How a light socket works

A light socket is a simple device that holds a light bulb and provides electricity. When the bulb burns out, you can easily replace it. Here’s how a light socket works.

How a light socket works

how a light socket works
How a light socket works is simple. Electricity flows through the hot wire into the brass tab in the center and into the light bulb. Electricity then flows through the bulb and through the threaded base of the bulb into the threaded base of the socket and out through the return wire.

I’m sure in science class you experimented with light bulbs and a battery, connecting wires directly from a battery to a loose bulb. A light socket works essentially the same way, using a base to hold everything together and make it easy to replace the bulb when necessary.

In a light socket, the black hot wire touches a tab-shaped contact inside the socket. The contact then touches the tip of the bulb. The threaded base of the socket holds the threaded base of the bulb tightly. The white common or return wire touches the base of the socket, completing the circuit. That’s all there is to it.

As long as the contact and base contact the bulb tightly and the contact and base remain clean and corrosion free, the sockets last years. I find light fixtures from the 1950s and 1960s that still work all the time. Light sockets tend to corrode more quickly in bathrooms due to moisture in the air. This can cause bulbs to burn out more quickly.

Fixing broken light sockets

I’ve fixed broken light sockets before. Usually the contact is the part that wears out and you can re-bend it to make the socket work again. You can also replace a socket if you can’t fix it. Most good hardware stores have replacement light sockets available for a few dollars.

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