When designing lighting equipment, the selection of the proper lamp holder, also called light bulb holders or light bulb sockets is a critical step in the process. The selection of the bulb will depend on many variables such as size, lumens, energy efficiency, bulb life, etc. Once the bulb has been selected, a review of lamp holder parameters can begin. While the exact design and construction of the lamp holder vary depending on the intended bulb type and application, there is generally a locking mechanism (e.g., threads or pins) that facilitates the establishment of a secure connection between the lamp and the lamp holder.
As indicated above, lamp holders come in numerous variations, each of which is compatible with a specific bulb type. Since the bulbs can vary in design (e.g., Edison screw vs. bayonet base) and size, it is important to understand what types are suitable for use with a given lamp holder to ensure you choose the right one for your lighting system. In the following guide, we cover some of the common types of lamp sockets to help industry professionals know what to look for when designing a new fixture or purchasing a replacement lamp holder.
Halogen Lamp Holders
As suggested by the name, halogen lamp holders are designed for use with halogen lamps. Halogen bulbs are technically a variation of incandescent bulbs as they rely on the heating of a tungsten filament to produce light. However, they differ from standard incandescent bulbs in regard to the glass envelope and gas contained within the envelope. These design differences result in greater brightness, longer service lives (for the bulbs), and hotter operating temperatures. For these reasons, they are often used in a variety of commercial (e.g., retail and jewelry stores) and residential (e.g., home lighting) applications. They are also integrated into specialty products, such as projectors and food heaters.
The lamp holders for these bulbs vary depending on the intended bulb. They can be designed to accommodate a variety of bulb sizes and feature different design elements, such as dedicated (G4) lamp holders or multi-base ((G4, G5.3, G6.35) lamp holders round or rectangular construction. They are also available in threaded versions (E11), recessed single contact (R7s) and twist-lock (GU10).
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Metal Halide Lamp Holders
Metal halide lamps are a form of high-intensity discharge (HID) lamps that offer efficiency ratings that are up to three to five times greater than that of incandescent lamps. They rely on the passing of electrical current through a specialized gaseous mixture—typically consisting of mercury, xenon/argon, and metal halides—to produce light. The intensity of the light produced necessitates the use of durable materials for the construction of the lamp and lamp holder. This requirement is further exacerbated by the typical use cases of metal halide lamps—i.e., the illumination of outdoor environments such as streets, parking lots, and sports arenas.
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Medium-Base Lamp Holders
Medium-base lamp holders—also referred to as Edison-base lamp holders—accommodate a variety of screw-base bulb types. While screw-base bulbs are available in several sizes, the medium-base ones are E26 (MES in North America) and E27 (ES in Europe). The E standards for Edison (the inventor of the screw-base bulbs) and the following number indicates the width of the bulb’s based in millimeters. As the difference between the base sizes of these bulbs is one millimeter, the bulbs can be used interchangeably within a single lamp holder.
Screw-base bulbs also vary in regard to the bulb shape. Some of the most common include A-shaped (e.g., A15, A19, and A21), globe-shaped (e.g., G16.5, G25, and G30), PAR (e.g., PAR16, PAR20, and PAR30), and bulged reflector (e.g., BR20, BR30, and BR40).
These lamps and lamp holders are used for general commercial and residential lighting applications, such as for can lights, ceiling lights, floodlights, spotlights, and vanity lights.
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Mogul-Base Lamp Holders
Mogul-base lamp holders are used for mogul-base lamps (E39), which have a much larger screw-base size than medium-base lamps (E26/E27). As they are often used in street lighting and other high-wattage lighting systems, they are made from sturdy cast porcelain to accommodate the higher operating temperatures. Any bulb that includes “U” in the product description (e.g., M175/U/MED) requires a mogul base. However, using an adapter allows the mogul base to accommodate smaller bulbs (e.g., E26).
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Fluorescent Lamp Holders
Fluorescent lamp holders are designed for use with fluorescent bulbs, which are known for their high energy efficiency (compared to incandescent and halogen bulbs) and low cost (compared to LEDs). They can accommodate linear, bent, circline, and compact bulbs with single-pin or two-pin and shunted or non-shunted socket designs. Typical applications include retail stores, offices, and schools.
Fluorescent lighting systems require ballasts, which regulate the flow of electricity to prevent the lamp from drawing too much current. Shunted sockets allow for electricity to flow along multiple paths, while non-shunted sockets only permit current flow through a single path. The former is used for instant-start ballasts while the latter utilized for dimming ballasts.
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Compact Fluorescent Lamp Holders
Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) are a specialized type of fluorescent lamp that resembles medium-base light bulbs in size and base. Since they function similarly to standard fluorescent lamps, they are generally more energy-efficient than conventional incandescent bulbs. Some examples of typical applications include hospitality and residential settings.
Similar to all fluorescent lamps, CFLs require a ballast to work. Integrated CFLs rely on an internally integrated ballast, while non-integrated CFLs employ a ballast integrated into the lamp holder. The former is cheaper and simpler, while the latter is longer-lasting and easier to replace.
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Bayonet-Base Lamp Holders
Bayonet-base lamp holders accommodate bayonet-base lamps. These bulbs—sometimes called twist and lock bulbs—feature two pins to facilitate twisting and locking the bulb into place.
Bayonet-base bulbs were used in the automotive industry for many years due to their ruggedness and ease of replacement. They have been replaced by LED’s. They are either single or double contact to match single (BA15S) bulb base or double (BA15D) bulb base. There are also miniature bayonet bulbs and sockets. Bayonet- base bulbs are preferred in many applications where vibration is a concern and can be used with the bulb upside down with no fear of it falling out.
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Wedge-Base Lamp Holders
Wedge-base lamp holders are generally used for smaller low wattage light bulbs, such as those found in string lights. The lamp holder socket allows for contact between the lamp holder contacts and the exposed wires of the wedge-shaped bulb base. This design enables users to replace bulbs quickly and easily. They are available with many mounting options like brackets, PCB tabs, snap-in and twist-in. There is also a subminiature version.
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Lamp Holder Adaptors & Reducers
When converting a fixture from one lamp holder base to another, usually to replace a less efficient bulb to a more efficient bulb, the simplest way is to use an adaptor. This is an economical solution using adaptors and reducers to modify the lamp holders to be compatible with the new bulb types. These devices allow larger bulbs to fit into smaller bases and/or different base types to fit into different sockets. Energy saving is one of the major reasons that adaptors are used. Converting from an E26 Edison bulb to a GU24 compact fluorescent can save 50%. Also, simply changing from a larger bulb (E26) to a smaller bulb (E14) saves energy. Adaptors make these changes simple.
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Contact Mitronix, Inc. Today for Your Lamp Holder Needs
At Mitronix, we have served as a premier supplier of lighting products for over 30 years. We offer a broad selection of lamp holders and other lighting system accessories to meet the lighting needs of customers across a wide range of industries. For additional information about our product offerings or pricing estimates for a specific product, contact us or request a quote today.