A lesson in repairs… don’t buy the cheapest, it’ll be more expensive in the long run. (or, ceiling fan light kits part II)

About a year ago, I was sprucing up my rental unit so that it would look more attractive to prospective renters (either it worked, or I really didn’t have to, because I found renters within a week).

One of the improvements I made was replacing the old outdated square pull-chain light fixtures. They worked fine, but looked really outdated. I replaced them with some new ceiling fan light kits — they still used the pull chain “technology” (if you can call it that. pull chain lights are used in rooms where the wiring goes through the attic or ceiling, but no one went through the trouble to run it down the wall to a switch), but look a million times better. I looked around at the big box stores, and almost bought some at Home Depot for $40 each, but then found some at Menards for $15 each. Of course, I chose the $15 lights.
old pull chain light fixture   old vs. new   new pull chain light fixture

Trouble is, last week, almost a year to the day since I put the lights up, I got a note from my tenants, saying that they weren’t working.

I went up to investigate, thinking something must’ve just worked its way loose, but the light was simply worn out. The pull chain action didn ‘t trigger anything anymore, and the lights were permanently set to “on.”

So I went to the store, and bought the $40 lights that I probably should have bought in the first place (assuming that they’re more expensive because they’re higher quality, not just because they’re more stylish). It was a snap to put them up, since they mounted the same way as the cheapie lights. Hopefully these will last a bit longer, especially since now they’ve effectively cost me $55 a piece ($15 light fixture that broke, plus the $40 replacement).

Alternately, it could be not so much a function of quality as design — these new lights were meant to be used on fans (which are generally primarily operated via a wall switch, not a pull chain), so they could have worn out just because they were being used more than intended. (Those old fashioned lights were meant to be pulled on and off for a good 50 years or so, and they were.)

I’ll give it a year, anyway. If these lights wear out, it might be cheaper in the long run to just hire an electrician to wire wall switches in the upstairs bedrooms…

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