next to the door to control your main light or all of your lights. This version obviously doesn't require a shaver plug.
Worldgineer, Mar 11 2004

       Actually, I think half's latest take on this would work pretty well. Not that yours wouldn't, but his leaves you with only one switch <edit>so does yours, for new construction, but it would still be easier to modify an existing bathroom like that</edit>. And we are pretty much used to pull switches by now.
RobertKidney, Mar 11 2004

       [World], I thought of the same thing with pulling farther, etc. then realized that you'd have to go through the complete cycle to full brightness in order to turn the thing off, thereby defeating the entire purpose (of the "Shepherd's Delight" idea, that is).   

       Precisely, [RK]. I was aiming to keep the string paradigm in place since there appears to be some reluctance to adopt other technology.
half, Mar 11 2004

       Good find, [RK]. It doesn't state whether it can be turned off without going to full brightness, but that's the general idea.   

       The other thing I would want to know is, does it start at full brightness and dim down, or start at dim and go to full brightness.   

       For the bathroom-visit-induced-blindness prevention issue, it would need to start dim and be able to turn off without going to full brightness.   

       It was too good of an idea not to be true.
half, Mar 11 2004

       I was led to believe that the regulations in UK building (as states by [Rods]) meant that no standard plug socket or switch could be fitted in a bathroom - hence the string. I will check the 16th edition (or whatever passes for the latest) to check the Regs. Any sparks should feel free to dive in before me!.
gnomethang, Mar 11 2004

       I have heard tell of such installations [buddha_pest], but have not seen one in my 34 years. Could be studnt bedsit land.
I hope that we are a tad more sophisticated now.
gnomethang, Mar 11 2004

       It is pretty short on the details. Maybe it isn't as good as you have imagined [half]. Might explain its lack of popularity.   

       Never seen anything like that [buddha_pest].
RobertKidney, Mar 11 2004

       [gnomethang] //UK building Regs meant that no standard plug socket or switch could be fitted in a bathroom//... Not really. The string thing is just a convenient way of siting the switch outside the restricted 'zones'.
Simlified summary (see link for full details):
Zone 0 (the bath/shower tray): no electricity at all
Zone 1 (2.25m directly above)" sealed instantaneous water heaters, electric showers, etc ONLY
Zone 2 (a=0.6m to the side to max height 2.25m & b=0.75m above Z1) light FITTINGS, heaters, blowers, fans, shaver socket.
Zone 4 (2.4m to the side of Z2 & 0.75m above Z2a) fixed appliances with 30mA RCD

       This pic may help - it is the cross section of the bathroom where 00 is the bath tub.   


       Any kind of switch must be outside all the zones (in the white space') - hence 2.25m up the wall and 0.6m to the side of the bath. Which is why a ceiling mount usually fits. However switches incorporated into approved appliances can go in the relevant zones.   

       So this control device, with an integral switch, could go in Zone 3 if it was a permanently fitted appliance and met BSI standards.   

       And as you can see it is strictly illegal to have number ones or number twos in the bath or shower... {I thank you}
Nick Perry, Mar 11 2004

       //How many of you still have systems like this, as opposed to central heating systems?// I lived in a place where about everything had timers with coins, the shower, electricity for light etc., gas for heat (also hot water in the shower, basic shower fee was only for cold water). There was only a sink where the cold water was free. The landlord claimed that it saved me thousands and I got the meters for free (no monthly maintenance fee). I moved out after I saved my first million.
kbecker, Mar 11 2004

       [Nick...] Aren't there any switches that are approved for wet areas? See link for a suitable model.
kbecker, Mar 11 2004

       You're right, they do like pulling on cords. Perhaps we're going the wrong way here. Removing strings will never sell - let's add some. Coming soon: Door rope, as replacement for a door knob; TV Remote chain; and for the internet-savvy Brit - the String Keyboard.   

       (oh, and if that's what they mean by Yank I'm quite offended)
Worldgineer, Mar 11 2004

       [Worldgineer], stop pulling my chain.
BTW, I thought that the US system has 110V centre tap-earthed, which means only 55V to earth, and busbars around the house (probably). Compare to the UK system, which has 240V to earth. It hurts. A lot.
Ling, Mar 11 2004

       U.S. is 110v peak (110v to ground/neutral). In typical residential service, there is a second 110v "leg" that is 180 degrees out of phase with the first leg. The two "hot" legs are used to supply a 220v pk supply for more power hungry appliances.   

       I've never seen 220v in a bathroom. However, GFCI breakers are also available for 220v circuits and render the high voltage safe enough to be used with spas/jacuzzis, heated baptistries in churches, etc.   

       From a certain perspective, it seems odd that all metal within a given distance of a swimming pool, spa, etc. must be grounded. It seems to ensure a good path to ground if the water is accidentally charged. I guess with GFCI's in place that would be less of a potential hazard than somehow having the metal be accidentally charged.   

       (Note: I'm not an electrician, but I do play one on weekends and I've not yet burned any structures completely to the ground.)
half, Mar 11 2004

       //it seems odd that all metal within a given distance of a swimming pool, spa, etc. must be grounded.//
More important is that all parts are at the same voltage, so there is no current between hands/feet.
Thanks for the info on US.
If I remember correctly, Earth leakage protection is set at 30mA max 0.4 Seconds. I think this is supposed to be the best compromise between prevention of fibrillation and spurious tripping.
Ling, Mar 11 2004

       I think that's more on the order of 5 mA for something like 25 to 50 msec.
half, Mar 12 2004

       All sizes are available.
See link for electrocution data.
Ling, Mar 12 2004

       [kbecker] apparently no mains switchgear of *any* type, even with IP approval, in the zones of a domestic bathroom. Low votage switches for safety gear (SELV) are allowed provided the gear itself is outside of all the zones.   

