How to Determine a Lamp Socket Type

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If you have a lamp with a socket and your not sure what size or type of bulb to use or what the voltage limitations are, there are several steps you can take to identify the lamp socket. This information can also be used when replacing and shopping for a new socket. Lamp sockets are fairly universal, but there is some variation depending on the intended use of the lamp.

Things You'll Need

  • Tape measure
  • Voltage tester
  • Observe the characteristics of the socket. Screw-in bulb sockets are cylindrical with an internal threaded metal lining. Bi-pin bulb sockets have a round cap shape with two small prong holes. Fluorescent tube sockets are flat with an oval or rectangle shape and a circular slot in the middle on one side. Fluorescent twin tube sockets are long and skinny with a long row of multiple prong holes at the top.

  • Measure the diameter of the socket. Household bulb sockets are 1 1/16 inches. AD medium sockets, or sockets that are typically used for sign lighting, are 1 5/32 inches. Mogul sockets, which are used for some overhead lamps, in security lights and in sun lamps are 1 19/32 inches. Intermediate sockets are 5/8 inch and are used for smaller, tube-shaped bulbs. Candelabra sockets are 1/2 inch and are used for small, 7 1/2 watt bulbs. Mini-can sockets are 7/16 inch and are used for high intensity mini-can bulbs. Miniature sockets are 3/8 inch and are used for night-lights and Christmas tree lights.

  • Use a voltage meter to test the maximum bulb voltage allowance for the socket. Plug in and turn on the socket. With safety glasses on, touch the common meter lead to the socket lining and touch the positive meter lead to the central nipple at the inside, bottom of the socket. Be careful to not touch or cross the to leads as this can create a short and possibly a minor electrical blast.

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