CFL Bulbs and Lampshades

Compact Fluorescent Bulbs and Lampshades

My problem is with lampshades. The old fashioned "harp" style does not fit over the new CFL bulbs. The shades that sit over the fixture and then you screw the bulb in place to hold it sometimes doesn't work because the bulb does not screw down far enough into the socket to make contact. The type that fits over the bulb and is held in place by a finial is sometimes too close to the CFL bulb. In other words, the shade doesn't fit because the bulb is too "tall." Any ideas?
Kris W.

Ways to Make the Lampshade Fit with a CFL Bulb

As a previously self-employed electrician specializing in lighting repair and building custom light fixtures for the last sixteen years, and in the construction field for a total of forty-five years, I have a few suggestions that might be of use to you with your problem.

  1. The harp is easily replaced with one of a larger diameter (to provide clearance for the compact fluorescent bulb) with only a minor change in overall height (not only are replacement harps available that are taller, but also wider versions too).
  2. You might also like: CFL vs LED Light Bulbs

  3. Install the shade and then a common screw-in socket extension/adapter yourself to "securely hold" the shade in place and also get some additional height to "raise the socket" above the shade. Then install the bulb.
  4. Look for a two-piece socket, typically made of "bake-lite" or a plastic-like material that secures a lampshade by horizontal support arms near the vertical center of the shade. There's probably a half-dozen different ways of mounting lampshades available on the market. Keep looking. You'll find one that works for you. There are also individuals that custom-build lampshades as a hobby/business that could help you. Many are quite inexpensive, especially the hobbyists. Check the Yellow Pages under Lighting, call a few and ask for referrals.

All these parts mentioned above are available typically at any hardware store, lighting specialty store and at any large home improvement store. If you are unsure still of how to go about any of these fixes, ask at your local hardware store as they are generally very willing to help you in your quest.

CFL Bulbs Change Over Time

CFL bulbs aren't all the same size. The first generation of CFLs tended to use longer tubes for brighter bulbs, which meant that the higher the wattage, the harder it was to fit it into a standard lamp or fixture. However, many newer bulbs have solved this problem with a clever spiral design that fits the same total amount of tubing into a smaller space. These bulbs are not much bigger than a standard incandescent. You can find them at the big home centers, such as Lowe's or Home Depot, for about $10 per half dozen.

If you want to make sure the bulbs you're choosing will fit your lamp, measure the length of the harp before you go to the store. Then take a tape measure with you and measure the bulb from the tip to the base (including the ballast). You should be able to find at least one type of bulb that will fit.

By the way, if you have to discard some of your older CFLs because they don't fit any of your light fixtures, make sure to dispose of them properly. Fluorescent bulbs contain mercury and should be treated as household hazardous waste and not thrown out with the regular trash.

Related: Frugal Interior Lighting Choices

Try Different Harps, Lampshades, and CFL Bulbs

Here are two solutions to the problem of adding CFL bulbs to old lamps:

  1. Buy a larger harp to which the lampshade fastens. Harps come in a variety of heights./li>
  2. Check the size to find a CFL bulb that fits your lamp. I have these bulbs in lamps throughout my home. All my lampshades still fit.

Barbara in CT

DIY Fix to Make the Lampshade Fit CFL Bulbs

I had a similar problem with my heirloom lamps I refused to give up on. The lampshades were not heirlooms. After trying to figure out how to get the new bulbs to seat properly, my daughter came up with cutting the ring that the bulb sits on. It gave it enough easement to have the bulb come into contact properly and didn't distort the shade. We used a hacksaw to saw into the metal ring. It was easy, and now it works like a charm!

Shop home improvement for great prices at

Use Harp Extenders

There are harp extenders available for very little cost. They are small plastic pieces that fit into the receptacle of the harp and lengthen the height of it to allow fitting in the new bulbs. In addition, they widen the harp to allow for the bigger diameter of the bulbs. They are available at lighting stores and many hardware stores.

Take the Next Step

  • Could spending 5 minutes reading a newsletter twice a week save you time and money every day? Dollar Stretcher Tips readers think so. Subscribe and find out how many ideas stretch your day and your dollar! Subscribers get a copy of our ebook Little Luxuries: 130 Ways to Live Better...For Less for FREE.

Stay Connected with TDS

Little Luxuries

to the Dollar Stretcher newsletter and get a copy
of our ebook
Little Luxuries:
130 Ways to Live Better...For Less
for FREE!

Your Email:

View the TDS Privacy Policy.

Debt Book