Being a digital home consultant and an advocate for universal design and simplicity, one of my favorite home automation gadgets is the nightlight with photocell. It improves the safety of moving about in a dark room, because it turns on when it’s dark and off when it’s light. Like magic, when you turn on the room’s light(s), the little nightlight turns off; and when you turn off the lights, the nightlight turns on again. That’s why I was happy to find a new version and wanted to write about it.
While visiting OfficeDepot in Houston, I discovered the Mini Eco-i-Lite. It only costs about $10 and combines the functions of a nightlight, power failure light, and flashlight. How cool is that? By addressing the combined benefits of safety, ease of use, and sustainability, it seems ideal for the elderly, so I bought one and planned to write a glowing review about it here. But all is not what it seems.
The Eco-i-Lite emits so much electrical noise onto the 110v AC power lines that it interferes with home automation and data networking devices that rely on X10, Insteon, HomePlug and UPB powerline carrier signals. I immediately lost control of all of the lights in my home when I plugged the thing in, and they all worked again when I unplugged it.
As much as I like the concept of the Eco-i-Lite, I must recommend against buying it for two reasons.
Neighbors. Chances are you’d quickly learn if the Eco-i-Lite interfered with any other devices you had in your home, since they’d likely stop working or work intermittently as soon as you plug in the Eco-i-Lite, and you could prove your suspicions by unplugging the Eco-i-Lite. Maybe you don’t have anything that communicates over the powerline, but what about your neighbors? X10 products have a house code and unit code, because signals are strong enough to exit one home, bounce off of a utility transformer, and enter a neighboring home. It seems likely that Eco-iLite interference could so the same, and because neighbors wouldn’t know you just installed the Eco-i-Lite, they’d have no clue as to why they all of sudden started having problems like I noticed in my home. Unless you live on a ranch far from anyone, I recommend against buying the Eco-i-Lite.
Fire Danger. Home automation experts know it’s possible to install a noise filter between the wall outlet and the Eco-i-Lite, but most available filters have the plug on the bottom of the unit, making it nearly impossible to adapt the vertical mounting of Eco-iLite. Worse is this story I read: FIRE!! Be Careful of X10 XPPF 5amp Noise Filters! It’s a forum discussion describing what happened when someone tried to filter the power-line noise. The filter he described is the only one I found on SmartHome.com.
I wrote the manufacturer, because a return for refund seemed warranted, but the Warranty terms cover only repair or replacement. I told them that the packaging includes UL and FCC certification testing marks, but I don’t know how this product could have passed FCC testing. Several days have passed, and I have heard no response.