3-way lamps / light bulbs

I have a problem with a 3-way lamp. The problem started with the contact for the higher-wattage filament not making good contact with the bulb base, causing the lamp to flicker and the bulb to burn out prematurely. On inspection I found that the socket contacts were pitted, almost certainly from arcing, so I replaced the socket with a new one I bought at an antique lamp store. That fixed the problem for a few weeks, but soon the problem recurred. Thinking that the lamp store might carry subpar sockets, I bought another replacement at our local Home Depot. I got the same result - problem solved for a few weeks. It occurred to me that I may have single-sourced the sockets - either the lamp shop buys them from Home Depot, or they both buy them from the same manufacturer.
Does anyone know of a high-quality brand of light sockets? Is there any difference between brands of 3-way light bulbs that could account for the arcing?
Thanks,
Jim Williams Norfolk, VA
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Jim,
I could have written this myself. In fact, I did sometime back. I was unable to find a socket any different for those at Ace or HD. I came to the conclusion that the high wattage lamps really draw too much current for the 3-way sockets, and the lighting industry has never acknowledged the problem. The answer for us has been to go to the halogen lamps to get sufficient light for reading.
Ed

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I had same problem. Solved by installing a normal socket (one filament) Then using a 300 watt bulb and added a dimmer. A touch type dimmer. Have had same bulb for several years. On "high" full wattage is not attained, but out performs the 3 way bulb. Warren
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Warren Weber wrote:

I did the same thing on four metal bodied table lamps in our house, hiding the dimmers inside the lamp bases. Am using a single 150 watt bulb in one and a pair of 75 watt bulbs in Y adaptors in the remainder.
They worked just great, but every once in a while a bulb would burn out with one of those damn "tungsten arcs" which pulled enough current to fry the touch dimmer.
I got tired of having to buy new dimmers and go through the bother of replacing the old one whenever that happened.
Then I woke up and checked the data sheets which showed that a 2 amp 3AG style fast blow fuse had an I^2*t "total clearing" fast enough to protect the little triac in the dimmer.
I stuck panel style fuseholders through the side of the lamp bases. It worked. Most of the time when a bulb burns out now the fuse remains OK, but once in a while, when the fuse goes along with the bulb, I know the dimmer just escaped a violent death.
Shortly after I installed those fuseholders I found one lamp wasn't working, and the fuseholder cap was lying on the table next to it. I was scratching my head thinking WTF, until I realized that it was the work of our cleaning lady, who never quite understood the touch dimmers and decided that the fuseholder cap was some kind of a knob which had to be turned to shut off the lamp. <G>
Jeff
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Jeffry Wisnia

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Due to the double contact arrangement in the bottom, three way lamps are often not tightened adequately to make secure connection with both contacts. This will lead to overheating and socket failure. If you will ensure that all contacts are clean and tight you will probably solve the problem. Don Young

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Another bit that may complicate things: It surely appears to me that there are more problems from overtightening than from undertightening when people screw in lightbulbs!
- Don Klipstein ( snipped-for-privacy@misty.com)
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I put in a Y-adapter and two standard 100 watt bulbs. Gives adequate light for reading but light level cannot be reduced. Did this because three-way bulbs with two filaments seem to burn out one or both in short order. --- SJF
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JAWs wrote:

Don has the answer. Clean the contacts as best you can. An eraser works well. Get them shinny. Then make sure the are not flattened to the bottom of the socket. Then clean the lamp base as well. Now when you install the lamp make sure it is snug. If you like you may also use some of the grease designed specifically for electrical contacts.
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Joseph Meehan

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The problem I have with this answer is the original poster said he replaced the socket twice with brand new ones. Presumably, he replaced the bulb at the same time. So he had everything totally new off the shelf, and the problem persisted. Moreover, I can attest to exactly the same sequence. So I can't quite buy the argument. Nonetheless, I'm gonna try it. I'll put in a new socket, burnish the contact and pull it up, get a brand new bulb and polish it, screw it in real tight and see what happens.
Ed
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Jag Man wrote:

As long as you are not using a lamp larger than specified for the lamp you should not be having problems. I have seen new lamps with contact problems. However you are right about the lamp, we often overlook the problem of the lamp contacts needing cleaning as well.
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Joseph Meehan

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Joseph,
When you say "As long as you are not using a lamp larger than specified for the lamp " I assume you mean not using bulb with wattage higher than specified for the lamp. But the thing is, to my knowledge, all the 3-way sockets are the same throughout the land, regardless of what lamp they are mounted on. If this is true, then it must be that either (a) all lamps with 3-way sockets can safely and reliably be fitted with 300-max 3-way bulbs, or (b) none of them can. If the latter is true, what are all those 300 watt bulbs doing on the shelves?
Ed

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Jag Man wrote:

They come in different wattages. I have used 30-70-100 50-100-150 amd your 100-200-300 and I believe I have seen a few others.
I would expect that using a 300W in a lamp designed for 100W could cause a problem.

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Joseph Meehan

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Jag Man wrote:

One additional point. Moisture, vibration and floating neutrals can add to the problem.
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Joseph Meehan

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Jim,
I'll second others' suggestion about cleaning the contacts and making sure the bulb is screwed in tightly.
But here's an additional idea: use a compact flourescent bulb (yes, 3-way ones are available). The reduced current and heat might be easier on the contacts.
Eric Law

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