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Edison screw (ES) is a standard lightbulb socket for electric light bulbs. It was developed by Thomas Edison and was licensed in 1909 under General Electric's Mazda trademark. The bulbs have right-hand threaded metal bases (caps) which screw into matching threaded sockets (lamp holders). For bulbs powered by AC current, the thread is generally connected to neutral and the contact on the bottom tip of the base is connected to the "live" phase.
In North America and continental Europe, Edison screws displaced other socket types for general lighting. In the early days of electrification, Edison screws were the only standard connector, and appliances other than light bulbs were connected to AC power via lamp sockets. Today Edison screw sockets comply with international standards.
Early US incandescent lamp manufacturers used several different and incompatible bases. The Thomson-Houston Electric Company used a threaded stud at the bottom of the socket and a flat contact ring. The Sawyer-Mann or Westinghouse base used a spring clip acting on grooves in the bulb base and a contact stud at the bottom of the lamp. By about 1908, the Edison base was most common in the US with the others falling out of use.
- Lamp Caps—ANSI C81.61 and IEC 60061-1
- Lamp Holders—NSI C81.62 and IEC 60061-2
- Gauges (to ensure interchangeability)—ANSI C81.63 and IEC 60061-3
- Guidelines for Electrical Lamp Bases, Lampholders and Gauges—ANSI C81.64 and IEC 60061-4
Generally, the two standards are harmonized, although several types of screw mount are still defined in only one standard.
In the designation "Exx", "E" stands for "Edison" and "xx" indicates the diameter in millimeters as measured across the peaks of the thread on the base (male), e.g., E12 has a diameter of 12 mm. This is distinct from the glass envelope (bulb) diameter, which in the U.S. is given in eighths of an inch, e.g., A19, MR16, T12.
There are four commonly used thread size groups for mains supply lamps:
- Candelabra: E12 North America, E11 in Europe
- Intermediate: E17 North America, E14 (Small ES, SES) in Europe
- Medium or standard: E26 (MES) in North America, E27 (ES) in Europe
- Mogul: E39 North America, E40 (Goliath ES) in Europe.
The E26 and E27 are usually interchangeable, as are the E39 and E40, because there is only a 1 mm difference in thread outside diameter. E11 and E12 are not interchangeable. Other semi-standard screw thread sizes are available for certain specific applications.
The large E39 "Mogul" and E40 "Goliath" base are used on street lights, and high-wattage lamps (such as a 100-/200-/300-watt three-way) and many high-intensity discharge lamps. In areas following the U.S. National Electrical Code, general-use lamps over 300 W cannot use an E26 base and must instead use the E39 base; 300 W lamps may use either base. Medium Edison screw (MES) bulbs for 12 V are also produced for recreational vehicles. Large outdoor Christmas lights use Intermediate base, as do some desk lamps and many microwave ovens. Previously, emergency exit signs also tended to use the intermediate base, but U.S. and Canadian rules now require long-life and energy-efficient LED lamps, which can be purchased inside a conventional Edison base bulb as a retrofit. A medium screw base should not carry more than 25 amperes current; this may limit the practical rating of low voltage lamps.
E29 "Admedium" bases are used for special applications, for example UV spotlight lamps in magnetic crack detection machines.
E12 is typically used for candelabra fixtures. E17 is also sometimes used, especially in small table lamps and novelty lighting, and occasionally the lights on newer ceiling fans. Christmas lights use various base sizes E17 for C9 bulbs, E12 for C7 bulbs, E10 for decades-old series-wired C6 bulb sets in the U.S., and an entirely different wedge base for T1¾ mini lights. For a short time early on, these mini lights were manufactured using E5 screw bases.
A tiny E5 or E5.5 size is used only for extra-low voltages, such as in interior illumination for model buildings, and model vehicles such as model trains. These are often called "pea bulbs" if they are globe-shaped, but they commonly look like mini Christmas bulbs, or large "grain-of-wheat" bulbs. E10 bulbs are common on battery-powered flashlights, as are bayonet mounts (although those are usually held in with a circular flange located where the base meets the glass envelope of the bulb). The E11 base is sometimes used for 50/75/100-watt halogen lights in North America, where it is called the "mini-can", and tighter threads are used to keep them out of E12-base nightlights and other places where they could start a fire.
There are also adapters between screw sizes, and for adapting to or from bayonet caps. A socket extender makes the bulb stick out further, such as to accommodate a compact fluorescent lamp that doesn't fit in a recessed lighting fixture.
Most Edison screws have right-hand threads (lamp is turned clockwise to tighten), but left-hand threaded screws are sometimes used, usually for a non-standard voltage or wattage bulb. This prevents the use of an incorrect bulb, which could cause damage. Public locations such as railway trains and the New York City Subway have used light bulbs with left-hand threads to discourage theft of the bulbs for use in regular light fixtures.
Some adapters for wall outlets use an Edison screw, allowing a light socket to become an ungrounded electrical outlet (such as to install Christmas lights temporarily via a porch light), or to make a pull-chain switch with two outlets, or to split it for two lamps. Another adapter can make a wall outlet into a lamp holder (lamp socket).
