September 11, 2018 by phicks2012
On either side of my front door, and on either side of my side door are Carriage Lights — big, black metal & glass ones that look cool and reasonably Castle-appropriate, but the two sets weren’t, and aren’t, the same. The ones in front were/are larger, and were wired to hold three of those little chandelier light bulbs with the tiny little bases, while the ones at the side door were/are, a bit smaller and wired for only a single normal bulb. So, when I wanted to change out incandescent and fluorescent light bulbs and replace them with LEDs, to save on power, I was not particularly thrilled to realize that I would have to buy SIX LEDs for the front door carriage lights rather than only TWO.
Now, you might or might not have noticed that LED bulbs (while really economical to use and long-lasting) tend to be about the same price no matter what size they are. This meant that it would cost me around $40 more to change out the lights in front than it would to change out the ones at the side — and, well, that just wasn’t all that thrilling an option in my humble opinion. 😉
In any case, me being me, I thought to myself, why don’t I just modify the lights in front to hold one regular-sized bulb each rather than three little ones? I mean, how hard could that be?
Turns out, it’s a royal pain, because when I started looking for the conversion parts I found myself unable to find anything at all that was meant for that purpose. I called Lighting Supply businesses (what few I could find), visited Home-Improvement stores, and even went on line, but without any luck at all finding a black (or paintable), screw-on outdoor-rated replacement socket. It was, as far as I could determine, either replace the carriage lights in their entirety — and at around $100 each that was not at ALL likely to be my first choice — or jury-rig something myself that would do the job.
So I went, in desperation, to the hardware store — where they’re reasonably accustomed to me coming in with bizarre jury-rigged project ideas that always seem to require a weird assortment of diverse items — and bought the following: 2 replacement screw-on lamp sockets (the ones without switches), a box of Ball Lids (like you use on Mason Jars when home canning), a short piece of thick PVC pipe about 1.25″ in diameter, and a can of matt black spray paint (the kind that works well on plastic).
Okay, so the sockets were intended for lamps rather than for outdoor use, but then Carriage Lights have their sockets covered and enclosed in glass, so I figured they’d still be okay because they wouldn’t actually be exposed to weather.
After unscrewing and unwiring the original three-socket “thingies” (I lack the proper terminology, so “thingie” is going to have to do for now), the idea was to drill holes (just big enough to screw over the shafts of the fixtures) in two of the ball lids, so that when in place they would resemble the little dishes on candle-holders that are intended to catch dripping wax. I then planned to spray paint them matt black and screw them in place on each fixture, and then wire-up and screw on the replacement sockets. Because the new sockets were Brass, and would therefore stand out like sore thumbs if uncovered, I then planned to slide lengths of PVC (also painted black and cut just long enough to conceal the shiney new sockets) down over them. The lower edges of these tubes, when in place, would rest on the little dishes, which would keep the PVC from sliding further down, and the black paint would allow the new parts to match the rest of the fixtures. BINGO. Screw in the new bulbs, and there you go!!!
I half expected that when I got home and unveiled my plan to Jason — who had already determined to handle the conversion himself because, well, he’s male — he was going to tell me it was a dumb idea, but instead he nodded, said “Yeah, that’ll do it”, and set out to put my nefarious scheme into action.
He didn’t wind up using the ball lids after all, though. He just cut the PVC a little longer so that it slid all the way down, used the paint, and if you didn’t know for a fact those lights had been “tinkered with” you would never think they had.
So, for about $25 total (and with all of the Ball lids, half of the PVC, and most of the spray paint left over) we converted both of those Carriage Lights to hold single bulbs. My ploy worked, and in celebration, instead of buying regular LED bulbs, I got four of those new Flame-Effect LEDs.
Yup. I found some on-line for about the same price as normal LED bulbs, so now my exterior house lights look like flames. Neat for a Castle, huh?
They don’t light up much of the yard, because we’re only takling about maybe 60-watts max, but this story just goes to show, I guess, that while expecting some simple things to be commercially available can be a total pipe dream, thinking out-of-the-box (or fixture) sometimes works very well!! 😉