Instructables
Picture of Powerthief
The Graffiti Research Lab Vienna tool development archive is finally being brought to light. Here we present the Powerthief, an old piece of technology that we didn't come up with, but is worth reviving. By now they are mostly made redundant in every day life, and also illegal in most of central Europe. However, there are still useful applications for it in our environment today, especially if you're in need of a power-plug where there is usually none available.

The basic idea is pretty simple: in a lot of today's urban environments you can find a regular light bulb reasonably close-by. In Vienna, where this was executed, you can find one above almost every doorstep. The technology is even simpler - take the screw-cap of a regular light bulb and instead of connecting it to filaments it's being connected to a power socket.

To see how we made it and use it, we have a video we presented at the 2 year anniversary of the lovely gallery INOPERAbLE:



This project deals with electricity. Make sure not to blow yourself up!

You will need:

  • A light bulb
  • Electric cabling
  • Plastic tubing to cover the cabling
  • Power socket
  • Epoxy
  • Something to cut the tubing
  • Soldering iron and solder
 
Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up

Step 1: Putting it together

Picture of Putting it together
There isn't all that much to do. The steps have been captured (and played faster) on the video linked on the intro page. Remember that this project is dangerous and the use possibly illegal if you are in Europe. Improvise. In the video we used hot glue, but epoxy works better.

  • Break the light bulb and get rid of excess glass/other material
  • Solder the cables onto the connections (bottom and side) of the screw cap (there's no + / - since it's AC, so connect it how you want)
  • Make the casing from the tubing
  • Put the screw cap and the casing together with the epoxy
  • Connect the cables to the powerplug and put it on with epoxy
  • Test with care in a safe environment
nolte9195 years ago
This device can be found at Home Depot for $2.50. You can plug a light into it and a power cord at the same time. If you replaced the incandescent bulb with a compact fluorescent bulb and made sure the device you plugged in used less than the difference in wattages then the same amount of light would be put out and you wouldn't actually be stealing the power. And you wouldn't run the risk of over loading the supply wires.
socket plug.jpg
bo88y nolte9194 years ago
"Plug Base Attachment" from Aubuchon Hardware: $1.29
Plug Base Attachment.jpg
bo88y bo88y4 years ago
This "Plug In Socket Adapter, also from Aubuchon Hardware, can be used to convert the above "Plug Base Attachment" back into a socket, so that you could change a bulb by just yanking it! No more screwing on a stepladder or standing on a chair!* Much safer.

Plug-in socket adapter.jpg
static nolte9195 years ago
Also available is one that converts the lamp socket into one receptacle. Here in the US AC receptacle are polarized, to insure that the neutral conductor, isn't switched with the line conductor, and of course the safety ground isn't carried through with these adatoptors. In the event you homebrew one of these things make sure, the neutral remains the neutral.
wow THANKS man
unjust nolte9195 years ago
those devices are illegal in europe. (as noted several places)
pedxing5 years ago
The polarity does matter in AC, for safety purposes. The "Hot" wire (black or red) connects to the centre, and the "Neutral" (white) goes to the side.
_soapy_ pedxing5 years ago
In general, what you say is true. However, you have no way of knowing that the light circuit is correctly wired. And that standard may not apply in other countries. In the UK, the old standard was that red was live, black was neutral and earth was green, yellow or striped green/yellow. The newer standard is that live is brown, blue is neutral, and earth is bare, or green/yellow striped. However, the biggest issue with this hack is how to turn the light on?
bo88y _soapy_4 years ago
A very basic circuit tester can tell you which is hot and which neutral.
Rimwulf _soapy_5 years ago
why does everything has to be complicated in the UK? the only standards I can remember right now is that we stopped us aluminum wires in housing.
stormende4 years ago
Hahaha it sux. Had to watch the whole video to notice that... We have it here in México! and they are legal so how many of them do you need?

:D

 amps.....
in the uk your household lighting should be rated at 6 amps.
if its commercial it may be more like 10 amps,
as to france, they wire lighting radials on a 16 amp breaker.
but both the UK and france have RCD protecting the whole fuse board rated at 30mA.... this is a rad idea but you gotta have a rough idea what your plugging into, and in the worse case if you pull to many amps you'll trip the RCD, if it doesn't have one you'll trip the breaker....
if however the owner has an oldschool fuse board with re-wirable fuses and has either used the wrong rating of fuse cable or used some tin foil from an old kit-kat wrapper, you'll probably start a fire.
this is still a rad idea and i need one in my life.
peace

