I just bought a table lamp which I assumed used a 3-way bulb since it has the knob that you typically have on a 3-way lamp. However when I went to put the bulb in I saw that it says 100 watt maximum. I tried a 3-way bulb just to check and it only works as a single-watt.

Can I replace the current socket with a 3-way socket? or is the wiring different, so this can't be done. Thank you.

2 Answers 2


Yes, you can. The sockets cost about $4, they are pretty standardized, and it requires "competent handyman" level skills.

However, the "100 watt maximum" is to be taken seriously. That is a thermal limit for that fixture, and the fixture could start a fire if a larger bulb is used. For purposes of this rating, this refers to the genuine, absolute, true wattage of the bulb (e.g. 26 actual watts for a "100 watt equivalent" CFL, or 16 actual watts for a "100 watt equivalent" LED) — not the actual light output (typically 1400-1600 lumens for a "100 watt equivalent" bulb.)

So for instance if you found a hypothetical 5000 lumen, 48 actual-watt, "350 watt equivalent" LED bulb that you just had to use in this thing, then yes, that is fine. However, a 50-100-150 actual-watt incandescent is Right Out.

I splurged on a $17 GE LED bulb that is 50/100/150 equivalent actually about 25W and I am in love with it. Interestingly, its sequence is Off-Lo-Hi-Medium, and they do that on purpose so if you stick it in a 1-way socket, you get the full "150W" equivalent.


While it's possible from an electrical level to replace the socket, I wouldn't recommend messing with mains voltage unless you know what you are doing. It would be better to return the lamp, and find a lamp that's actually designed for 3-way operation from the start. (For one thing, your insurance company doesn't like you having home-built electrical items in your home.)

What's most likely to go wrong, however, isn't the electrical side, but the lamp side. It's likely that the lamp is not designed for disassembly, and it won't be possible to remove the existing socket without damaging the lamp, or attach a new socket. In that case, all you'll be doing is breaking the lamp.

But yes, all the 3-way socket needs is a live and neutral line. Nothing special needed.

  • I have done a few , no particular skills needed ( unplug the lamp first). Commented Jul 20, 2019 at 15:37

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