How-To: Power outlet from light socket

How-To: Power outlet from light socket


You can get these things at hardware stores in the US, but not in central Europe, where the Graffiti Research Lab Vienna operates. Use a light bulb and an electrical socket to create on-the-go power for your tools, in this case a projector.

The basic idea is pretty simple: in a lot of today’s urban environments you can find a regular light bulb reasonably close-by. In Vienna, where this was executed, you can find one above almost every doorstep. The technology is even simpler – take the screw-cap of a regular light bulb and instead of connecting it to filaments it’s being connected to a power socket.

There’s an instructable, too!

24 thoughts on “How-To: Power outlet from light socket

  1. John Maushammer says:

    Cool! Little known fact: when electricity came to homes, it replaced gas lights… there were no outlets because there were no electrically-powered appliances yet. So, when the first electric appliances eventually appeared, they had to plug in to light sockets – just like this video!

  2. Sam says:

    Don’t do this unless you understand the load you’ll be placing on the light fitting. Light fittings are fed with a thin cable, rated as low as 3Amp. If you plug a 10Amp piece of equipment into it you run the risk of a fire starting in your ceiling space. Very, very bad idea.

    And even if you do understand Amps and fire hazard… having this device plugged in is an invitation to a less informed family member or guest.

    Its kindof like a double male-ended extension cord. Really useful and clever until someone gets killed…

  3. Anonymous EEE Student says:

    The whole point of different sockets for lights and other devices is the fact that they draw different current. For the sake of safety, I REALLY don’t recommend you do this. You’ll probably destroy something, hopefully not your house, but possibly. If anything, the sheer weight of the plug in the new ‘socket’ will cause it to drop, cause arcing and probably burn things.

    Please. Just don’t do it. Get an extension cord for temporary low power devices, or get a qualified electritian to fit a socket for anything requiring more power, or more permanent residency.

  4. Eddie says:

    Of course, the overcurrent problems can be avoided by inserting a 3A fuse inside your project housing.

    There is always danger with current loads in house wiring. ANY socket can be overloaded, 3A, 5A, 10A or 13A, and FUSES are the invention which solves this :)

  5. Eddie says:

    Sorry to double-post, but here’s an even better idea.

    For each wiring circuit in your house (say, 5A-rated) insert a fuse or circuit breaker into your consumer unit / breaker box with the same rating (e.g. 5A).

    This means no matter what stupidity you attempt, the current will shut off whenever you overload the wiring.

    In fact I’d say if you don’t already have this, get it installed now :)

  6. tom327cat says:

    Electricial lighting fixtures installed in the U.S. have to be UL or CSA listed. That means they are tested to failure by an insurance underwriting company for fire resistance, but only as it was intemded to be installed. So they can get away with using much smaller wires than called for in the national electric code.
    Also when you get power from a light socket you are not getting the grounding conductor. You can get around both of these by using a proper sized fuse for the smallest wire size measured in the fixture and a ground fault interruptor extension cord.
    BUT, if things still go wrong and you burn down a house, you are still liable for all damages.
    Get a longer extension cord……sheesh.

  7. Rory says:

    I remember finding one of these that my grandad made when he was young, it still worked, I used to use it when I was a kid to steal power from public light sockets for enhanced loitering :)

  8. hurf durf says:

    Cut out the middle man and just stick your tongue in the socket. Or, expert mode: Set yourself/house on fire.

  9. David says:

    I thought this was a DIY site? Half the comments are saying how stupid an idea this is. Anyone near a Home Depot can buy one of these already! As long as there is a good design there is nothing wrong with building it yourself. Bravo to the helpful comments that seek to improve the idea.

  10. anachrocomputer says:

    In addition to the safety warnings we’ve seen so far, I’d like to add: light sockets provide nowhere to connect the earth conductor, so your appliance is supplied with power but not earthed. This is yet another reason not to use a device like this — oh, and remember that the European mains supply is 240V AC!

    Having said that, I have a commercially-made version of this adaptor that was sold (probably in the 1930s to 1950s) as a way to connect an appliance to the mains when the house has been wired for light but not outlets (as another poster has mentioned). It’s quite practical, because it has a pass-through light socket to allow the householder to put the light bulb back in while tapping off power from a second, diagonally-mounted socket. The sockets are, of course, UK-standard bayonet fittings. If I can find it, I’ll post a photo in the Make Flickr pool!

  11. jammit says:

    I’d like to second the comments on the fuse thing. It’s a good idea to have, even if you don’t know the max rating of the lamp socket. As far as the grounding is concerned, if the device you’re using only comes with a two prong plug, then it’s rated as double insulated and is fine without the extra ground, but if you have a three prong plug, don’t defeat the third prong and only plug it into a normal grounded receptacle. I, myself, have at a few times temporarily bypassed the normal grounding on a device and hooked it up to an alternate ground, but that’s only with the proper testing equipment. And when I mean proper, I don’t mean a multimeter, I mean a isolation tester or a $800 ground loop isolator transformer with an isolation tester.

  12. matt2397 says:

    AKA: Pig Nose Adapter

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Becky Stern is a Content Creator at Autodesk/Instructables, and part time faculty at New York’s School of Visual Arts Products of Design grad program. Making and sharing are her two biggest passions, and she's created hundreds of free online DIY tutorials and videos, mostly about technology and its intersection with crafts. Find her @bekathwia on YouTube/Twitter/Instagram.

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