Eco Friendly Household Goods

Published on November 19th, 2014 | by Peter Young


3-Way Bulbs: How They Work And How They Can Save You Money

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If you’re looking for a way to spend a little less money around your home, try finding places where you can use 3-way light bulbs. Not only will they give you more control over the level of light in a given room, if used properly, they should save you money on your monthly electric bill. So what is a 3-way light bulb?

A 3-way light bulb is a bulb capable of producing three different levels of light. So how exactly do these bulbs work? Traditional 3-way bulbs have two different filaments that will produce light at increasing levels of illumination (more light) which correspond to increasing amounts of power used (as noted in the picture above). See the diagram below to get a better idea of what I’m referring to:

3Way_bulb_diagramNowadays there are very efficient 3-way LED bulbs, and the innards are different, but the results are basically the same. Depending on the level of light desired the bulb will use either the low or medium wattage filament or both. It’ll use the low filament when only a low amount of lighting output is desired, the medium filament when more is desired or both filaments when the most light is desired. However, in order for these types of bulbs to function properly they will need to be installed into a 3-way light socket, which are commonly found on just about any lamp. Check out this video to get a better idea of how these bulbs work:

Why go with a 3-way light bulb? Because it can save you money and still provide you with enough light for your daily/nightly activities. The idea here is pretty simple, don’t use more light than you need. Often times the bulbs in your lamp are producing more light than is necessary for whatever task you’re doing. By using a 3-way bulb you can reduce the amount of light and energy used thus saving you money.

Fortunately, 3-way bulbs can now be purchased in both CFL and LED styles which means you can still get the same desired control over your light levels without having to use a less energy efficient incandescent lightbulb.

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So how do you know if a 3 way bulb is applicable to a particular socket? The answer lies inside the socket itself. As noted in the socket pictured at right, there are three connection points. The second one is the one that is important to look for. If that connection point is present, it’s more than likely you have a 3-way bulb socket.

Of course, there’s more to it than that. You also need a switch or twist knob that will allow you to toggle between the high, medium, low, and off settings on a 3-way bulb.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia, Cree

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About the Author

graduated from Pacific Lutheran University (PLU) with a degree in journalism and has made sustainability and eco-conscious living mainstays of both his professional and personal life. It was during his time at PLU that he began his journey with sustainability and it's what has led him to writing for Green Living Ideas. He currently resides in Honolulu and works for Pono Home, an energy efficiency company focused on reducing carbon emissions and promoting a healthier, greener lifestyle.

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