Lightbulb socket



A lightbulb socket, light socket, lamp socket or lampholder is a device which mechanically supports and provides electrical connections for a compatible electric lamp. Sockets allow lamps to be safely and conveniently replaced (re-lamping). There are many different standards for lampholders, including early de facto standards and later standards created by various standards bodies. Many of the later standards conform to a general coding system in which a socket type is designated by a letter or abbreviation followed by a number.
Early experimental incandescent lamps employed wire leads which had to be connected to screw terminals, but this was inconvenient for commercial use. The Edison organization used simple wooden receptacles with internal copper strips for lamps on the commercial steamship SS Columbia, the first ship to use electric light bulbs. These sockets included key switches, but required bulbs to be mounted upright.
The construction of a lampholder socket defines and limits its intended use. Ceramic insulation can withstand considerably higher operating temperatures than bakelite or other plastics. The electrical components and wires must be designed to carry the intended current plus a safety factor.
Lampholder failures are usually caused by mechanical abuse or by overheating. A socket with a built-in switch is far more likely to fail in normal use as the switch parts wear out. Insulation failures are usually caused by impacts or by difficulty inserting or removing a lamp. Sockets used outdoors or in damp areas often suffer from corrosion which can cause the lamp to "stick" in the socket and attempts to change a lamp can result in breakage of either the lamp or the lampholder. The corrosion is not only environmentally produced but may be a result of the current flowing through the parts when there is appreciable resistance between the parts. Fixtures in such environments may require gaskets or other waterproofing methods to prevent buildup of moisture in the socket area.
The two-pin socket is an update of the bi-post design with smaller pins designed to reduce the cost of manufacture. The 1000-watt FEL medium two-pin base halogen lamp allows designers to insert the lamp into the end of the ellipsoidal reflector through a smaller hole than previously possible with conventional incandescent lamps. This improves efficiency compared to the older side-inserted lamp or a double-ended lamp which requires two holes. One variation is the polarized two-pin socket used primarily in projectors, which defines the exact positioning of the filament on one side. This improves the "point source" characteristic necessary for building complex optical systems.
Miniature lamps may have a wedge base made of glass or plastic. The base may be an extension of the glass envelope of the bulb, with the wire leads of the lamp folded up at the base. Some wedge bases are made of plastic and slipped over the wire leads. A wedge base holds the lamp by spring compression in the socket. The lamp is inserted and removed without twisting. Wedge base lamps are widely used in automotive applications, and many Christmas lights strings use plastic wedge-based bulbs.