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Old 17th Feb 2018, 1:22 pm   #1
Tractorfan
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Smile Lamp adapter query.

Hi,
A friend of mine was given this early Bakelite lamp holder adapter. They are now classed as illegal because the cover can be removed without the use of a tool.
But, is it also illegal because of what it is?
Just wondering.
Cheers, Pete.
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Old 17th Feb 2018, 2:02 pm   #2
Boater Sam
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Default Re: Lamp adapter query.

Illegality depends on the circumstance and the person using. As far as I know you could not be prosecuted for owning or using one. But making it available to a tenant of your property is a no no. Selling one for use is probably against some regulation too.
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Old 17th Feb 2018, 3:16 pm   #3
Dave Moll
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Default Re: Lamp adapter query.

The irony is, of course, that it is only slightly more dangerous to open it to expose its live contacts than to unplug it (or indeed a light bulb) and expose those in the socket.

As to the original question, what it boils down to is whether it is permissible to run something other than a light bulb from a bayonet socket.
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Old 17th Feb 2018, 4:10 pm   #4
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Default Re: Lamp adapter query.

AFAIK, nothing prohibits private possession or use of these adaptors.

I would however strongly advise against selling them, or supplying them for use by other people.
They are still sold on ebay and by amazon, but that of course does NOT prove that so doing is either safe or legal.
An improved type is made whereby the cover screws on in the usual way, but is then locked into place by a small grub screw, this in theory then needs a tool for removal.

There is IMO still a LIMITED range of legitimate uses for these adaptors, even in the workplace.
About 5 years ago, I used dozens of them to plug Christmas lights into high level decorative light fittings in a shopping centre. No earth needed, minimal load that was in fact LESS than the incandescent lamp removed, and well out of reach.
Such circumstances are fairly limited though, and in general I would avoid such adaptors.

And over 40 years ago, I installed about 100 of these in a large shop ! Though the supply was 110 volts.
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Old 17th Feb 2018, 4:16 pm   #5
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Default Re: Lamp adapter query.

I have an old wooden one where the cap is secured by two brass woodscrews. But it has no flex grip, so I suppose still wouldn't meet current regs.
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Old 17th Feb 2018, 4:17 pm   #6
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Default Re: Lamp adapter query.

I believe the legal position is exactly the same as that of unsleeved BS1363 plugs.
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Old 17th Feb 2018, 4:30 pm   #7
David G4EBT
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Default Re: Lamp adapter query.

I think they actually originated not simply as a means of convenience to plug into a light bulb socket, where there weren't enough power sockets, but as a bit of a doge because there were two tariffs with some Electricity Boards - one for power, one for light. As a kid in the 40s and 50s, they abounded everywhere, sometimes with a 'Y' socket and a switch, so that the light bulb could stay in place, and whatever was plugged into the socket could be switched on and off.

As Dave Moll says, bayonet (and E.S.) sockets are probably the least safe items around the home.

I have a neighbour who lives alone and tries to be independent. She'd had a light bulb which went off with a bang and the glassware of the bulb fell onto the floor. She asked if I could help because try as she might, she couldn't get the brass bayonet fitting out of the light socket. When I went to have a look at it, the RCD at the Consumer Unit hadn't tripped and the light switch was still on. She told me she'd been "trying to 'unscrew' the brass bit but couldn't manage it as she didn't think her grip was strong enough". She'd been using a pair of uninsulated pliers, a few millimeters away from the live contact in the socket, attempting to 'unscrew' the remnants of the brass bayonet part of the dud bulb. Without her good luck and good fortune, it could have had a tragic outcome.
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Old 17th Feb 2018, 4:41 pm   #8
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Default Re: Lamp adapter query.

Just to note, I’m not a lawyer, but I do have some insight into this. I wonder that there has ever been a prosecution for the discovery of an as the OP calls it, illegal fitting, against a consumer. What could happen is that in the event of a third party being harmed or fatally electrocuted, a prosecution could be begun to attempt to probe liability and causation. So it’s not to trivialise the question , just to clarify the circumstances under which it could be become catastrophically serious.
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Old 17th Feb 2018, 5:40 pm   #9
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Default Re: Lamp adapter query.

