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FTC Watts to Lumens chart, equivalencyMy reading lamp is too dim

This is probably a lifelong topic; having too dim a reading lamp.  Now with CFL and LED bulbs beginning to dominate the market, the problem is even worse.  You need a lot of light to read without fatigue, and LED bulbs just do not cut it.  There is a simple resolution to this problem, a problem that was once solved with the classic 250 watt light bulb, that is the bulb I would always buy for a reading lamp; but LED bulbs typically come in 40 or 60 watt equivalent sizes.  An 11 watt GE LED I just purchased at Walmart is a 60 watt equivalent, and now, I should switch to the more proper terminology, lumens; this bulb provides 800 lumens at 2700K color temperature (warm white).  Another very nice, and even more economical bulb is the CREE 60 Watt equivalent LED, also 800 lumens, and 2700K.  Home Depot is selling this bulb for about $8 a piece, an excellent price.



We have switched to LED lighting

I have mostly converted our basement "shop" lights to LEDS; yes they do make LED tube lights that look like fluorescents, and in quantity they cost about $32 a tube.  I have numerous shop lights with solid state ballasts that have failed, failed because the new T8 tubes require a higher starting voltage and the solid state ballasts just do not last.  Rather than discard the fixtures, they can be easily modified to use LED tubes.  I bought a dozen tubes for $377, they are nice and bright and have a color temperature of 3100-3400K.  They are not as "warm" as the CREE or GE/Walmart "light" bulbs, but they are excellent for shop lights.  I have had one failure, and since I bought them in a dozen pack, I knew I would have trouble having one replaced.  I am sure it is the power supply that has somehow failed and I hope to repair it, if, I can get the tube open!

The color temperature 2700K, 4100K, 5000K...

The color temperature of a light bulb or fluorescent tube is straightforward, the higher the number the bluer the light, the lower the number the more yellow the light.  The 2700K LED bulbs do a nice job replacing the traditional light bulb.  A 5000K bulb seems bluer the a bright sunlight day, but it might be a better color temperature to use for lighting around a mirror if you want to see what you will look like outdoors on a bright summers day.  But for a dim reading lamp solution, several 2700K bulbs seem more pleasant to me.

Now that's more light, three LEDs in a photography socketBut the real problem is:

Not enough light to read comfortably

Where is that 250 watt tungsten bulb, that is the solution; well sorry no longer available!  But with a little ingenuity there is a replacement that is truly superior.  And to the right is an obvious, somewhat expensive, solution to your reading difficulties.  There are a few details to work out and you have to learn how to work on your lamps; only a little though.  Look to the right and you will see a table lamp that can have up to 4 LED bulbs installed to solve the dim table, or floor, lamp problem.  This is a special photographic fixture that is readily available, but to install it in a table lamp, such as this one, you will have to be able to remove your lamps "harp", you will have to modify this fixture as well; both tasks are very simple.  Four "60 watt" LED lamps add up to a 240 watt light bulb; problem solved!  You could also mix 2700K lamps with 5000K lamps giving you an even brighter, although somewhat bluer reading light.  In the example shown, the lamp shade is a tight fit, but do not forget LED lights are much cooler than tungsten bulbs which, can even be a fire hazard.  The globes on these LED bulbs could safely touch a lamp shade and not be a fire hazard.  The bases of these bulbs do get fairly warm and would burn your hand should you hold them for more than two seconds.

A broken globe, showing the coating the prevents a lot of shardsWhoops, one of my CREE bulbs has broken

As I have said we have converted to LED bulbs, even in our paddle fan fixtures.  The typical paddle fan lamp fixture requires four bulbs, and in most cases I have gone with 40 watt, 450 lumen CREE bulbs.  One day I hear a crash, and to my astonishment a lamp globe has fallen off a CREE bulb and partially shattered.  The CREE lamp was still working fine, just the glass globe had fallen to the kitchen counter top.  It seems the bulb was just not properly bonded to the base.  CREE explains the reason for the apparent silicone coating on the glass bulb is to prevent complete shattering of the bulb, and it did work quite well; there was a few shards spread around but most of the glass remained ensconced in the silicone shield.  The coating is to meet yet another government standard of new bulbs, not shattering!  I moved this CREE lamp, without the bulb, to a globe fixture in my basement stairwell, and it is still working today.  What I did is not very safe, but for now, it is my house!

Too start off, you need two and four bulb adapters solving dim lamps

A better reading light, two and four bulb The lamp harp retaining collars
Squeezing the harp into place


Above to the left, I have shown a two bulb adapter and a four bulb "adapter" disassembled.  The next photo shows lifting the collars that restrain the lamp harp.  While you are holding both collars up, squeeze the harp firmly to remove it from the lamp fixture, as shown in the third photo.  This is "almost" all you have to do the install the adapters in the lamp socket, allowing for two or four bulbs in place of one!  For the two bulb adapter just thread it in, then you must reinstall the harp, install two bulbs, add the lampshade back and you have a brighter lamp that uses far less energy!  Unfortunately the four bulb adapter must be modified to fit within the harp.

Modifying the four bulb adapter

First let me say that you are responsible for this modification.  I am just showing what I did and you must use your own judgment to decide if you can safely complete this task, still conforming to all electrical codes.  The picture above and to the left shows the 4 bulb fixture opened up, and as you can see it does have wires inside that carry dangerous voltages when active.  When modifying this fixture you must not damage these wires.  You must not expose these wires once the fixture is reassembled.  If these wires are not exposed that should not come in proximity of the lamps harp.  Electrical tape can be used to cover the cut opening in the fixture.  Please be advised that modifying these fixtures probably voids their electrical safety certifications; of this I have made you aware!  

The modification to the four bulb photography socket

To allow the four bulb adapter to fit in the lamp between the arms of the harp it must be modified.  The photo above shows one of the notches I cut into both sides of the adapter using a hacksaw cutting each side of the desired slot and then using needle nose pliers to break off the tabs that are created by the hacksaw cuts.  Again, you must do this on two sides of the adapter.  I suggest first threading the adapter into the lamp socket with the harp removed, to see which sides of the adapter it would be best to cut.  Fully thread the adapter into the lamp socket gently turning until it is seating and then align, and mark, the best sides to cut for clearance of the harp.  Try to avoid the side of the adapter with the assembly screw.  You will not be able to notch that side as deeply, perhaps not deeply enough to fully clear the harp.  Unthread the adapter and make the clearance cuts.  Then thread it back in, reinstall the harp and screw in up to 4, 800 lumen bulbs.  You could even use the new 75 watt (1100 lumens) equivalent CREE bulbs to repair your dim reading lamp;  wow 300 watt equivalent when actually consuming, 13.5 watts times 4, which equals 54 watts!

This description is not as complete and well documented as one of my Bobs How To's but it is a pretty straight forward modification.  I hope this gives you a very bright LED reading lamp!

Typical bulb labeling (I should say required!)

This is the label that would have been required for the typical incandescent bulb.

Standard lamp labeling

Cleaning up that CFL you dropped

While you were updating to LED bulbs you may have dropped a CFL.  Here are some suggestions from the Environmental Protection Agency.  The EPA on CFL cleanup.

Sources and References

  1. Department of Energy Efficiency comparisons (Energy.gov): DOE 
  2. Federal Trade Commission lighting comparison guide: FTC  

I hoped this help brighten your reading day!









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