If you happen to be in a situation where you wish to convert your existing light bulb socket into either another type of socket or into an outlet you may be considering making use of a light bulb adapter to do so.
Doing so, however, may seem like a risk. Seeing as these adapters are essentially small bits of plastic with some conductors in them they may seem like they could become a fire hazard.
Light bulb adapters are generally pretty safe. Assuming that the product is of good quality and that you use it as intended you shouldn’t face any issues with them as long as you don’t overload the light socket as this can cause the adapter to become a fire hazard.
Continuing on, we will elaborate on why you generally shouldn’t face any significant problems with using light bulb adapters.
What Is A Light Bulb Adapter?
Before going into the safety of light bulb adapters we should first discuss what they actually are and how they’re constructed.
Light bulb adapters come in two different forms. These forms are:
Light socket turned into another type of socket.
Light socket turned into a power outlet.
The way they manage to achieve their function is theoretically pretty simple. They simply connect to the points in the light socket where the electricity would normally enter and exit the light bulb and direct those points into the adapted function, whether that is another socket or a power outlet.
In terms of safety, the power outlet variant is more of a risk than the alternate socket variant.
This is because when you transform a light socket into a power outlet you have the option of connecting something electrically intense to it whereas with an alternate light socket you are more likely to plug in another type of light bulb as the electrical load.
Is There Any Risk To Using Light Bulb Adapters?
While we stated earlier that light bulb adapters are generally pretty safe, there are also a few ways to turn them into a hazard if you’re not being careful.
Here we’ll help you to understand some of these potential hazards and why exactly they matter.
Loose Connection Between The Adapter And Socket
One potential hazard with using these types of adapters is having a loose socket connection. This is dangerous overall when it comes to plugging in light bulbs, but the effect is amplified for these adapters.
The reason why this issue can be worse in adapters is that instead of 1 potential point of loose connection we have now doubled the number of connection points to 2. Therefore it becomes a bigger risk than using the socket as originally intended.
The reason why a loose socket connection can be dangerous is because of how electrons behave when there is not a clear enough path for it to go.
When a connection in an electrical circuit such as this one is loose it will cause the electrons to start jumping between point A to point B of the loose connection.
When electrons have to jump in this fashion they start to generate a significant amount of heat. The heat generated by this could lead to the following:
The light bulb may break/blow.
The plastic in the adapter may melt.
The base of the bulb may melt
An electrical arc may be created between the unstable connection, which may ignite nearby debris and cause a fire.
While all of this is easily preventable by simply plugging everything in properly it is still something we should be considerate of.
Electrically Overloading The Light Socket
Another possible danger with light bulb adapters is accidentally overloading the electrical circuit of the socket.
This can occur with both types of adapters, however, it is much more likely to happen with the switch to a power outlet. This is because with a power outlet you have the option to plug in whatever you want, unlike the alternate socket version where you’ll still plug in another form of a light bulb.
A light bulb socket is only meant to support a smaller amount of electrical load, probably not much more than 100W if it’s purely a lighting circuit.
While this is enough to plug in some smaller devices it isn’t recommended you plug in something that consumes a lot of electricity, like a hair dryer or microwave for example.
The most common consequence of doing this is simple; the circuit breaker will cut the power. If it doesn’t cut it immediately it will probably happen within a few hours, depending on the type of breaker.
That said, if the circuit breakers for some reason don’t cut the power it could lead to serious problems. This is because of the importance of not exceeding the allowed current of the electrical system, which normally is defined by the size of the wiring used and therefore also the fuse size.
The reason why it is important to not exceed the current market on the breakers is that the wiring it goes to is not capable of handling a larger current than the one prescribed.
The reason for this is that every electrical current generates heat and the heat generated by it is proportional to how big the current is. Most electrical wiring is made to handle temperatures of 60- 80°C (140°F-176°F) depending on what type of coating is used on it.
What this tells us is that if we are to exceed the maximum current the wiring is meant to handle it is possible for the cables to heat up past these temperatures, meaning that they will become a potential fire hazard.
This is rarely ever a problem with modern and up-to-date circuit breakers, but it is worth mentioning nonetheless.
Using Light Bulb Adapters Outdoors
The last major risk that can occur with light bulb adapters is if they are used improperly.
As a general rule of thumb, it is not a wise idea to use light bulb adapters outside. When placed outside you have to factor in elements such as rain and possible debris getting in the way and causing an unstable socket connection.
This goes especially for the power outlet variant. Power outlets placed outside usually have a lid as a cover which makes them suitable for outside use which most adapters won’t have.