While the practice of having different power and lighting tariffs was widespread, it was not universal. The Victorian flat I grew up in still had its original pre-war lighting installation with only the one meter. While there was electric lighting in nearly every room, the only sockets were one 15A in the kitchen and one 5A in the living room. I understand that electrification had been carried out by the old West Ham council at the time when electricity undertakings were the responsibility of local authorities, and that they did it for free. Our neighbour had obviously declined as their flat only had gas lighting until the elderly tenant died circa 1960. It should be recalled that prior to the introduction of the ring main, every wall socket normally had to have its own cable back to its own fuse at the main switch board.

AFAIK the only exceptions were that you could have three 5A sockets from a single 15A fuse if you used 15A cable throughout. Also, unlimited 2A sockets could be connected to the lighting circuit as they were treated as lighting points. The only ones of our relatives who didn't use those 2 way switched BC adapters were an Uncle and Aunt who lived in a post-war pre-fab, because they had at least one 3 pin 5A socket in every room.

So in the days when few people used anything electrical, unless you had enough money to spend on having proper wall sockets installed, plugging into the light socket made economic sense, and in the days when different gauges of proprietary sockets still abounded (2 pin and 3 pin BS546, Wandsworth, Wylex, D&S as well as the current 13A being examples of those I used to come across in various relatives' and friends' houses within a 5 mile radius in the 1950's), the BC adapter provided standardisation. .
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Old 17th Feb 2018, 5:54 pm   #10
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Default Re: Lamp adapter query.

I don't think it's illegal to own such an adapter or to use one in your own workshop (say).

I am not convinced it's illegal to sell them either. It may well be illegal to claim they are rated for 230V mains. But BC bulbs exist that run on much lower voltages (I've seen 24V ones), and just as you can supply the old-style screw-top Bulgin connectors but have to state that they are only rated for 50V unless inaccessible without the use of a tool, I suspect you could sell BC lampholder plugs stating that they are only to be used below 50V.
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Old 17th Feb 2018, 7:04 pm   #11
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Default Re: Lamp adapter query.

Regarding post #9 and differing tariffs for lighting and for power, It is an urban myth that people plugged electric irons and other loads into lamp sockets in order to save money.

Electricity for lighting was invariably more expensive than that supplied for power, so running an electric iron from a lamp socket was in fact costing money. It was done in the absence of suitable power sockets.

In the early days, electricity was used almost entirely for lighting. The supply company therefore had to invest a lot of capital in plant that only produced significant revenue between dusk and about midnight.
There was therefore a lot of interest in "building the daylight load" by encouraging the use of electricity for power purposes during the daylight hours.
Such electricity could be produced for little more than the coal cost, with no capital outlay as it used assets already paid for by the lighting load.

It was therefore sold very cheaply, often for half or less of the "lighting" rate.

The gas industry periodically complained about this, considering it to be unfair. "Only GAS is supplied at the same low and uniform rate, to anyone, to use for any purpose" was a popular slogan that indirectly criticised the differing electricity tariffs.
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Old 17th Feb 2018, 8:02 pm   #12
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Default Re: Lamp adapter query.

Quote:
Originally Posted by broadgage View Post
In the early days, electricity was used almost entirely for lighting.
That should probably be qualified as mains electricity. If I have remembered correctly what I have heard, I believe that the first commercial use of electricity (from batteries) was to operate the telegraph network.
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Old 17th Feb 2018, 9:00 pm   #13
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Default Re: Lamp adapter query.

Quote:
Originally Posted by broadgage View Post
Regarding post #9 and differing tariffs for lighting and for power, It is an urban myth that people plugged electric irons and other loads into lamp sockets in order to save money.
True: "Saving money" on the leccy-bill was never a driver for plugging things into light-sockets; the 1940s/1950s zeitgeist was always more like "there's only one socket in this flat and it's in the living-room and the telly/radio/heater are all plugged into it, so when I want to do the ironing we got an adapter so I can plug the iron into the light socket in the kitchen".

