Convert a Halogen Worklamp Into Flourescent for $5 and 20 Minutes




Intro: Convert a Halogen Worklamp Into Flourescent for $5 and 20 Minutes

Bob Loblaw has had about ten of these cheap halogen work lamps over the years. They look like a steal in your local hardware store, only to find out later that the bulbs they require cost almost as much as the unit itself. Not only that, but the lamps get hot as hell, use a lot of electricity (Bob guesses), and the bulbs are fragile and cannot be touched without gloves or some other barrier lest ye oil up and damage said expensive bulb. Aside from that, they are handy to have. So here's an instructable to convert one of these units into a CFL lamp that puts out almost as much light, with far less heat, longer lifespan, and less energy consumption.

Step 1: What You'll Need

For this project, Bob assumes that you have one of these types of lamps gathering dust in your garage or closet because you were fed up with paying $15 for a little bulb. To get started, you will need:

A standard light bulb receptacle, Bob found a rubberized one at the store for $4.95 that already had the wires attached.

An "L" bracket, about 1" on each side, a pack of four runs about $3.00

A hose clamp, about 1.5" diameter (big enough to fit around your light bulb socket)

A metal hole cutter, sized to match the diameter of your light bulb socket
Drill & bits
Wire stripper
Electrical Tape
Nut drivers (if you have them)

Step 2: Removing Original Buld Assembly

Bob Loblaw thinks it would be best to not have your light plugged in from here on out. First, open the lamp using the screw at the top of the lamp. The glass front will hinge down and you will now remove the halogen bulb by pulling or prying it from the bulb holder. Next, locate and unscrew the screw holding the reflective foil in place. Remove the foil, which should expose the original bulb holder as shown in the first picture below. Unscrew the bulb holder from the lamp, and either cut or unscrew the wires connected to the bulb holder. You will want to leave as much wire as possible. Strip the ends of each wire approximately one third of an inch.

Step 3: Drill a Hole

Next, you will drill a hole in the top of your lamp to fit the standard light bulb socket through. This is required because there's not enough room in the lamp for both the bulb and a socket. Bob used a metal hole cutter with a pilot bit to drill in the approximate middle of the top of the lamp. Place your socket on top of the lamp and use a marker to outline the area to be cut. The lamp Bob modified was aluminum and was very easy to drill through.

Step 4: Mount the Bulb Socket

Once the hole was cut, Bob installed an "L" bracket on the front side of the top of the lamp to hold the socket in place. Drill a hole in the top of lamp that will allow for the lamp socket to be held in place. Bolt the L bracket in place and use a lockwasher if you have one. Bob didn't. Next, hold the socket in place and use a hose clamp (or zip ties if you like to half-ass) to hold the bulb socket firmly in place. Drill two holes as shown in the picture for the wires to enter the lamp.

Step 5: Wire It Up

After running the bulb socket leads into the lamp, connect the leads to the respective wires that had connected to the original halogen bulb assembly. Connect the wires with an insulated connector of some sort, and then wrap in electrical tape to be on the safe side since the lamp itself is metal. At this point you can install a bulb to make sure it's functional before putting it back together.

Next, re-attach the halogen bulb holder, which acts to hold the wires at the back of the lamp and also provides a mounting hole for the reflective foil.

Step 6: Final Steps

Before re-installing the reflective foil, you will need to cut a hole in it to allow for the bulb to enter the socket. The foil is pretty thin, and can be cut with scissors or even a box cutter. Bob used a screwdriver to punch a hole through the foil and then used scissors to cut the hole big enough for the bulb threads to pass through. Now you can re-install the foil and screw in the bulb. Bob has tried nearly every CFL on the market and really likes the Philips Marathon 60 for its incandescent-like color. Bob has bought a metric assload of these bulbs. Bob also thinks you should look on ebay for these bulbs since they cost about one third of retail on ebay.

Step 7: Done Diddly Done.

The lamp should now be complete-test it to make sure that it turns on and off with the switch on the lamp. Bob's didn't work at first because the crimped wire connections hadn't been crimped hard enough. Your new lamp should now last a long time and is now more energy efficient with less heat.



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    36 Discussions


    8 years ago on Introduction

     While I agree that it can get expensive for Bob Loblaw to replace halogens every time they burn out... and they do burn out often... There is no way that a compact flourescent can approach a 300 to 500 watt halogen bulb. No way. If I could use that as a worklight, I would be just as well off  using my garage door opener light. What would really be useful is a way to safely modify a halogen case to vent the heat better, prolonging bulb life, but still provide protection from flying glass or ceramic when the bulbs do blow...

