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Old 19th April 2018, 09:25 AM   #1
Thanz
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Lights turn themselves on

It has been a long time since I have posted on this forum but there is something going on that I thought you fine people could help with.

I have some battery operated fairy lights set up in my living room that my wife and I like to use to create ambiance. They are simple LED lights that run on AA batteries with an on/off switch. Some, I think, have a "blink" setting on the switch but we never use that. They do not have a timer.

Sometimes these lights just come on on their own. As in, they are off when I leave the house to go for a walk or run an errand, and then when I return they are on - with no one else home. Normally, I could think prank here, but I have actually seen them come on on their own while I am there. My wife and watching a show or a movie and then suddenly they all turn on.

I am baffled. I simply can't think of a rational explanation for this.

Can any of you?

Thanks.
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Old 19th April 2018, 09:31 AM   #2
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Three possibilities quickly which you did not eliminate --

Short circuit
Light sensor
Leaky battery
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Old 19th April 2018, 09:31 AM   #3
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Maybe it's a crappy designed or defective switch where the metal contact elements are way too close together and temperature changes or whatever cause the contact to be made.

Do they ever shut off on their own, or not?
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Old 19th April 2018, 09:32 AM   #4
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Wow. What a mystery. It must be ghosts. I mean, it'd never be a dodgy switch, or some faulty wiring, or missing insulation, or anything like that, obviously.
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Old 19th April 2018, 09:32 AM   #5
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The first rational explanation that comes to mind is a reporting error.
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Old 19th April 2018, 09:36 AM   #6
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Old 19th April 2018, 09:37 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by William Parcher View Post
Maybe it's a crappy designed or defective switch where the metal contact elements are way too close together and temperature changes or whatever cause the contact to be made.

Do they ever shut off on their own, or not?
They did, once, in succession turn themselves off. At the time, I figured that the batteries just died, as we tend to change all the batteries at once and use the lights at the same time.
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Old 19th April 2018, 09:41 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
The first rational explanation that comes to mind is a reporting error.
I don't mind if you don't believe me. However, if you check my posting history I think you will find i am not prone to claims of woo.

Things like faulty connections could be at play, but it seems unlikely given the timing. We have 4 sets near our TV, and one across the room. At the times that they have come on themselves, they have all come on - at the same time. Also, just the other night, we turned the 4 on near the tv, and the one across the room came on by itself.

I am not claiming a ghost diddit or whatever - I am genuinely perplexed.
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Old 19th April 2018, 09:46 AM   #9
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Just for reference, this is the basic design of what I am talking about:

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Old 19th April 2018, 09:49 AM   #10
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You could try Googling the manufacturer name and model to see what other owners are saying.
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Old 19th April 2018, 09:50 AM   #11
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If this really troubles you, get out your circuit tester/ volt meter and do a little research. Observing something and being puzzled by it should lead to investigation, not typing.
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Old 19th April 2018, 09:50 AM   #12
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I think it's unusual that the battery case is clear. Are you sure it doesn't have a photocell?
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Old 19th April 2018, 09:52 AM   #13
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What kind of switch do they have?

(ETA: Never mind, I can see the slide switch in the picture.)

If the switches have a position (i.e. not just a momentary button that toggles between settings), when the lights are found mysteriously on, what position is the switch found in?

Is there a remote?
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Old 19th April 2018, 09:53 AM   #14
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It's not that I don't believe you, it's that I am skeptical of reports like this.

Also, you posted in the Paranormal subforum, which implies that you're interested in an inquiry along paranormal lines. Obviously this is going to get a lot of pushback here.

Perhaps the Science and Tech subforum might be a better home for the kind of discussion you're interested in.
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Old 19th April 2018, 09:55 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by William Parcher View Post
I think it's unusual that the battery case is clear. Are you sure it doesn't have a photocell?
I am sure there is no photocell. They are not all the same make - we acquired them over time. If memory serves, two of them have the clear style battery case, and two of them have a black battery case and I am not sure of the final one.
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Old 19th April 2018, 09:57 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by Myriad View Post
What kind of switch do they have?

(ETA: Never mind, I can see the slide switch in the picture.)

If the switches have a position (i.e. not just a momentary button that toggles between settings), when the lights are found mysteriously on, what position is the switch found in?

Is there a remote?
No remote, and when found on you need to push the switch to turn them off.
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Old 19th April 2018, 10:00 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
It's not that I don't believe you, it's that I am skeptical of reports like this.

Also, you posted in the Paranormal subforum, which implies that you're interested in an inquiry along paranormal lines. Obviously this is going to get a lot of pushback here.