I recall 3-way BC adapters with a pull-cord-switch that controlled the 'straight through' socket [for the lightbulb] so you could leave the thing always powered-on at the wall switch so the kitchen 'accessories' [iron/radio/toaster] had power all the time and the light was controlled by the pull-cord. All this dangled precariously on a bit of rubber/cotton-insulated twisted twin-flex from the ceiling rose.
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Old 17th Feb 2018, 9:20 pm   #14
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Default Re: Lamp adapter query.

I believe the problem here is the reference made to legalities and under what circumstances the validity of the product for use is acceptable. For example all electrical products are manufactured in accordance with IEC recommendations in conjunction with the applicable national codes of recommendations be they BS/ANSI and so forth. One need not comply fully with such recommendations but must state to what extent under type test conditions.
Similarly, Insurance companies will often if not always mandate compliance with what are fundamental issues that are generally recommendations that are supported by empirical data. Ergo, who has the overall responsibility should any form of legality be challenged?
In general, usage factors and safety are as stated previously and who has responsibility for maintaining that safety. I have only ever come across one item in the last 50 years that was banned. It was a 440V, 3Phase motor starter that had a bistable mechanical latching device that allowed the starter to remain closed if the power was lost at any time. Clearly, the motor would immediately start automatically when the power was reconnected.
For information purposes most of the HV Circuit Breakers used globally from 3300V to 1,000,000V utilise SF6 gas as a dielectric and arc extinguishing medium. Under fault conditions there are arced products for consideration which are generally classified as SF4. This is highly toxic if exposed to any moisture such as sweat on your hands?
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Old 19th Feb 2018, 1:50 pm   #15
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Default Re: Lamp adapter query.

An electric shaver is probably the item most commonly used with a bayonet plug/adapter.
People who spend too much time at work (like me) will know this!
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Old 21st Feb 2018, 11:55 pm   #16
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Default Re: Lamp adapter query.

What David said:
Quote:
As a kid in the 40s and 50s, they abounded everywhere, sometimes with a 'Y' socket and a switch, so that the light bulb could stay in place, and whatever was plugged into the socket could be switched on and off.
Exactly. I remember my Mum had one in the kitchen. The lamp was fitted into the 'straight through' part and the "branch line" off the side was just left open. If she wanted to do some ironing or listen to the radio (Housewives Choice, Workers Playtime or heaven forbid, Mrs. Dale's Diary) it was plugged into the side socket. The kitchen was her domain and woe betide anyone who changed the station on 'her'radio!
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Old 22nd Feb 2018, 1:00 am   #17
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Default Re: Lamp adapter query.

Plugs for light sockets were quite popular with people living in places like student digs where non-BS1363 sockets were fitted so landlords could control what was allowed to be plugged in.

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Old 22nd Feb 2018, 11:14 am   #18
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Default Re: Lamp adapter query.

A picture is worth a thousand words....

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I believe 'confiscated' from a bedsit student who used it to bypass the electric meter... back in the late '60's if I recall correctly (my father was the landlord). It still works perfectly.
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Old 22nd Feb 2018, 11:28 am   #19
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Default Re: Lamp adapter query.

How did it bypass the meter? Was the bedsit a quick conversion job with just the single socket on a slotmeter but lighting on the general house circuit?
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Old 22nd Feb 2018, 11:40 am   #20
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Default Re: Lamp adapter query.

I think that was exactly it - 2 spare bedrooms in the family house rented out to students, with slot meters on the sockets I believe.

No idea what the wiring was like then, it was an old Victorian 3-story in London, so I assume my father had just metered the socket(s) in each bedroom, and left the lighting as it was. It was in the pre- central heating days, so plug in heaters etc. were much more common, but obviously expensive to run.
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