Ok so I'm at my wits end on this...I've bought two different 3-way lamps this week. Both are not cycling correctly through the three brightness settings.

The first lamp was 'Better Homes' brand from Walmart. I bought the recommended bulbs. 'GE Reveal' 3 way A21 - 150watt max bulbs. Both had major issues. The first flickered very badly on the low setting. The second one seemed to work fine, but 10 minutes later I smelt a burning smell. I called GE and complained. I returned those bulbs, then bought a 'Sunbeam' brand bulb, same correct specifications. Worked correctly for 3 days, then started malfunctioning. The low setting didnt work, and medium and high settings were both on medium brightness. At this point, thinking it was the lamp, I returned it to Walmart.

So today I bought an 'Allen Roth' lamp from Lowes. Along with the recommended A23 - 100watt max, 'UtiliTech Pro' LED. They were out of the CFL version so I went with that choice. Guess what? Same problem, low setting doesn't work. Medium and high setting is medium brightness only. I tried the lamp out in multiple places in my home, both through the wall outlets and a surge protector.

Could it be the wiring in my house? I have no problems with flickering lights, nothing ever trips, etc. So I'm at a loss here..Thank you for any help.

  • Do you have other 3-way sockets these bulbs work in? Commented Jun 26, 2016 at 3:23
  • No I don't have any other 3-way fixtures at all. This is my first time buying one.
    – Chris
    Commented Jun 26, 2016 at 3:50
  • You're in the US? Wall power is 120VAC? Commented Jun 26, 2016 at 11:04
  • Yes, I'm in the US. 120V
    – Chris
    Commented Jun 26, 2016 at 21:45

3 Answers 3


Possibly - you're not screwing the bulb in tight enough. Most bulbs need to make one contact at the tip, these need to make two.

But more likely these are duff fixtures. "Better Homes & Gardens" has never made a lamp in their long history publishing magazines; it's obvious they've "rented out their brand" (like Curtes Mathes of late). A quick Googling shows that only Walmart sells it, so it's effectively a house brand of Walmart.

Same with Allen Roth, it's a made-up house brand of Lowes.

Those are the cheapest low-bidder units that Walmart and Lowes buyers can find in east Asia. For both companies, unit cost is everything and they drive a very hard bargain with their suppliers. There's a good chance they either came out of the same factory, or at least, the switches and sockets came from the same factory. No wonder they failed the same.

My brain short-circuited when you said you called GE and complained. GE was founded by Thomas Edison himself and not only make jet engines, windmills and locomotives, they make the best ones on earth. So let's talk about quality.

In household and commercial lighting, I think GE is a smidge better than even the respectable top-shelf suppliers like Sylvania or Philips/Advance. Cree is an American company whose thing is making LED emitters, and they're considered the best in that field. Whether that translates into making good consumer products, I don't know. Ikea has been better than I'd expect.

Utilitech, Lights of America and Feit Electric, however, are the bottom shelf, the junk of the junk, they'll cut any corner to hit the price-point that'll make you put it in your cart. That is why those brands are wall-to-wall at Lowes, Home Depot, Costco, Kmart and Walmart. (notice I didn't say Target.) And those stores "hold their feet to the fire" to make them shave cost... which is death to an LED, as I'll explain below.

If you want to buy junk, that's fine, just do it with eyes wide open. The big-box stores don't care - they've run the numbers, they know most people don't return bad product if it's cheap, and for the few that do, they make such good margin that they can afford it.

Lastly CFLs. I worked for the company that invented them, and they're rewiring their own buildings with LEDs. That says it all. LED is superior in every way, and at this point there is no reason to buy another CFL, ever. CFLs are gone from Ikea, get very little shelf space in CostCo, price is in free-fall (doing what electronics prices do), so in another year or two, CFLs will be relegated to the dollar-store, and then, gone. Given the annoyance of recycling them and the nightmare of dealing with a broken CFL... and their short service life... good riddance. Please don't buy anymore... it's time for that technology to go.

Just for reference, LEDs have no toxic hazards and can be thrown in the trash.

Quality CFLs lasted 10 years. (cheap ones didn't obviously.) Given the nature of LED tech, I fully expect a quality unit to last 30-40. Years. Seriously. But that rather depends on the quality of the build. The weak link is the electronic driver circuit, and there are lots of ways to cheap those out with 1-year or 3-year components. And that's what the junk brands are doing when the big-box stores put the price squeeze on them.

  • I tried prying the contact up (lamp unplugged). Then screwed the bulb in as much as possible. Didn't fix the problem. Harper - Thanks for the crash course on the brands. There is a lighting store 45 minutes from me. I don't want to spend 80 dollars on a table lamp, but I may have to.. As far as GE, they are a great brand. But, I was reading complaints on Consumeraffairs. Many people have reported problems with three types of GE bulbs in particular. People have reported the GE Reveal 3 way bulbs exploding, catching the lamp shade on fire, scorching the socket etc. They stated that it was the co
    – Chris
    Commented Jun 26, 2016 at 21:40
  • Well if you're just in love with the light, 3-way sockets and switches are usually pretty standard, you may be able to just swap the junk for good. I have done that, but I find it a bit offensive to have to. (one instance: $10 shop lights at Lowes, ballasts lasted 2 years WTH.) End of the day, 3-way is not a great technology, it was relevant to the incandescent age, but now LEDs can not only infinitely dim (when controlled well) but also last so long there's no reason to even have bulbs. Commented Jun 27, 2016 at 0:42
  • (The missing half of my comment from earlier) "They stated that it was the correct wattage, series, etc just like in my case. The 60watt candebrela bulbs were one type frequently mentioned, and I forget the third. But, you see why I freaked when I smelt it burning and called their customer service after reading those complaints. Sorry, I should have mentioned this before."
    – Chris
    Commented Jun 27, 2016 at 6:19
  • I know what you mean about the ballasts going out. Very cheap lights. I'm not sold on the light. It's just that 90% of the lamps Lowes and Walmart sells are 3-way lamps... by the time you find a style and size you want, you're left with one choice; a 3-way lamp. I'd prefer not to buy another one. So unless I can find a normal on/off lamp at the lighting store that I like, I have to solve this problem.
    – Chris
    Commented Jun 27, 2016 at 6:24
  • My own comment wasn't very clear; what I was suggesting was seeing if the lamp uses the relatively standard socket components (most do) and then buy a replacement socket of better quality. Or switch, if the switch is the issue. Commented Jun 27, 2016 at 10:49

This sounds like either malfunctions in the lamp switch itself, or the secondary (low/high) contact on the socket is coming out of adjustment i.e. failing to make solid contact with the bulb base. Try prying the contact up slightly with the lamp unplugged and seeing if that fixes it. If not -- you might as well take the lamp back and get yet another one that hopefully will have a non-dodgy switch and socket in it.


I also bought Better Home and Garden lamps from Walmart, and today for the first time the low setting did not work properly on one of the lamps. I am using the GE A21 3-way bulb as well. After trying lifting the contact in the lamp without that bulb working again, I replaced the bulb with another of the same kind from a different lamp I don't use as much - it fixed the problem. It seems the low filament and possible high filament in the bulb had stopped working, not the lamp.

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