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What Is a Socket Extender?

By Cindy Quarters
Updated May 16, 2024
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A socket extender is an electrical accessory that is easily screwed into a light bulb socket to extend the socket's length. They come in a variety of lengths, colors and materials. In many cases a socket extender can be used to make an adjustment to a lamp or other light fixture so that bulbs other than those originally intended for the fixture can be used.

The use of a socket extender can allow a compact fluorescent light bulb to fit into a lamp that otherwise might not accommodate the bulb’s size and shape. The extender is used to raise the base of the bulb above a narrow neck or other obstruction in the lamp. This allows the wider fluorescent bulb to fit into the lamp that previously could not accept it.

In some situations, a socket extender is used to bring the light bulb up out of a recessed hole in order to provide a greater area of coverage. Track lighting and recessed lighting fixtures typically have the light bulbs set into a holder that provides directional shielding for the bulb. The further into the holder the bulb is placed, the smaller its area of output. When the bulb is moved toward the opening at the end of the holder by the addition of an extender, the light spreads out more, illuminating a larger area.

The choice of a socket extender is dependent on many different variables. Color is largely a matter of personal taste. Most socket extenders come in either black or white, and normally the color of the fixture will dictate the color of the extender, though in many cases it won’t matter, as the extender in normal use is rarely seen. The composition of the extender is also a matter of preference, as they are generally made of porcelain or of various plastics or composites. All are considered to be equally effective and safe.

The main concern when purchasing a socket extender is its length. They are available in a range of sizes, from less than 1 inch long (about 2.5 cm) to 8 inches or more (about 20 cm). The size purchased depends on how much of a change needs to be made in the original socket.

A small adjustment needs only a small extender, but a bigger change calls for a long socket extender. In some cases, special extenders can be used. These split to allow two bulbs to run from a single socket, or bend to alter the direction of the light. Using this type of extender allows for significant changes made by simply screwing a socket extender into an existing light socket.

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