Thursday, September 23, 2010

Let there be light

Remember when I talked about needing lamp parts? Well, I got them. To recap: we have several lamps that we brought from the U.S. seven years ago and their shades are in bad shape. But French lamp shades don't attach to the metal harps that these lamps were equipped with. So I needed to remove the harps and also replace the sockets with the French style for attaching new shades.

A new lamp socket (the white part) for an old lamp.

I was certain that this simple re-wiring would turn into a huge problem because I assumed that French lamp parts would probably not be compatible with the American lamps. But guess what? Everything fits just fine and now I have two old lamps re-fitted and ready for new shades.

One interesting thing: the new sockets don't have those little knobs on them where you turn the light on and off. Come to think of it, I don't think any French lamps have those knobs. It makes sense in a way; no reaching in under a hot bulb to turn the lamp off. Instead, most lamps have a switch on the cord.

The floor lamp that I re-wired already has a switched cord. We installed that years ago. But the desk lamp doesn't have a switch, so I will install one. They come in white, brown, gold, and black so you can match them to your cord. This cord is brown, so a brown switch it is.

And, in case you're wondering, we cut off all the American plugs and replaced them with French plugs as soon as we moved. It's much more economical and cleaner looking than buying and using plug adapters.


  1. Several years ago when I had to refit my lamps in Paris because most of them had "bayonette" sockets, I went to BHV — a bricoleur's heaven — and found new sockets of the screw type fitted with a little cord that you pull for an on or off position, just like their U.S. counterparts.

  2. You also talked in an earlier post about all the different sizes of lamps, most are E27 or E14 screw-in lights, even halogen lights have sometimes E14 fittings, a few with bayonet or just two sticks.

    Do they in France also force you to buy low wattage lamps [energy savers] look they do in Pays Bass?

  3. It's good that you were able to refurbish your lamps rather than having to throw them away and buy new ones.

  4. I think Lewis learned electronics in boy scouts. It is a handy skill to have!

    I don't understand how you simply changed out the plugs on your lamps when the voltage is different. I thought the 220 volts would burn out your lamps...

  5. Is switching the plugs all that's needed to adapt US lamps to France? I thought as Evelyn did, that the different voltage would fry them.

    And if lamps can adapt with only a plug change, can other things as well, such as small appliances? Computers?

    I learn so much useful stuff in reading your blog and Ken's.

  6. chm, but bayonet bulbs are in all the stores; why did you have to change the sockets?

    peter, they are phasing incandescent light bulbs out and soon they won't be available any more in France. We're slowly changing to the new energy savers.

    jean, yes, especially because I like the lamps!

    evelyn, the lamps work fine on 220 volts. I don't know why. The lamp cord is hefty enough. Maybe european bulbs are designed for 220?

    emm, no, appliances need transformers to work, their motors will burn out with 220 volts. Computers have their own power supplies (that little black box on the cord) that converts the power. The input voltage range is printed on the box and it usually includes 110 and 220.

  7. Even desktop computers usually have a voltage switch that lets you select 110V or 220V. I know I brought my desktop computer from California and used it here for several years before replacing it with one I bought from Dell in France.

    We have a transformer so that we can run our KitchenAid stand mixer and our old Braun food processor, which are both 110V appliances we brought from the U.S. It works fine, and I can recharge my American electric razors using it too.

    As for lamps, I think the cords and sockets are made for either 110V or 220V. And French 220V bulbs fit in the American lamp sockets just fine. We've put new plugs on all our lamps and until now, when we need new shades, that's all we've had to do to make them work just fine -- plus the 220V bulbs, of course.


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