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




About: Semi retired, Electronics tech, working part time as Motor & Controls Field Service Engineer. I have worked in many different fields, including Metrology (yes, it's spelled right), Textiles, Dental Equipment...

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

Step 1:

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

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

And some kind of bracket to fasten the new lamp holder to. I used a 3 inch corner brace

Step 4: Dissasembly

First step is to UNPLUG the lamp. do not jut turn it off, unplug it.

Now look into the top of the lamp. It should look something like the picture, a cage covering the lamp assembly. Take everything out, the cage, the lamp socket, the metal plate. You may have to cut the wires to the lamp holder. Cut them as close to the holder as you can. You will need these wires later.

Step 5: New Bracket

Now that we have the old parts out, we need a way to mount a standard screw type lamp holder. I used a 3 inch corner brace. They only came in a package of four, so I have 3 left over.

Step 6: Drill Holes to Mount Socket and Bracket

You will need to drill a pair of holes in the bracket, one to mount the bracket to the lamp. and one to attach the socket. I found a 3/8 hole to be a good fit for the threaded nipple that is used to mount the socket. and a 1/8 inch hole fit the screw I used to fasten the bracket to the lamp.

Step 7: Fasten Bracket to Lamp

I used one of the original screws to mount the new bracket. You will want to position it so the new cfl bulb is as close to the center of the fixture as you can.

Step 8: Attach and Wire Socket

Before attaching the socket to the bracket, It is a good idea to wire it up. It doesn't matter which wire goes to which terminal, be sure to tighten them well and be sure that the bare wire is completely under the screw. Then, screw the threaded nipple onto the back of the socket, push it through the large hold in the bracket and place the lock washer and nut on the nipple.

Check to be sure that no bare wires are touching any part of the metal - pull them to be sure they are secure.

Step 9: Finish

Screw in the cfl bulb.

Step 10: Test

Stand the lamp up, plug it in and turn on the switch. If you have done it right, you should get a soft white diffused lighting from your lamp.

It is not quite as bright as the original lamp, and it is more diffused. I use this as my reading lamp and the new light has been working fine. However, I did mount it a little high in the housing. I plan to go back in and drill a new hole in the bracket about an inch lower to move the bulb down where it can't be seen from across the room. I did not replace the cage as the cfl is a cool bulb and the purpose of the cage was to keep things away from the original hot 300 Watt 'T' bulb

Step 11: Doubling Down

At the suggestion of lemonie, I have added a second 20 Watt CFL to double the light output. This increases the cost by all of $2.87 for a second lamp socket. As the bracket was purchased as a set of 4, and the lamp thredded nipples and nuts came with exrtras there was no extra cost there. I also used about 12 inches of scrap wire and 2 small wire nuts from my junk box, again no increase in cost.

I also lowered the position of the lamp in the bowl by about an inch. And cut off about an inch of the brackets that were sticking up. Lowering the lamp involved drilling a new hole in the original bracket.

To make room, I turned the original bracket about 30 degrees.

Step 12: Dual Bulbs

I used wire nuts and short pieces of scrap wire to hook up the dual sockets. Be sure to wire them in parallel and not series. If you don't know, you shouldn't be wiring up lamps.

Step 13: Final Result

Here it is turned on. The bulbs still stick up a little higher than I would like, but they are less than 1/8 inch from the bowl now. If I redo it again. I will move the brackets to bring the large part of the bulb closer to the middle for more clearance under the bulbs. Or I might put on a globe to hide the lamps better.



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    84 Discussions


    5 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    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

    OCTJMO... ICBW...


    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

    6 years ago on Step 13

    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.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    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

    2 replies

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    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


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    7 years ago on Step 12

    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.

    2 replies

    Reply 7 years ago on Step 12

    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.


    Reply 7 years ago on Step 12

    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. :)


    7 years ago on Step 12

    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.


    10 years ago on Step 12

    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?

    6 replies

    Reply 10 years ago on Step 12

    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.


    Reply 9 years ago on Step 12

    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.


    Reply 7 years ago on Step 12

    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.


    Reply 9 years ago on Step 12

    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.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    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!


    10 years ago on Step 8

    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.

    1 reply

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    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.