Three-way lamp splitter?
October 2, 2018 8:02 PM   Subscribe

I like having bright lighting, so I've used some lamp socket splitters (here's an example) to put two LED bulbs in a single socket. Because they're LED bulbs, it's still comfortably within the power limits for the fixture. What I'd like to do, though, is to use the fact that they're three-way fixtures to get a choice between three levels of brightness. Is this possible? Details below the fold.

So the traditional three-way bulbs have two filaments in them. Call the low-wattage filament A and the high-wattage one B. The first setting, "low," will light the A filament only. The "medium" setting will light B only, and the "high" one will light A and B.

What I'm looking for is a splitter to plug into a three-way lamp where the splitter has two sockets, A and B. On "low" it would provide power to socket A only, on "medium" to socket B only, and on "high" to both. In other words, instead of allowing you to choose either or both filaments in the same bulb, it would allow you to choose either or both sockets on the splitter.

This doesn't seem like it's that esoteric of an ask, but nobody I've asked has been able to supply it. The most common reaction has been something like "Hmm, that would make sense. Never seen it, though." Has anyone ever run into such a device? What's it called? How do I get them?

This is in the US, so 110 V/60 Hz, if that matters. I'm in Minneapolis if you happen to know of a local source, but I'm happy to order online as well.
posted by tellumo to Home & Garden (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Hmm, that would make sense. Never seen it, though.

And I can't even think of a way to rig something like that up, that wouldn't pretty risky.

I think a super bright 3-way LED is the way to go. 150 Watt equivalent (2250 lumens) looks easy to get, and should be really freaking bright. If not, get another lamp fixture?
posted by intermod at 9:15 PM on October 2, 2018

I feel your pain about wishing for more light! There are LED 3-way bulbs designed as direct replacements for the incandescent 3-ways. They are available at least in the 40/60/100W and 50/100/150W equivalent models.

Another way to achieve the different levels is through dimming controls. There are electrician-installed ones, but also plug-in ones to add between the wall outlet and your lamp. Only some LED's are dimmable (be sure to read the box or bulb), but you can use them with your splitters to power multiple bulbs.

There is one dimmer with a small round tap sensor which will give you three set levels of brightness if you wish to duplicate the effect of a three way bulb.

It is the bulbs which have the built in connections to connect between the two filaments. I am not aware of an adapter which will act in place of the 3-way bulb base.
posted by tronec at 10:26 PM on October 2, 2018

That does sound like a smart idea, but I suspect there's no provision for it in some electrical code or other. Might be a product opportunity, though.

As for "getting more light out of a fixture" (which wasn't the original question, I know), people should look for "corn row bulb." These are LED bulbs with ridiculous numbers of LEDs on them. I have a ceiling fixture in my kitchen that used long thin incandescents and I was able to fit in three corn row bulbs that are like 4000 lumens apiece. It is REALLY bright. Very satisfying.
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 12:24 PM on October 3, 2018

PHilips makes a LED 'Scene Switch' bulb with 3 levels that works in a standard socket, by repeatedly turning it on and off. It only seems to come in a max 60W equivalent though.
Or you could put pull-chain adapters in the splitter to control the 2 bulbs separately?
posted by TDIpod at 1:18 PM on October 3, 2018

If you are comfortable replacing the bulb socket and wiring on an additional "keyless" socket, here is a socket interior with a switch designed to control two sockets.

I believe it would control the sockets in the following pattern: off, a only, b only, a and b.

If the lamp you are working with only has the one 3-way bulb socket, you will need to find a way to add another socket other than just the Y-splitters.
posted by tronec at 3:11 PM on October 3, 2018

Response by poster: Thanks for the advice so far. I'm going to restate the kind of thing I'm looking for just to make sure, because I want to be certain I'm communicating what I'm after. (This is my fault, not yours.):

So a 3-way socket has three connections: neutral, A, and B. When it's off, neutral is isolated from A and B. On low, neutral is connected to A, and B is isolated. On medium, neutral is connected to B, and A is isolated. On high, neutral is connected to both A and B.

What I want is a splitter that goes into a 3-way socket, but instead of connecting both sockets to neutral and B (and leaving A entirely disconnected), I want it to connect one socket to neutral and A and the other to neutral and B.

The dimmers and 3-way LEDs mentioned above are good out-of-the-box thinking, but the problem is that the box I'm in is currently lit by non-dimmable (but cheap and bright) 100W-equivalent LEDs, and a 3-way 150W-equivalent LED bulb would be about four times the price of the bulbs I'm already using.

I'll keep an eye on this if anyone comes across it with a source, but it may be that there's simply no such beast. :-/
posted by tellumo at 8:51 PM on October 3, 2018

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