Wither The Halogen Torchiere?
The halogen torchiere. You know it well. It was the portable upright lamp seen in every living room, dorm room, and bedroom during most of the 1990s. Available for not much more than $15 at any home and hardware store during the height of its popularity, this ultra-soft source of light was a staple of urban living.
Has anybody noticed, though, how difficult it is to find one of these badboys today? Everywhere you go, it seems this bastion of illumination has been replaced by either an awful flourescent bulb version or a weak incandescent model, both usually with the dreaded “three-way switch” instead of the full-range dimmer. What gives?
I went into my local Lowe’s Hardware Store to find out.
As it turns out, there have been a rash of accidents over the last several years resulting from the use of these lamps. Apparently, the bulbs burn extremely hot and if the fixture tips over or some moron throws a shirt on top of it, a fire can start. Hmmmm, seems like a reasonable cause for alarm, but my halogen of 15 years just went out and I need a new one! How prevalent could this safety hazard really be?
After work today, I went down to the last place I knew of which carried something resembling my current model: Fred Meyer in Ballard. Fred Meyer is a combination hardware store/grocery store and they have a ton of stuff. Sure enough, I spotted a Holmes 300 Watt Halogen Torchiere with full-range dimmer!!! And better yet, it seemed to have all sorts of new safety features built in like auto-off and a cage around the bulb. According to the packaging, its “new technology and design exceeds new 1999 UL 153 Safety Standards”… whatever that means.
So I threw two of them in the cart and went over to the food section for some groceries. No sooner do I run into Keith’s wife and start talking about how Disneyland beats the crap out of Disneyworld, than a woman interrupts our conversation and politely says the following (pointing to the torchieres in my cart):
“Sorry to interrupt you, but my entire house burned down because of one of those lamps.”
Apparently it’s kind of prevalent!!!
I went on to explain that these new lamps were safer than the ones from the past but she didn’t seem impressed. I don’t blame her.
And so with that, I proceeded to the checkout to purchase my death torches. I’m taking the Holmes company at their word since they are a reputable manufacturer, but if my condo or the Newsvine offices catch fire and kill me, somebody please hack into my server and delete this blog post.