Perhaps the Science and Tech subforum might be a better home for the kind of discussion you're interested in.
I expect you all to be skeptical, and I don't mind the pushback. And I was really going for the "general skepticism" part.
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Old 19th April 2018, 10:05 AM   #18
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In the old house the bathroom light would occasionally come on by itself, as would the extractor fan (at different times). Something else the light did was to delay up to a minute before illuminating when you pulled the cord, making you think the bulb had gone. Electrics never being my forte, I never gave it much thought, and was of the opinion that these antics were well within bearable limits. I have to say, though, if it was a poltergeist then it was without doubt the most unimaginative, boring example in human history.
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Old 19th April 2018, 10:08 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by Thanz View Post
I expect you all to be skeptical, and I don't mind the pushback. And I was really going for the "general skepticism" part.
So, okay, let's think about this a bit:

All the lights turn on at the same time.

When you go to examine the lights, do you find that all four of them have had their switches moved to the "on" position?

ETA: If you use a bit of tape, or wedge a toothpick or paper clip in, to prevent the on/off switch from moving, does the behavior stop?

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Old 19th April 2018, 10:15 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by Thanz View Post
No remote, and when found on you need to push the switch to turn them off.
Cheap slide switches can switch themselves (on or off) if the slide distance and spring contact shape is not designed correctly (the handle literally moves on its own after being left alone for a while). Proper mechanical design and construction is mostly what separates $0.02 switches from $0.20 ones.
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Old 19th April 2018, 10:19 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
So, okay, let's think about this a bit:

All the lights turn on at the same time.

When you go to examine the lights, do you find that all four of them have had their switches moved to the "on" position?

ETA: If you use a bit of tape, or wedge a toothpick or paper clip in, to prevent the on/off switch from moving, does the behavior stop?
I have not examined the lights immediately after they turn on, but at the end of the evening they do need to be turned "off".

I also have not tried using a physical impediment to stop the behaviour. While I find it odd, I do not find it disturbing if that makes sense. Even if I assume the wooest explanation possible of some sort of entity - admittedly, a massive assumption - if all it does is turn on some fairy lights I don't mind it.

I may try it though and report back. Part of the problem is that it is impossible to predict when the lights behave like this. The only correlation we have found would sound wooish - and even that is not predictive as I could be counting the hits and ignoring the misses.
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Old 19th April 2018, 10:20 AM   #22
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Put a webcam in the room, preferably close enough to see the position of the switch and some of the lights. When it goes wonky, check the video to see if anything is affecting the unit at the time.
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Old 19th April 2018, 10:50 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by Thanz View Post
The only correlation we have found would sound wooish - and even that is not predictive as I could be counting the hits and ignoring the misses.
Why in the world would you make this leap when the most likely explanation is a short?

Get a circuit tester or better still, another set of lights as they don't appear to be all that expensive.
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Old 19th April 2018, 10:56 AM   #24
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Old 19th April 2018, 11:00 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by alfaniner View Post
Three possibilities quickly which you did not eliminate --

Short circuit
Light sensor
Leaky battery
A faulty switch (short circuit) is what I think. When it's off it's probably barely off and a vibration could move the switch just enough to turn on.

When it happens, is the switch still in the off position? If so, push it hard toward off and see if it goes off. You could also just tap the switch when it's in the off position and see if you can't get it to go on without moving it all the way over to the on position.


And ignore those rude replies. Nice to see you around. I'd hate you to disappear again because some people here are so sarcastic.
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Old 19th April 2018, 11:00 AM   #26
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Thanz:

Those lights do look like very cheap lights, and as such, I expect that the switch is going bad which is why the lights periodically flash on and off.

If possible, try replacing the switch and see how they work then.

> If the lights work properly after the switch replacement, then you know the fault was with the original switch.

> Conversely, if the lights continue to malfunction after the switch replacement, then there is probably faulty wiring elsewhere.

I hope this helps.
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Old 19th April 2018, 11:01 AM   #27
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Originally Posted by Resume View Post
Why in the world would you make this leap when the most likely explanation is a short?

Get a circuit tester or better still, another set of lights as they don't appear to be all that expensive.
Wiggling the switch is much easier.
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Old 19th April 2018, 11:01 AM   #28
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Originally Posted by Resume View Post
Why in the world would you make this leap when the most likely explanation is a short?

Get a circuit tester or better still, another set of lights as they don't appear to be all that expensive.
First, I have not made any leap. I said correlation, not causation, and even then acknowledged my own possible bias in reporting. So, no leap. More of a "seems to happen when...". Kinda like when your team wins when you are wearing your "lucky jersey". Which is why I have not brought it up as an explanation.

