My new old lamp

lampAbout two weeks ago, Mr. Cheap and I were evaluating our living room and decided that what we want is less modern, more cozy. And especially, we need more light in a room with no overhead fixtures and some very dark corners.

Thinking about what would best replace one floor lamp and one table lamp that each boasted one (CFL) bulb, I said, “You know, we need one of those floor lamps with multiple bulbs that was in everyone’s grandma’s living room.”

A few days later, we walked over to our local antique shop and there it was! $29 with a note: “It works!”

The next day, I brought it home, thinking I would pop a CFL flood light in the top fixture, get some CFL candelabra bulbs for the side lamps and voila.

Well … not quite that easy.

The top bulb, it turns out, is a “mogul” bulb (and thus, these are called “mogul lamps”) — something I’d never heard of. It’s a bulb with a larger than standard base in a porcelain fixture to accommodate ferocious wattage.

I can tell you a 300-watt bulb ain’t entering my house, so I bought an adaptor on eBay to fit my standard-base 16-watt CFL bulb. With the adaptor you lose the three-way capability, which is OK with us. If we decide later we must have it, we can remove the adaptor. While I was at the eBay shop, I ordered three new “sleeves” for the side lamps to replace the grimy tan cardboard sleeves.

As for the side lamps, notice anything in that photo? That’s right, I have three different bulbs. Here’s why.

  1. I went to Home Depot, purported to be a big supplier of CFL bulbs, but they had no low-energy candelabra bulbs. Lowe’s did, and I bought two packages (4 bulbs). They have small bases but screw into a converter. Alas, on one of them, the base broke, and another bulb did not work. (Back they will go to Lowe’s when I’m in the neighborhood.) Only one of the side lamps lights up with the candelabra bulb in it. On the other lamps, the candelabra bulb stays stubbornly dark.
  2. One of the side lamps will not light if it has a CFL bulb in it. It has an incandescent bulb as a concession.
  3. The other side lamp won’t light with a candelabra bulb, but will permit me to use a twisty CFL.

Fortunately, Mr. Cheap had suggested a lamp shade to cover the side lamps and globe. Once the three-light-bulb thing occurred, I agreed. After a false start with a shade from Lamps Plus that didn’t look right, Lowe’s had just the thing. lamp with shade

It took me a couple of weeks and a bunch of hassle (but not as much hassle as if we’d had to rewire the lamp, which I really expected we might have to do). Now we have a classy ol’ recycled floor lamp — that gives us good light and sucks up relatively little electricity — for a total price of about $95. (Last week, a couple of these lamps were listed on eBay for $175 to $250 each.)

This experience is a lesson in why the “green” movement is not necessarily permeating all levels of society, however. I didn’t tally how much time I spent running around trying to re-use a lamp instead of just buying a 300-watt halogen torchiere, but it was a lot. It involved two trips to Lamps Plus, one to Home Depot, one to Lowe’s, another pending trip to Lowe’s to return the non-working bulbs, and an online purchase (and three-day wait) for the bulb converter, plus the original purchase and a willingness to possibly rewire the lamp if necessary, not to mention the time to figure out the bulb situation. All to re-use something old instead of getting something new; all to save energy and resources (not my own, obviously) rather than just plugging in a three-way mogul bulb and three incandescent bulbs and being good to go.

For me, it’s worth it. But most likely, things will have to get a lot easier to make it worthwhile for more people to dive in. The Internet is a good start.

Now that’s a lightbulb moment. Or three.


4 thoughts on “My new old lamp

  1. Charles says:

    Thanks! I have an older lamp that requires a big light bulb. Now that I know it has what’s called a “mogul” socket, I can finally convert it to a more energy-efficient lamp.

  2. Karen says:

    This is awesome. I have a lamp that requires a mogul bulb, but will now use this converter. This site has been most helpful. never knew……

  3. drox says:

    These old lamps often have three-way switches for the candle-type bulbs (rotary switch: one on, two on, all on, and then off), and they often get corroded and fail. Fortunately they are easily replaced. Most hardware stores have them, and all you have to do is open up the center unit (where all the wires come together) and swap out the old switch. Must remember to rewire it just like the original.

    After the switches, the cords are the next thing that goes. These are also easy to replace.

    I love these old lamps — have about a dozen of them now.

    The one shown above has a particularly nice glass diffuser shade. I’ve never seen one with those petal-like lines on it.

  4. Paula says:

    Hi, thank you so much- I have an old lamp that requires the HUGE lightbulb – thought I was going to have to pay to have it rewired … again I thank you for the great information.

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