Various other accessories have been made, including a smoke detector that recharges over a few hours and lasts for a few days or weeks thereafter, and still allows the attached lamp to operate normally. There have also been electronics that stick onto the end of the screw base and allow the attached lamp to flash, for example, to attract the attention of arriving guests or emergency vehicles; others function as a dimmer or timer, or dim gradually in a child's bedroom in the evening.
Some thermionic valves vacuum tubes, such as certain rectifiers, use an Edison screw base.
|Designation||Base major diameter (thread external)||Name||Application||IEC 60061-1 standard sheet|
|E5||5 mm||Lilliput Edison Screw (LES)||Indicator lights, decorative lights||7004-25|
|E10||10 mm||Miniature Edison Screw (MES), C6||Flashlights, bicycle lights||7004-22|
|E11||11 mm||Mini-Candelabra Edison Screw (mini-can)||120 V halogen mini-candelabra||(7004-6-1)|
|E12||12 mm||Candelabra Edison Screw (CES), C7||120 V candelabra/night lamp||7004-28|
|E14||14 mm||Small Edison Screw (SES)||230 V candelabra/chandelier, night lamps, and some pendant lights.||7004-23|
|E17||17 mm||Intermediate Edison Screw (IES), C9||120 V appliance / Outdoor Christmas||7004-26|
|E26||26 mm||[Medium] (one-inch) Edison Screw (ES or MES)||Standard 120 V lamps||7004-21A-2|
|E27||27 mm||[Medium] Edison Screw (ES)||Standard 230 V lamps||7004-21|
|E39||39 mm||Single-contact (Mogul- in America) Goliath Edison Screw (GES)||120 V 250+ W industrial||7004-24-A1|
|E40||40 mm||(Mogul) Goliath Edison Screw (GES)||230 V 250+ W industrial||7004-24|
Three-way lamps have a d suffix to indicate double contacts, usually E26d or E27d, or rarely E39d. The second contact is used for the lower-wattage filament of the two inside the lamp. This extra contact is a ring located around the main contact. Unlike bayonet sockets, three-way and regular lamps are interchangeable, although the low filament or low setting doesn’t work if mismatched.
The small Edison screw has nine threads per inch, or about 2.8 mm per thread.
The medium Edison screw has seven threads per inch, or about 3.6 mm per thread. In the U.S., the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 requirement for greater energy efficiency only applies to the medium Edison screw, all other being considered "specialty" lamps.
Diazed fuses DII uses the same E27 thread as standard 230 V lamps, but have a longer body and cannot be screwed into a lamp holder (socket). A lamp base is too short to contact the bottom terminal of a fuse holder. However it's possible (but not useful) to screw a DII fuse holder without a fuse in an E27 lamp holder.
- The metal screw itself forms one of the contacts for the circuit. If the lighting system is not correctly wired, or a lamp is plugged into a non-polarized outlet, the metal screw can become live, presenting an electric shock hazard to anyone attempting to change the lamp.
- It is possible to over-tighten the screw, risking breaking the bulb or separation of the glass envelope from the metal base and leaving the base in the socket, especially when subsequently attempting to unscrew it.
- If the lamp becomes loose in the socket due to vibration or under-tightening, it can lose contact with the center contact and stop working until it is tightened. The bayonet type is resistant to vibration and much less likely to become loose.
- As the metal thread carries current, any arcing can jam the thread.
- Corrosion is more likely to jam a screw thread than a bayonet fixing.
- Screwing in and unscrewing the bulb places more force on the glass envelope.
- When fixing anything with a cable attached, the cable will twist as the screw is turned.
- Screw bases are more suitable for small size bulbs
- A bulb fully screwed home is more secure than a bayonet fit bulb
- Moisture and debris are less likely to contaminate the contacts of a screw base bulb
- Spring contacts are not necessary on screw base bulbs (the spring tension must not only ensure a good contact but it must also hold the bulb securely in the bayonet so there is a compromise)
- I.C.S. Reference Library volume 4B, International Textbook Company, Scranton PA 1908, pp. 43–41
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- McManus, Chris (2004). Right Hand, Left Hand: The Origins of Asymmetry in Brains, Bodies, Atoms and Cultures. Harvard University Press. p. 46. Retrieved 2015-01-25.
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- "IEC 60061 INTERNATIONAL STANDARD – Lamp caps and holders" (PDF) (in French and English) (3.51 ed.). Geneva: IEC. December 2014. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 April 2013. Retrieved 22 March 2015.(subscription required)
- Formisano, Bob. "2007 Energy Bill – Are They Phasing Out or Making Incandescent Bulbs Illegal? Incandescent Exemptions: Where You Can Still Use Existing Bulbs". About.com. Archived from the original on 27 April 2009. Retrieved 22 March 2015.
- ANSI C81.61-2007 American National Standard for electrical lamp bases – Specifications for Bases (Caps) for Electric Lamps, National Electrical Manufacturers Association, retrieved 21 November 2018
- Media related to Edison screw at Wikimedia Commons