Second, a short is a good explanation for one. Seems less likely when it is multiple items, separated from each other, all at the same time.
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Old 19th April 2018, 11:03 AM   #29
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Originally Posted by Thanz View Post
... Part of the problem is that it is impossible to predict when the lights behave like this. ...
That's where wiggling the switch comes in.
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Old 19th April 2018, 11:20 AM   #30
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
The first rational explanation that comes to mind is a reporting error.
This.

What kind of switch is it? Describe how the switch operates. Is it a slide switch, or a push-button?

Hans
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Old 19th April 2018, 11:35 AM   #31
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Originally Posted by Thanz View Post
Second, a short is a good explanation for one. Seems less likely when it is multiple items, separated from each other, all at the same time.
Unless it's a bad production run. Not unusual.
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Old 19th April 2018, 11:37 AM   #32
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Originally Posted by MRC_Hans View Post
This.

What kind of switch is it? Describe how the switch operates. Is it a slide switch, or a push-button?

Hans
He posted a picture; it's a little slide. We've got sets just like that but I can't lay my hands on them just now.
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Old 19th April 2018, 11:43 AM   #33
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Originally Posted by Resume View Post
Why in the world would you make this leap when the most likely explanation is a short?
Doesn't sound like a short.

If it were a short, the switch would stay in the "off" position, and he wouldn't have to go and turn them off afterwards. Also, the switch probably wouldn't work anymore, since the short would be bypassing the switch in the circuit.

It sounds like the switches are moving from the "off" to the "on" position. Which sounds implausible, but can be tested.
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Old 19th April 2018, 11:48 AM   #34
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Originally Posted by Thanz View Post
I may try it though and report back. Part of the problem is that it is impossible to predict when the lights behave like this.
That's fine. Take a couple weeks. Turn the lights off, block the switches in the off position with tape or whatever, and wait a week. If nothing happens, unblock the switches and wait another week. (If it happens less frequently or more frequently, adjust your waiting periods accordingly.)

You can also use a bit of nail polish or similar to mark a small dot on the "off" side of the switch, so that you can see at a glance if the switch is in the position you think it is. I say this because personally I could never remember which side of the switch is "on" or "off" without a mark. In my kitchen there's two switches next to each other. One controls the lights, the other controls the garbage disposal. Even though I know with certainty that the disposal switch is on the left, I still have the switches labeled because I can never remember in the moment which is which.
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Old 19th April 2018, 12:07 PM   #35
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Originally Posted by Thanz View Post
...they are off when I leave the house to go for a walk or run an errand, and then when I return they are on
...My wife and watching a show or a movie and then suddenly they all turn on.
As others have stated, could be vibration from your front door and TV activating the cheap switches.

You could perform a test of placing a light on top of a source of vibration, such as a washing machine, and see what happens.
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Old 19th April 2018, 12:15 PM   #36
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Originally Posted by William Parcher View Post
I think it's unusual that the battery case is clear. Are you sure it doesn't have a photocell?
No they haven't, I've got a lot of these, use them at Christmas. They are very cheap, and the switches tend to be a tad flimsy.
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Old 19th April 2018, 12:19 PM   #37
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Originally Posted by jrhowell View Post
As others have stated, could be vibration...

You could perform a test of placing a light on top of a source of vibration, such as a washing machine, and see what happens.
Forget the washing machine. Just put the light on your booty and start to boogie instead.
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Old 19th April 2018, 02:45 PM   #38
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I've had electrical circuits that randomly switch on and off according to how hot it is, and how hot they get, as expansion both opens cracks and closes cracks in the soldering or circuit board. And it's a bugger to fault-find, too....
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Old 19th April 2018, 02:58 PM   #39
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Originally Posted by Kid Eager View Post
I've had electrical circuits that randomly switch on and off according to how hot it is, and how hot they get, as expansion both opens cracks and closes cracks in the soldering or circuit board. And it's a bugger to fault-find, too....
I had a 1964 Corvair on which I could tell how cold it was by the way the turn signals misbehaved. Below -20F it was all left, all the time, regardless of the lever.

I just now thought I knew where we had a set of lights just like that but still didn't find them. We've got too much stuff.
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Old 19th April 2018, 03:04 PM   #40
alfaniner
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Originally Posted by LTC8K6 View Post
If you have a cat, it's the cat.
If you have a butler, it's the butler.

If you have a ghost, LEAVE THE HOUSE IMMEDIATELY!
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