       Interestingly "Insulating pull cords... are permitted in zones 1,2 and 3". Which means you can't pull your cord in the bathtub itself {ahem}.
Nick Perry, Mar 12 2004

       Thanks [Nick Perry], you are right, of course, I do controls so I don't *really* know.
gnomethang, Mar 12 2004

       //Sounds barely civilized.//
//How many of you still have systems like this, as opposed to central heating systems//

A select few houses have electricity, candles are scarce. We usually result to smacking a hole in the wall with our clubs to pee by moonlight...
silverstormer, Mar 12 2004

       That is a bit posh [Silverstormer]. Your own sledgehammers, eh?.
gnomethang, Mar 12 2004

       [silverstormer], you're house has a wall? Luxury.
Ling, Mar 12 2004

       We used to dream about living in a house with walls.A hole in the road with a piece of corrugated tin for a roof just does'nt cut it.( 2 Yorkshiremen identified so far).
python, Mar 12 2004

       Corrugated tin. Luxury. I had sweet and crisp wrappers knited together with the hair from my dads whippet.   

       I have a pull cord switch above my bed. Its great for getting me out of bed in a morning or turning the light off when I,m in bed.
sufc, Mar 12 2004

       want dimmed bathroom lights? Switch off the main light and use candles. Like [rods] I'm unsure there's a problem here to be solved.
jonthegeologist, Mar 13 2004

       or have a standard dimmer placed just outside the bathroom...
hazel, Mar 13 2004

       [hazel], I suggested that very thing over on the "Shepherd's Delight" idea. No one seemed delighted.
half, Mar 13 2004

       Use RGB LED arrays and you can set the color temperature as well as the intensity.  Also, they can be low voltage and much less electrorisky.
bristolz, Mar 13 2004

       //Switch off the main light and use candles// Yeah, and electricity's dangerous. Try walking around in the dark with lit candles a 4 in the morning after having one too many pints.   

       [bz] I like that, both in conjunction with my idea and for general mood lighting options that just aren't currently available.
Worldgineer, Mar 13 2004

       It might be easier to just relocate all of Great Britain to an unpopulated portion of the US which has been lanscaped to resemble their island. And if you surround them with a foggy moat they may never realize what happened.
whatastrangeperson, Mar 14 2004

       <off topicish> Whata, there is a vague sort of sense in your idea... why when Britain had an empire didn't we all move to Australia? compare the climates and neighbours nad you can see someone was napping.</off topicish>
engineer1, Mar 14 2004

       ....bbbbut we like the Sun. Why else do you think that we ALL go to the Iberian peninsula every year? No Fog!, Damn Straight!.
gnomethang, Mar 14 2004

       could we not just devise a way of making it a pull-string dimmer?
DBA, Mar 15 2004

       inverted yo-yo technology
po, Mar 15 2004

       //It might be easier to just relocate all of Great Britain to an unpopulated portion of the US which has been lanscaped to resemble their island. And if you surround them with a foggy moat they may never realize what happened.//   

       This would only work if you relocated all of Great Britain except the Electrical Wiring Regulation Policy Making Board and it's associated minions, which when you include all associated bodies would only leave a few of us.   

       Curiously this is one area where the EU haven't interfered... yet. I believe our wiring regulations are more stringent than many of the other EU countries. I guess before too long we'll have to downgrade it all to meet the required EU electrocution quotas.
hazel, Mar 16 2004

       // I believe our wiring regulations are more stringent than many of the other EU countries// From the state of the wiring I've seen in France and particularly Spain, I wouldn't be surprised. Not that I travel around inspecting rival countries levels of electrical safety...
silverstormer, Mar 16 2004

       Ok, here's a new idea based on the British love of pull cords. Add another. Pull one a little, and it's dim. Keep going and it gets brighter. All the way down and it's on. The second string has been going up while this has been going down, and you can pull on it to turn the light down or off.
Worldgineer, Dec 29 2005

       I so don't get this one. Just put a dimmer in the bathroom. What am I missing? I have one in my house. What makes the UK special as far as this is concerned? (Now, I'll have to go back and read all of these annos and see if the answer is buried in there somewhere).
zigness, Dec 29 2005

       Because of the higher voltage and a strong cultural fear of electrocution, light switches aren't allowed in bathrooms there - dimming or otherwise. That's why they use pull strings.
Worldgineer, Dec 29 2005

       It may hark back to the days when the electric light companies first brought the gas less lamp into people's homes in the form of a single socket mounted in the ceiling of the major room(s) of the house (replacing the old piped gas lighting)   

       Later, as the new form of power became more popular, its application spread to various appliances other than lighting. These new appliances however were initially powered via a cable hooked into the original light fitting in the roof.   

       As you can imagine, with long thread-bound wires trailing about the place, and the necessity to stand on a chair in order to plug anything in, accidents, minor electrocutions and full scale house fires were not as rare as they might have been - which - I suppose, may have added fuel to the paranoia we see today.
zen_tom, Dec 29 2005


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