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I'm seeking advice for safe, cost-effective lighting inside a Sukkah.

My goals are:

  1. Minimize risk of fire. Even florescent lights can get hot enough to spark dry kindling in certain circumstances.

  2. Minimize energy consumption. Should I go with solar? Outdoor timers? See #3 below.

  3. Minimize up-front costs. Timers or solar-powered LEDs seem like a great idea for the first two, but so far I've seen some prohibitively expensive and complicated solutions involving retrofitting florescent-tube fixtures to operate LED tubes.

  4. Simple installation - see #3 above.

  5. Have a Sukkah that is lit as brightly as my dining room.

  6. To have a Sukkah in which I can entertain guests who will want to hang out in the Sukkah long after the meal has ended.

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I feel I should mention that LEDs get hotter than fluorescents (for equal lumen ratings). If your goal is less heat, florescent is the way to go. –  Ariel Sep 12 '12 at 2:54
@Ariel, whaat??? –  Seth J Sep 12 '12 at 14:39
@SethJ It's true. Compare two random flood lamps I found: The LED outputs 630 Lumens while using 9.5 watts (66.3 lumens/watt). The CFL outputs 1600 lumens while using 23 watts (69.5 lumens/watt). The CFL puts out more light for the same amount of energy, meaning less heat. LEDs have better color accuracy than CFL, but worse energy efficiency. (In a lab you can get better, but I limit myself to what's available commercially.) Even if you find an LED with better efficiency than a CFL, it still puts out plenty of heat. Also, a CFL radiates the heat outward, an LED puts it in a heat sink. –  Ariel Sep 13 '12 at 6:24
Discussion regarding the merge can be found at chat.stackexchange.com/transcript/message/6109926#6109926 –  Double AA Sep 13 '12 at 18:14
You can add a timer inexpensively to practically any plug-in solution. –  Isaac Moses Sep 13 '12 at 18:40

4 Answers 4

I use strands of white holiday lights like these or these (often cheap on December 26!), powered by a heavy-duty extension cord that is plugged in in the garage, with plastic and electrical tape around plugs that are outside (the second strand plugged into the first, etc). I've had no safety problems since starting to wrap the plugs; before I did that, one year I tripped a GFI. These lights are designed to be strung on people's houses and in their windows and the bulbs do not get hot enough to cause a risk of fire. I can touch them with my bare hands after they've been on for hours without issues.

Update: Since writing this answer three years ago, LEDs have become much less expensive. This strand costs $15, burns only 8W, and generates a lot of light according to Isaac Moses (thanks!).

I run the strings up the side of the door (tying it in place once near the bottom and once at the top) and then run it along the top of the walls all around, just tying it in the corners. (A system of clips could make that faster, but it takes me about 3 minutes to put up my lights so I haven't bothered.)

lights in corner

wrapped plug

For my 8x8 sukkah this provides ample illumination, but for a bigger one I'd just add another strand and run them across the "ceiling" too, in addition to along the walls, or double the strand along the walls. These lights are designed to be daisy-chained to a point. While I haven't done this myself, I've also seen sukkot that add a single larger light (sometimes LED) from the center; that gives plenty of light but is more expensive than the strands of smaller lights.

As for operating costs, during chol hamoed I just plug the lights in before using the sukkah and for yom tov I just leave them on. A timer would reduce the wasted electricity on yom tov if you're concerned about that.

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Thanks for the update @IsaacMoses! I've edited that into this old answer. –  Monica Cellio Oct 7 '14 at 13:51

This year, I ran an outdoor-rated extension cord (not hard to come by) out a window (through the already-insulated gap where an air conditioner is) to the sukkah and plugged in a five-bulb lighting string, also outdoor-rated. I used yellow anti-bug CFLs, again outdoor-rated.

When I've asked in Home Depot about plugging things in outside, I've gotten the following suggestion multiple times: wrap the connection tightly with a plastic baggie, then use electrical tape to tape up the edges of the baggie. I used this where the lighting string plugged into the electrical cord.

The yellow light does a great job of not attracting bugs. Our ~8'x10' sukkah is comfortably and warmly lit, if a bit yellow* (and probably not as bright as SethJ's dining room). The total power usage is 65 W, and the total fixed cost was ~$85, with all materials reusable in future years (including the CFLs, which ought to last a while). I'm confident that the setup is safe, since everything is outdoor-rated, the sechach provides some additional rain protection, and the CFLs don't emit much heat.

* The yellowness of the light has an interesting effect. At night, when these bulbs provide nearly all the light in the sukkah, the yellow ratchet straps (similar to this I use for "lavud" purposes seem to be white.

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PS: Here's something I didn't end up doing: diy.stackexchange.com/questions/1843/… –  Isaac Moses Sep 28 '10 at 20:19
Administrative note: This was penned as an answer to another question and merged hither. –  msh210 Sep 13 '12 at 18:09

If your sukkah is on your porch, often you have a porch light already there.

Some people have an outdoors outlet and plug a light into there. Anyone have their experience with this? How waterproof/safe is this?

I've tried some solar-powered-walkway-light devices, but they haven't been bright enough.

This year we used a 4-D-battery, LED camping lantern. It's worked fine despite all the rain; I'm not concerned about it burning or electrocuting anything; it provided enough light for us to see our food (though it still felt like nighttime); and with fresh batteries and turned on right before yomtov, it was still providing light (though slightly dimmer) 50+ hours later, good enough for the third night of a 3-day yomtov.

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Administrative note: This was penned as an answer to another question and merged hither. –  msh210 Sep 13 '12 at 18:09
My experience with a lantern as Shalom described has also been positive. –  Ze'ev Felsen Sep 23 '13 at 2:09

I've been using shop lights (similar to this) for years now; two of them, each with two fluorescent bulbs, comfortably light up my 30' x 9' sukkah.

I plug them into a regular power strip, which in turn is plugged into an extension cord rated for outdoor use. I used to put a plastic bag over the power strip to protect it from the rain, but didn't do so this year - turns out it wasn't necessary: despite all the rain, nothing has shorted out, B"H.

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Administrative note: This was penned as an answer to another question and merged hither. –  msh210 Sep 13 '12 at 18:10
+1 for the lighting suggestion and outdoor-rated extension cord. -1 for suggesting no water protection was necessary because in one year of heavy rain you didn't have a problem. I hope you wouldn't advise against wearing a seatbelt if you once drove without one and had no problem. –  Seth J Oct 4 '12 at 4:14

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