If you have a ceiling- or wall-mounted light fixture that's in a convenient place to double as an electrical receptacle, you can find a number of light fixture adapters for this purpose. The term "adapter" also refers to a screw-in attachment that adapts the socket for a different-size bulb. A third meaning for the word is the plate or bar that allows allows you to attach a light fixture to an electrical box.
If you want to turn your light fixture into a receptacle, there's an adapter for that. You can choose to remove the bulb altogether and screw in a two-prong receptacle, and you'll have an outlet that is controlled by the wall switch. If you don't want to lose the bulb, you can use an adapter with a socket and two receptacles on the sides. These even come with pull chains, so you can turn off the light without losing power at the outlets. Double socket adapters are also available; screw a receptacle into one socket and a bulb into the other.
Light bulbs come in three standard sizes: mogul, which is the size of standard light bulbs, intermediate and candelabra, which is the smallest. You can find an adapter to convert a socket of any of these sizes to any other. You may need such an adapter to screw an energy-saving bulb with a candelabra base into a conventional outlet. The converse adapter, on the other hand, would allow you to screw a conventional bulb into a chandelier with intermediate or candelabra sockets. Before using an adapter to change the fixture socket size, it's important to make sure the bulb you're going to use is rated for the same voltage as the fixture.
The adapters that allow you to mount light fixtures on a ceiling- or wall-mounted electrical box are called crossbars. Each light fixture usually comes with its own crossbar and two 3/16-inch machine screws to secure it to the box. When you're installing a used or antique fixture, however, you often have to search for a crossbar that will work. You can often make do with a universal crossbar, which is more of a plate than a bar. Like any crossbar, it screws to a standard electrical box, but it has a variety of other slots and holes that make it useful for a variety of fixtures.
Adapters are available for a number of specialty purposes. For example, you can save energy by screwing an adapter into your light socket that has a photo sensor that automatically turns off the bulb when it detects light. If you want a simple way to dim the bulb without going to the trouble of installing a dimmer switch, screw in a dimmer that you can operate with a remote switch. Finally, you may simply need to extend a recessed socket to make the bulb more accessible, and there's an adapter for that, too. It comes with a ceramic base that you can touch without danger of shock.
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images