    3 replies

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    It's true that the amount of light is far less. CFL's and halogen lamps have a similar range of Lumens/Watt, approx. 70-90. But, depending on the use, even a smaller (<50W) CFL can make a suitable work light. If it works, it works, and you'll use a lot less electricity this way.


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    About 1,600 vs. 12,500lm.
    I don't really consider this worthwhile, it would be cheaper and easier to get a work lite that takes Edison based bulbs.


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    though it escapes me as to where I have seen them, I have seen small round screens that can be retrofitted to this kind of Ible.

    The ones that I have seen, range in size from 1 inch to as big as 6 inches...and if my memory serves me correctly, they even have the screw holes in them to fasten them down(just make sure & put a gasket between the screen & the light - helps to further block flying particles when the bulb bursts).

    as to what the cost is for these screens, I have no idea, but I wouldn't think it would cost too much...


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Q.instead of that silver colored liner to reflect the light, what about cutting mirrored tiles to fit inside there? Because they are shinier, would they not reflect more light(or make it brighter than it actually is)?

    And what about LED lights? that would reduce electric consumption even more yet still have a bright light....


    7 years ago on Step 7

    Is it just me or do others experience a short life w/CFLs. I have several in my home - lamps (including 3 ways) and ceiling fans - and they all seem to burn out or stop functioning sooner than the incandescant bulbs that they replaced? I seem to toss them out more than the 'wasteful' old bulbs.
    Good project but I am reticent to find another use for CFL bulbs.

    2 replies

    Reply 6 years ago on Step 7

    There are several things that make CFL's die prematurely: Enclosed fixtures, installing the lamp upside down, vibration/jarring, and poor power from loose wire connections. Looks like this 'structable has them all. How much were we paying for these "better" bulbs again?


    6 years ago on Introduction

    This is a great little project! I'm considering a 2-CFL option. Even with 2, it may not be as bright as halogen, but still useable.
    One proviso though,, the two wires that lead from the bulb to be attached to the main wiring, should use grommets to insulate them from the metal frame. If this thing catches fire due to a short, your insurance company may not pay for your burnt-down house! All your mods should at least consider and conform to local building and electrical code. :)



    7 years ago on Introduction

    bob loblaw loves to talk in the 3rd person ...makes it easy for groovy to understand bob...groovy says thanx for the ible...groovy likes it and he may use it someday


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Good idea.

    While I question the cost savings (replacement bulbs for my worklights only run about $3 ) and any cost of operation difference is probably going to be negligible, I do see many advantages to your idea.

    Mostly, those lights get really hot. Like "burn-yourself" hot. And using them in enclosed spaces? Forget it! But your idea is perfect for this.

    My big interest is in photographic lighting, so I also see a big advantage to being able to use different color temperature bulbs.

    But one final comment. To say whether its a good idea or not, the comment "almost as much light" REALLY needs to be quantified. I wish you or somebody else would use a light meter and post a real brightness comparison.

    Thanks again!

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I recently measured the temp of my halogen work light and it clocked in at 453*F! That's hotter than the ember on the end of a cigarette!


    8 years ago on Introduction

    how hard would it be to add a exhaust tube (maybe from a lawn mower header) and put a computer fan on the end of the tube, A comp fan would probably not hold the heat but maybe this will get the gears working for someone with a shop bench that they can see without looking at the picture from when they brought it home across the back of thier Mazda Miata(glad I put stuff on it, the wife almost made me sleep on it the first night). a comp fan runs on dc and I am not sure that exists on a work lamp, but maybe a hairdryer fan minus the heat coil would work, then you would have the tube also. Now I have thrown the coals and tinder down maybe someone has the wind to start the fire going.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Love this project. I recently found a halogen worklight  that was thrown out. It has 2 worklights mounted on a stand. It had obviously overheated and one of the wires was fried. Was perfect for this project.  Also found a place that sold 23 watt CFL lights $.40 for a pack of 2. I might try a 42 watt cfl (200 watt incandescent equivalent), but they are $10 a peice. 
    One thing though, I drilled the hole for the light socket on the side instead of the top to give the bulb more room, esp for a bigger brighter  high watt cfl.
    Great instructable, Bob.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Philips has a LED-lamp for this same socket now !! I thought about doing something like this directly when I bought my first one recently. I think the biggest disadvantages with the original is the heat ! When I have been working in a exhibition hall it gets incredibly hot during a normal exhibition !!! I infact used mine as a quick heater efter I uset it for the work I had to do (on my Vespa). Its a perfect heater, but i´d rather have a cold one. I´ll do one with LED lamps !


    10 years ago on Introduction

    my dad might like this hes a pinter and decorator, and works very long hours, asally real early in the mourning