This can have a few consequences, mainly similar to the ones mentioned above. Water and debris will cause a loose socket connection, which can lead to electrical arcs and short circuits.
How To Safely Use Light Bulb Adapters
With these risks discussed, we can now begin laying down some good principles to follow to make sure you use light bulb adapters in a safe manner.
Use The Socket Adapter Where It’s Appropriate
Firstly, we want to mention that you should only consider using light bulb adapters where it actually makes sense to do so and where it’s appropriate.
For example, it is not advised that you turn a ceiling light into a power outlet. This is because eventually, gravity will cause the adapter to fall. This could potentially damage the plugged-in device, the adapter or the original light socket.
As previously mentioned, don’t use light socket adapters outside unless they are specifically designed to be used outside.
Knowing what adapters (and other electrical products in general) you can use outside can be difficult to know if you aren’t familiar with electrical safety classifications.
In terms of using products outside, we recommend making use of products with a good IP classification.
IP Classification Of Electrical Products
IP (Ingress Protection) classification is a simple number labelling system that describes how well a product tolerates dust and water. This system has ratings from IP00 to IP68, where the first number describes its protection against dust and the second against water.
Because dust and water are the most prominent things that cause disturbances in electrical appliances/products, it is a good way to measure of well it tolerates an environment like the outdoors.
Ingress Protection (IP)
First Number (Dust)
Second Number (Water)
Protection against solid objects over 50mm in diameter
Protection against dripping water
Protection against solid objects over 12mm in diameter
Protection against dripping water at an angle of 15° from its normal position
Protection against solid objects over 2,5mm in diameter
Protection against water spraying at any angle up to 60°
Protection against solid objects over 1mm in diameter
Protection against water splashes against the enclosure from any direction
Limited ingress protection against dust
Protection against water projected by a nozzle against enclosure from any direction
Total protection against dust
Protection against water projected in powerful jets against the enclosure from any direction
Protection against water submersion up to 1 meter (3 ft 3 in)
Protection against long periods of submersion and pressure
Some common IP ratings are IP20 for general-purpose inside usage and IP44 for general-purpose outside use. Almost every mechanical casing or electric enclosure has an IP rating written somewhere on the enclosure or on the packaging it came with.
This is one of the main reasons why indoor light bulb adapters may not be suitable at all for outside use.
Indoor adapters are usually not all that well protected against solid objects and excessive water/moisture, meaning they are likely to have a rating of only IP20. This is absolutely not safe for outside use since they are not built to withstand the potential water exposure the outdoors provide.
However, if you find yourself with an adapter with an IP of IP44 or more, it is possible that you have a dual-purpose adapter, which can be used both inside and outside.
Make Sure The Adapter Is Of Good Quality
This might come as obvious but making sure that the adapter is a good quality one is very important. Knowing what product is of good quality can be a bit harder to figure out though.
There are a few ways you can do this. One way to make sure the product is good is to check if it has any electrical certifications.
For example, in Europe, it is common for electrical products to be “CE” marked. This means that the product is compliant with EU standards for safety and health. While it isn’t directly linked to “quality” as a factor it is still likely a good quality product if it is compliant with safety and health regulations.
As for the US, a good indicator of this would be a product that has been certified by NRTL or other credible electrical certification organs. Doing this should ensure you get a product of good quality.
Don’t Connect High-Intensity Loads Onto The Adapter
As previously discussed, connecting high-intensity electrical loads to a light socket adapter can easily become a fire hazard. Therefore we’d recommend you only connect smaller loads onto it.
Light sockets are generally meant to only handle loads as big as 100W, or possibly more depending on what the original purpose of the socket was. That said, it isn’t wise to go above this for the reasons mentioned earlier.
In order to avoid any issues with this you can simply read what its maximum load size is. This number should be stated somewhere on the socket or on its fixture.
Once you have this number it is advised that you only connect an electrical load that is equal to or less than what the socket is meant to support. That way, you won’t accidentally overload the socket.
To summarize, despite there being a few risks involving light bulb adapters they are generally safe assuming you use them in a smart manner.
These products exist for a reason. They have a valid purpose and exist to be used, just make sure that you use them in the way they are intended and use some common sense to keep them from becoming a fire hazard.
Hello, I'm Daniel, the author behind this article and owner of this website!
I'm a young soul at 23 years old with a passion for everything lighting since I find it very fascinating in general.
I studied light planning for 2 years in Stockholm, Sweden and now work with light planning full time.