they sell these every in the US.... lol
MadMoose5 years ago
It's called a "plug body". You screw it in to a light socket. Been around since about 1910.
ya i got like a million and a half around my house
lil jon1684 years ago
do you just screw that into the light socket?
I really don't see where this would be more of a danger then plugging something into an unknown standard outlet. They rarely come with a little sticker saying "Please don't draw above 300W from me". Light sockets are no different - just another form of connector. Both should, at least in theory, be fused to whatever they are capable of providing. I'm not sure if lightbulb connectors (as opposed to sockets) have a vastly higher rate of not being properly spec:ed or something, but otherwise it'd be the same as an outlet - they promise nothing, including not promising you can safely hook up 100kW of electronics to it.
because you may be tying into a dimming or building control system that won't be outputting the standard wall outlet power, or the circuit may be sized for x # of 30 watt lamps, so you changing one lamp for a 400w demand could cause issues. or the wiring in the fixture could be only rated to 50 watts, so running 100w through could start a fire.
hey, you get free power, it's an even trade off!
It's not even, not at all.
dfc849 _soapy_5 years ago
Nothing in life is ever truly free.
air is
Nope, trees make it for a cost: us not killing them. That didn't make much sence.
you can take as much air as you like, no one will bother to stop you
Maybe where you live but even as we "speak" in the New York Metro area there are politicians looking for ways to circumvent the ACLU in order to require subcutaneous implantation of micro-valves that would cut off or restrict the air flow should you refuse/neglect to pay the tax on breathing. Have a happy!
Against the constitution. Freedom of Speech.
You've at least got the right to free speech still, and have a body like the ACLU which has actual sway with politicos.

Both our right to free assembly and right to free speech were swept away in the last five years. Along with freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, every offence, no matter how minor, becoming arrestable, etc. Needless to say, the right to bear arms legally was crushed many years back. Now the police stop and search people and confiscate *anything* that could be used in the commission of a crime.

Try and think of anything that *cannot* be used to commit a crime. I can't. While thinking about that, think about joining the NRA and the ACLU. And think about boycotting the UK. Because that's where I'm talking about. And living.
You are right except that increasingly the American public is willing to give up freedoms for a rather ephemeral "guarantee" of safety - I believe it was Benjamin Franklin who wrote: They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety" I was tempted to write a lot more and in truth just highlighted and deleted it all because this really isn't the forum for it. Instead, I will take a moment to thank all of you who stand up for your freedom to repurpose hardware in spite of draconian threats of IP laws that are now used as a sword to keep the implementation of ideas and creative works out of the public domain rather than a shield to guarantee their safe passage into the great marketplace of ideas as was originally intended. Thanks to all of you for sharing and in so doing demonstrating that you will not allow your creativity to be stripped from you and criminalized in the process. Have a happy!
That... *sniff* ... was beautiful.
We aim to please... uhh... can I get you a tissue?
Thank you... *HONK*
True, except maybe the air police
Nope, that breath you just took just cost you $1, now pay up
*rolls teh eyes* there's no tax on air!
In some countries, yes.
It's included in all the taxes on everything, just, it isn't said anywhere it is taxed.
Indeed, just as it might at a standard outlet which doesn't have a "standard" output level either. Granted, a light socket might be more likely to be good for 30-100W while sockets are more commonly good for more, but both are simply connectors. Supposing an outlet leads to a 8A circuit, there is no guarantee there isn't another 7.9A hooked up to it just on the other side of the wall. I can see the logic to a degree - I'd be very careful drawing 100W+ off a random light socket since someone might have just assumed that's all that'll get plugged into it - but making it illegal to do so seems a bit extreme.
The problem is that you're not paying for the electricity that you're using. If you sneak into my back yard and plug in an extension cord, and run your TV off it, I'm paying for the electricity you're using. Same as if you hook a garden hose up to my place and water your lawn, it's my water bill you're jacking up. If those are city owned lights, I can see where this is a bit snarky, but if the building owner pays for the lights, then you're actually trespassing, and stealing utilities. As far as the fire issue goes... most circuits are either 20 or 30 amps, I've yet to find a 15 amp circuit, and if you do pull too much power, you'll blow a fuse or breaker, not melt the wires. Whether anyone would care about the .35 cents worth of electricity that you sucked down while projecting an image on a nearby building is a completely different matter, but it's up to the property owner to decide (since they pay the power bill).
FYI, often in the UK the lighting circuit is 15A fused. In modern houses you will find that it's nearly all used at night, and the fuse blows when a bulb goes. (First upgrade at my old house was to a 15A RCD to replace it. Re-wiring a fuse by torchlight under the stairs got old real quick.)
Certainly stealing electricity isn't right. I was mostly addressing the issue of banning the device due to hazards. I'm also against banning it on the basis that it could be used for theft. I own a set of lock picks, a crowbar, a smart card test board and a baseball bat but I haven't committed any crimes with them - I have them for perfectly legitimate reasons. I could, of course, but I don't. I can't really make stealing electricity work with what I currently consider moral, but I can also not endorse banning a device that might well be useful in a pinch (needing a plug-in in a place you are explicitly allowed to use, including owning it, when all you have it a light socket) in order to help stop that.
Pro

Get More Out of Instructables

Already have an Account?

close

PDF Downloads
As a Pro member, you will gain access to download any Instructable in the PDF format. You also have the ability to customize your PDF download.

Upgrade to Pro today!