Ever been in a public building when the power has gone out? If you're lucky, emergency lighting will kick on, helping you out of the building. Until recently, the only way for homeowners to install a power outage system is through a system aimed at commercial buildings or with those chintzy flashlights
that plug into receptacles. The problem with the commercial system is expensive; the problem with the second system, if you can call it that, has less to do with the lousy, weak flashlights than with the outlets.
Lights Areas Not Served By Outlets
What about those areas where you can't plug in an emergency flashlight--areas without an outlet? I hadn't considered this until a sample of the Mr. Beams Home Power Outage Lighting System came my way. I counted the following areas that would be pitch-black or semi-dark in the event of a power outage, even if I had a network of flashlights in outlets: staircase, furnace room, circuit breaker room (ironic, huh?), top of basement stairs, and in odd little areas such as a large walk-in closet.
In fact, Mr. Beams President David Levine mentions in a promo video his kids' frightening experience with having the power go off while playing in the basement. Unlike upstairs rooms, basements have no or little ambient light coming through exterior windows.
Mr. Beams covers those areas with Ceiling Lights and Stair & Path Lights. Since these units are powered by C and AA batteries, respectively, they can really go anywhere you want. The question is, How do they know when the power has gone out? Well, that's the job of the "brains" of the system, the Home Power Outage Detector.
The Boss: Home Power Outage Detector
Home Power Outage Detector(c) Wireless Environment, LLC
The Detector looks like a flashlight and it plugs vertically into an electrical outlet. When the power goes out, the Detector senses the change and wirelessly transmits a signal to all other Mr. Beams units within a 70 foot radius. Should you care, you can unplug the Detector and take it with you as a combo flashlight and remote control for itself and other units.
After the Detector, the Ceiling Lights are the workhorse of the system. While the Stair & Path Lights are nice, you could easily build a system just with Ceiling Lights.
Because the bulbs are LED, they produce a far-reaching crisp white light. Specifications state that the batteries will last up to 40 hours, though I haven't tested this. The Ceiling Lights easily cover an entire room and beyond.
A Few Quirks
On the quirky (or perhaps just personal) side, I found myself wanting to turn individual units on and off. When the power first shuts down, certainly you want all units to go on simultaneously. If the outage continues, it would be advantageous to keep only a few key units running, saving power in other units. And what would happen if the Detector stopped working or its juice ran out? Then you've got up to 30 other Mr. Beams units (the maximum number allowable) that cannot be controlled.
Also I did not like the Stair & Path's attachment plate. It attaches to the wall by adhesive tape (not great, because it pulls off your paint) or into wallboard (by way of screws driven into plastic sleeves which are in turn inserted into holes in the wallboard). Wherever possible, I like to attach anything to a stud. Even though the weight of the Stair & Path unit comes nowhere close to needing stud-attachment, it's a cleaner method. So, I ended up "hacking" the attachment plate by drilling vertical holes and carefully counter-sinking the holes--no small matter with thin ABS plastic. Again, all of this is my personal preference--not necessary for installation.
Re-Drilled Holes on Attachment Plate(c) Lee Wallender; Licensed to About.com
Can you live without a home wireless power outage system? Sure, you can. But it's one of those extra margins of safety and comfort to install in your home after you've taken care of the basics. And as for those product "blips" I mention above, I still found myself online, searching for a couple more of those Ceiling Lights to add to my network.
Disclosure: Review samples were provided by the manufacturer. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy