Convert a 300 Watt Torchiere Lamp into a Dual 20 Watt CFL

Picture of Convert a 300 Watt Torchiere Lamp into a Dual 20 Watt CFL
The torchiere is a popular floor standing indirect lamp. Unfortunately, most use a high wattage Type 'T' lamp that is extremely hot in use. I have seen several warnings about these type lamps causing fires. And they are very inefficient. This will show how I converted my 300 Watt lamp to an energy efficient and cool 20 Watt CFL type bulb for less than $10 in parts.This modification results in a savings of 280 Watts. With the addition of the second 20 watt CFL, the savings comes down to only 260 Watts.

As these lamps may differ from the one I used, please use these instructions as a general guide and not an exact procedure.

This should not be attempted by anyone unfamiliar with the safety precautions required when working with high voltage.

After I finished this, I found almost the same thing already on the site By McSensei. However, as mine is slightly different, I will leave it.

I have added a second 20 Watt CFL at the suggestion of lemonie - Now with twice the light
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Step 1:

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The torchiere is an indirect light, shining a powerful cone of light off of the ceiling and walls. It is also an extremely hot lamp, making the protective cage seen over the bulb necessary. At 300 Watts it is probably the biggest energy hog of any of my light fixtures. And as you can see, it gives off a fairly harsh light when viewed directly.

Step 2: Parts needed

Picture of Parts needed
You will need a standard lamp socket to fit the CFL lamp. A short threaded nipple with a matching nut and lock washer, and of course a 20 Watt CFL light bulb.

Step 3: Bracket

Picture of Bracket
And some kind of bracket to fasten the new lamp holder to. I used a 3 inch corner brace
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cgosh3 months ago

Sorry, but I've got a problem with your advice in Step 8. It DOES make a difference which wire goes to which terminal. (Otherwise, a good instructable -- I have an old torchiere that's just prime for an upgrade that I'd never thought of, so thank you very much.)

White (neutral) wire goes to the screw form can on the new socket and then directly to the large blade on the wall plug. The black (switched, hot) wire goes to the small point at the bottom of the socket, through the switch, and then the small blade on the plug. High-temperature lamps like the one you're replacing typically have special insulation on the wires, so both wires are likely the same color (white) and the old bulb didn't have a screw form you could inadvertently touch, just tiny sheltered pins on each end. Figure out which wire is which and connect them properly. If you need a Digital Volt Meter (DVM) to trace the wires (using the Ohms/continuity setting while unplugged from the wall) you can get one that does everything you'll ever need as a simple hobbyist for under $10 by shopping around at electrical supply departments in home improvement stores, or Radio Shack. Read the Manual. Using a cheap meter on the wrong setting can destroy it instantly. Consider that the pole on these lamps is made of pieces that unscrew from each other, so you can usually peek inside to see which wire is which without any tools at all.

(Lengthy soapbox oratory follows, but adds nothing but an explanation.)

The new CFL socket has a tiny point at the center of the bottom and a large round screw form can that screws the bulb into the socket. The large screw can is ALWAYS connected to the wire that goes to the neutral side of the AC line (the larger blade on the wall plug, white wire). The tiny point at the bottom ALWAYS goes to the switch, and through the switch to the HOT side of the AC line (the smaller of the two prongs on the AC plug, usually black wire, but may also be blue or red in some switched circuits). There's also a rule for brass and silver screws, but it's not worth remembering. Just learn the concept.

You do NOT put the switch on the neutral wire. If you did, it would still turn the lamp on and off, but part of the socket would always be electrically hot even when the switch is turned off.

The round pin on the wall plug is for an Earth ground (green), and should be connected to the metal casing of the lamp itself, for safety purposes (if the hot wire should ever touch the metal casing, the power is shunted to ground, rather than you. You'll find a substantial copper post buried in the yard next to your circuit breaker box with a heavy wire bolted to it). Oddly enough, the white neutral wire is also attached to ground at the breaker box, and is NOT considered electrically as a safety ground, but a neutral reference for the voltage. Technically speaking, there are only hot wires running from the utility pole to your house. You'll see multiple wires, but that's because you can access three "phases" of power -- each wire is hot, and there's a bare guy wire supporting them.

Here's why we do it this way. If you were unscrewing a bulb, and the power is switched on, and the screw form were accidentally connected to the hot side of the line, you might easily touch the screw form of the bulb and get a lethal shock. As long as the screw form is hooked to the neutral side, only a tiny, harmless voltage is available (equivalent to the voltage drop through the white wire between the bulb and the circuit breaker box -- one or two volts at best).

This is also why one blade is larger on the wall plug and the wall socket. It's quite impossible to push the large blade (neutral) into the small opening (hot). By ignoring this simple practice, you've negated 50 years of electrical safety progress.

One last tip: whenever you work with 120-volt wiring, always consider that you might have made a mistake (or someone else got involved) and that the circuit is still hot. Use your right hand for any work whenever possible. If your left hand comes in contact with high-voltage, it goes through the left side of your body (to reach your feet, and ground). This sends it through your heart and can cause it to stop. Leave your left hand in your pocket, and always be very careful. If you mess up, you could be dead before you hit the floor. If you find someone who's been shocked and not breathing, AND they're no longer touching a live wire, immediately give them CPR and they might survive.

db696 months ago

Been re-purposing old Torchiere lamps to use CFL bulbs for years.

Instead of fooling around with all the bits and pieces to convert the socket portion, get a multi-socket such as a Triadic Lamp Holder. It holds three, but they're available with two and even four sockets. Harder to get now, but a few years back you could get a 4 socket unit for like $5 on line. Which gives one the theoretical equivalent of 400 W light with only ~100 W actual draw for your average 4 CFL bulbs. Or for two, one gets ~200 W equivalent for ~50 W actual draw.

Now I never actually got around to purchasing a new replacement socket as I just salvaged them out of old replaced overhead fixtures, the ones I got were double socket. You can use the bracket that comes with it and one of the referenced short nipple unions from most any hardware store to attach to the original threaded port. Or you can really cheap out, and simply things by just wiring the socket up and laying the fixture in the bowl. Can't get any lower than that and low is good, as noted thus...

Biggest issue I have with them has been mentioned and that is they will show above the rim of most Torchieres, especially the smaller diameter ones. I've tried several things to reduce this. In one case just happened to have the top 2 inches of a std. white 5 gallon utility [ plaster ] bucket cut out for some reason or other and it fit just perfect on the perimeter of one of the ~12 inch diameter versions and helps reduce the 'shine in yer eyes fer tall folks' problem. Even had a designer look with the 'fins' around the circumference of this particular one.

Unless one wishes to fool around with the expensive dimmable CFLs the best solution to the switch problem is disassemble the tubes at the point where the original dimmer / 2 position switch is located and replace it with a push button switch such as an Ace 1 A 120 V Push Button Canopy Switch or any of numerous switch options for that matter. Many will fit the original switch hole, or may have to be reamed out a bit. An in line floor 'step on it' switch added to the power cord, straight wiring after removing the dimmer switch. An ol toggle switch laying around from yer race car days, whatever ya got...

First three pics show the std. two socket type conversion w/ push button switch and the 5 gal. utility bucket top 'diffuser'. The last one a quickie job where with one of the smaller diameter bowl verions where I just wired up a salvaged overhead fixture, turned it upside down and placed it in the Torchiere's bowl.

The pieces of aluminum containers in the first and the aluminum foil in the latter are to reflect more light and help reduce the 'bright' spots crated by the 'day light' bulbs I use from shining through the 'diffuser' and the holes in the old fixture housing.

Won't get into any more of the wiring as that's all pretty well covered and simple and if'n ya can't figure that part out ya may wanna pass on this one...

All usual disclaimers apply... ya fry yer young arse don't come crying ta me... ok



Torchiere Lamp Conversion To CFL Screw Sockets - 1.jpgTorchiere Lamp Conversion To CFL Screw Sockets - 4.jpgTorchiere Lamp Conversion To CFL Screw Sockets - 7.jpgTorchiere Lamp Conversion To CFL Screw Sockets - 3.jpg
onemoroni11 year ago
Nice project. I sometimes see these old lamps in thrift stores and wondered about purposing them. As I'm sure you know there are narrower CFL bulbs to bring the height down.
Afarigh1 year ago
That is very innovative
Rigidman1 year ago
Components of an electrical circuit or electronic circuit can be connected in many different ways. The two simplest of these are called series and parallel and occur very frequently. Components connected in series are connected along a single path, so the same current flows through all of the components.[1][2] Components connected in parallel are connected so the same voltage is applied to each component.[3]

A circuit composed solely of components connected in series is known as a series circuit; likewise, one connected completely in parallel is known as a parallel circuit.

In a series circuit, the current through each of the components is the same, and the voltage across the circuit is the sum of the voltages across each component.[1] In a parallel circuit, the voltage across each of the components is the same, and the total current is the sum of the currents through each component.[3]

As an example, consider a very simple circuit consisting of four light bulbs and one 6 V battery. If a wire joins the battery to one bulb, to the next bulb, to the next bulb, to the next bulb, then back to the battery, in one continuous loop, the bulbs are said to be in series. If each bulb is wired to the battery in a separate loop, the bulbs are said to be in parallel. If the four light bulbs are connected in series, there is same current through all of them, and the voltage drop is 1.5 V across each bulb, which may not be sufficient to make them glow. If the light bulbs are connected in parallel, the currents through the light bulbs combine to form the current in the battery, while the voltage drop is 6.0 V across each bulb and they all glow.

In a series circuit, every device must function for the circuit to be complete. One bulb burning out in a series circuit breaks the circuit. In parallel circuits, each light has its own circuit, so all but one light could be burned out, and the last one will still function.

That wasn't too difficult
Oh one more thing I solder my wires. just anal retentive about that I refuse to use plastic connectors of any type. they can fail and if you have a lot of wiring you have a lot to chase when one does fail. Later
I googled it. I'm not an expert but I know the difference. I've added sockets to my house. Changed 2 110 to 220. Had to isolate that socket because several sockets are usually on 1 circuit. I was told I didn't have to but found out later if I didn't my house would've burned down.
SIRJAMES092 years ago
I think some people need to give it a rest.

In short, if you do not know what the heck you are doing, DO NOT DO IT!

The guy is putting safety first like a responsible adult SHOULD.

To explain the difference between series & parallel, one has to start from the begining of electrical technology & progress from there.

In English, that means that when you first started going to school at the age of about 5 or 6 yrs old, you went to kindergarden or 1st grade, not Yale college.

I support the author & how he has written this. He is trying to cover your butt so to speak because there are idiots in the world that will try anything even if & when they do not have a clue what they are doing or getting themselves into.
bben46 (author)  SIRJAMES092 years ago
If you look at the date stamps, most of these comments are a couple of years old. And If they choose to not take my advice, Well, I tried to warn them. Maybe I need a legal disclaimer. Unfortunately, you cannot teach either common sense or basic wiring practices with an instructable. For the basics of wiring, you need a small book, for common sense, either you have it - or you don't.

Bben's legal disclaimer - just like the big companies use to hold down the lawsuits by people who do dumb things: Do this at your own risk, I cannot be responsible for your lack of knowledge or common sense. Electricity can shock, kill, cause serious burns and fires if this is not done carefully or properly. Be afraid, or at least respect electricity. If you do actually understand electricity you will be afraid. I have been working with it for 48 Years - and I am afraid of it. That's what has kept me alive all this time.

With any wiring, no matter how much you think you know, or how simple the project, always double check before throwing the power on - the life you save may be your own.
Dear Sir:
Years ago, I had bought not one but several books on Electricity...unfortunately, I lost them in a divorce(she tossed them in the trash) I still remember SOME of the stuff I read, but not not all. Anyway, my point is, I have always been afraid of electricity & always stay away from anything I am not sure of. I'll install light switches in walls, outlets, GFCI's, but when it comes to serious wiring(like running wire from room to room, adding a circuit, etc) that's when I'll have no problem calling for help from an electrician.

Making & rewiring a lamp is easy for me as I have done it so many times, but like you say, I ALWAYS double or triple check my work B4 plugging it in.

I TY Sir for sharing this instructable for it has given me the ideas I need to switch my torch lamp over from what it is now to the corkscrew bulbs you show in the instructable.

Take Care Sir & God Bless. :)
SIRJAMES092 years ago
bben46, I TY for sharing this as I DO understand basic electrical & I understood everything perfectly.

I think you did a great job of explaining everything & the pics reinforced that.

5 stars Sir.. TY.
smcan225 years ago
I really like what your doing here but it is an "instructable" - why not explain the difference between wiring them in parallel instead of in series? What makes not knowing that the qualifier for trying this out?
bben46 (author)  smcan225 years ago
If you don't already know the difference then you should not be playing with 120 VAC. This is one of the most basic things you NEED to know to do any electrical wiring. Light switches are wired in series, lamps in parallel. Basic electrical wiring practices may be a subject for another instructable, but it will be a very long one. I recommend taking a short course at a local tech school. The one near me offers a short course in basic wiring for homeowners. - How to wire a new light with a switch, how to change a circuit breaker. How to add an outlet, that kind of stuff.
tehbizz bben465 years ago
I agree with smcan22. If you put up the instructable, you need to at least give a little back knowledge for people that may not know. I was actually going to try this but your comments regarding parallel vs. series are a turn off. This site is for sharing information and helping people do different projects, not tell us we can't do things.
and the author has done just that.

If you do not know the difference between series & parallel, then you should NOT be messing around with electricity. PERIOD.
bben46 (author)  tehbizz5 years ago
This instructable is simple if you have a basic understanding of electricity. But as anything involving high voltage should not be attempted if you do not. The 'Back knowledge' required is not something that can be taught in a short article. Household current can kill or badly injure those who do not understand the danger and how to work with it safely.
Get real, folks. I totally agree with the author, BBen46. Series vs. parallel is basic stuff that shouldn't bog down an instructable writer. If every instructable required every bit of knowledge explained it would seriously impede the flow of the essential information. I had no problem and actually appreciated not having to skip through YET ANOTHER explanation of basic electrical circuits!

wiml5 years ago
It's not immensely important, but you're usually supposed to wire the neutral wire to the threads and the hot wire to the contact in the base of the socket... it doesn't matter electrically, but it keeps the hot/dangerous contact farther away from possible fingers etc.
bben46 (author)  wiml5 years ago
Unfortunately, these lamps are wired with a 2 prong plug. And I have seen several instances of older 2 prong wall outlets being wired backwards. So, even if you wired it 'right', you stand the chance of the hot being connected to the metal frame of the lamp. In that case, if someone touched the lamp and a grounded object, they stand the chance of being electrocuted. So, the manufacturers of the lamps isolate BOTH sides of the power from the chassis. It's always a good idea to check chassis to a ground, using a voltmeter, with the lamp plugged into the outlet it will be used on and powered up.
you can always add a 3rd wire & ground it yourself with a 3 prong male plug too.

Again, just another thought, brain fart suggestion etc.
static bben465 years ago
While many(most?) of the all American" 5 tube AM broadcast receivers, would have a hot chassis when plugged into an improperly wire recep circuit, I have yet to see a lamp holder that neutral connection connected to an exterior metal component. Not to say none exist, so it would be a good idea to inspect the lamp holder to be used visually and with an ohm/ continuity meter. I had a the same project in mind for a couple of garage sale lamps, I was given, but I doubt I would have remembered to document the process for an instructable. Good job with the instructable The good thing about this hack it allows one to use higher wattage lamps, if their need dictates them. I used to live in a mobile home that had no ceiling light, just a switch outlet. In that instance a higher wattage torchiere lamp was called for. A simple device is available to check to see if the receps are improperly wired at the home supply stores. One can do the job with a simple neon test lamp, but the plug in tester trouble shoots and ID any fault in the time it takes to plug it in and look at at. >$10 it's worth the money.
While you are out getting the tester get the one that tests for and also for proper operation of GFI (Ground Fault Interrupter) circuit breakers or outlets >$15.00 at most stores. Also here is another trick I learned plug in a Iron or other item that draws at least 900 Watts while checking, it will show up a weak hot or neutral leg. Also with the new ARI (Arc Fault Interrupter) Circuit breakers that are required in Sleeping areas by the electrical code there may be a tester for those, and if anyone has seen these please post where and the brand name please and price if you know.
Pazzerz bben465 years ago
I have yet to see any lamp that has any wiring attached electrically to the lamp frame. It wouldn't be allow to be sold. On another note, and its just my preference, I can't stand the light from those bulbs. They are irritatingly white, almost bluish white. If someone could come up with a shroud to 'color' the light to make them more like incandescent bulbs, I may start to buy them, otherwise they aren't worth the irritation to me. Good instructable. Those nasty halogens are a pain because they burn so hot and you have to be so careful how you handle them when you install them.
denniep Pazzerz5 years ago
Good news on the irritating light color! There are plenty of bulbs available now which are not the bright, bluish white light. Most bulbs in this area (Austin TX) are NOT that anymore. Those are labelled "natural daylight" which I thought I would prefer. But all others not labelled that are the warmer color, although somewhat dimmer. These bulbs have come a long way in the last couple of years. I am encouraging everyone in my world to switch after realizing that lighting was 2/3 of my electric bill (and I have great natural light and rely on it as much as possible). My recent conversion is saving me at least $20/month, even as a minimal user. The sub-CFL's are readily available in packs of 5 or 6 (?) for around $10, which I considered reasonable. Basically, my investment will pay for itself in 2 months, accounting for needing to buy various sizes and opting for the better price of the packs. My research was done mostly on the City of Austin Energy website which I linked. The color of the light is discussed there as well. The packaging of the bulbs still leaves much to be desired however, so the online research made a big difference for me.
Pazzerz denniep5 years ago
Packaging.... Thats a whole new can of worms.... I had bought a pack of 3 and of course it was a welded plastic package. Even with scissors cutting around the edge I ended up with 1 good bulb. I'm putting out a reward for the one who brings me the the head of the jerk who came up with this packaging idea. Off with their heads! =P
wiml bben465 years ago
Whups, by "threads" I mean the threads in the socket (not the lamp chassis). (I was responding to your note in step 8 that it doesn't matter which way you wire the socket.) Good point about older 2-prong outlets and unpolarized plugs though.
SIRJAMES092 years ago
just a thought, suggestion or brain fart...

But what I do to keep all the wires where they belong, is I put a wee bit of flux & solder on just the end of the wires. not a lot, just enough to hold all the teeny tiny strands of wire together, then after it cools enough to handle, THEN I wrap it around the screw. For me, it makes for a nicer looking contact AND a safer one.

Again, just a thought
SIRJAMES092 years ago
so far(step 4) I like the way you're writing first & everything falls in behind that. smart. very smart. :0).
teamteor5 years ago
Nice job, I consider doing this. The one thing I worry about is the fact that all of my torch lamps use a dimmer switch, and not a regular on/off. I am not sure that these bulbs are compatible with dimmers. The other thing is to just mix this Instructable with one that makes a replacement bulb from LEDs. Nice job! Tom
now your Corkscrew shaped bulbs I'm not sure about, but MOST incandescent light bulbs will do fine with or without a dimmer switch.

I too have one of these 300W lamps & I'm trying to talk my roommate into letting me convert it to a lower wattage bulb...
n0ukf teamteor4 years ago
I have found dimmable fluorescents, Though two things to consider, they only dim to about half or a little less light before cutting off, and they're more expensive.
Dimmers aren't compatible to florescent solid state ballasts! I've found the dimmer circuits are prone to failure and expensive to replace. My dimmer burned out and I replaced it with a regular equipment switch by dremeling out the shape needed. If you don't want to do that, you will probably need to bypass the dimmer circuitry on the dimmer switch board.
I really like this BUT I would disassemble the lamp and replace the switch AND the wire inside the pole.
I took one of these apart recently as I needed the dimmer for a project and the way the wire inside was twisted from being assembled scared me to death. Also the insulation had been scraped down to the wire in 3 places. Fire Starter anyone?
A continuity check should let yo detect any problems with a lamp's current wiring, but if on is alts concerned they can visually inspect the lamp, but it's always a good idea to do the continuity check, after you are finished with a project as well. The circuit breaker should prevent a fire due to a short circuit, but would prevent your batteries from being recharge in the right fault conditions, unles the circuit is protected by a GFCI.
Continuity check will show that the wires are connected but it will not reveal a frayed insulation UNLESS it just happens to be touching the metal pole at the time you check for shorts. You do check for shorts to the pole don't you?
Naw, I'm tough as nails, those little 1120V. tingles don't bother me. Yes you are correct I did leave out testing for continuity from the wire to any metal pats of a lamp. pr whatever you are working with.
Guess you have learned my trick on AC Voltage. If it is METAL and connected to power line voltage. TOUCH WITH THE BACK OF YOUR HAND FIRST! First time EVERY TIME! If it is HOT then your arm jerks away, which is better than having your fist close and not letting go. If you don't do this I will cry on your casket some day.
After a Tstorm I had a plumber out here to work on my water well, he asked me to go ahead to turn of the breakers. He than commented it was obvious I used to work in the oilfield, puzzled I ask why? He said because I brushed the back of my hand on the box before I opened it up. Been tickled from 120 VAC trough 762 VAC through the years. While I was jesting about being though of nails, while not pleasant the tickles weren't really a bother.
Good to brush fixtures with the back of the hand to confirm it isn't hot. Also work on live stuff only with your right hand since your left hand and arm are closer to your heart.
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