What Is A 3 Way Bulb?

Of course we all know what a light bulb is, the majority of us have multiple of them dotted around the house to keep it warm and bright.

However, many of us may not even realize that we also have what are called 3-way bulbs that provide a bit of a different lighting experience that can change the entire mood of a room. 

Here is all you need to know about these modernized bulbs and why it is always worth looking into picking some up as an exciting switch up from regular bulbs.

Main Differences Between A Regular And 3-Way Bulb

A 3 way bulb is a bulb that rather than offering one stationary mode of light will instead offer 3 being low, medium and high.

They look a little different to standard 1 way bulbs as the bottom of their screw will have 2 silver and black filament contacts while a standard only has 1 and then an outer conductor.

They also have 2 prongs on the bottom and an additional wire that extends and connects them to allow for more than one wiring option to adjust the light just as you would like in each room. 

How Does A 3 Way Bulb Work?

When you first turn the bulb on the switch it will connect to the outer ring contact which is the lowest wattage and will activate the low setting of the bulb.

The second time you press the switch, power will be disconnected from the electrical contact and instead connects to the center one which is the slightly higher wattage element that will flick on the medium setting. 

You can then connect both of these settings at the same time with another press that will put it on the maximum brightness while a final press will switch it off entirely.

This is how the electricity and switches operate in the majority of 3 way bulbs however some newer and more recent versions even allow you to tap the touch sensitive thicker material a certain amount of times. 

Will A 3-Way Bulb Fit Into Any Lamp?

3 way bulbs are usually paired with 3 way lamps to allow them to work as they should with the 3 interchangeable settings.

However, they can still be inserted into any regular lamp and will provide a great and optimal amount of lighting for any room.

Keep in mind however that if you do this because you will be using a single switch, it will only use the higher wattage setting which would be the ‘medium’ compartment when using a 3 way switch and lamp so while it will provide a good amount of lighting, you will not be able to adjust the settings as intended.

Main Benefits Of A 3-way Bulb

The biggest benefit that the whole device is based around is the adjustable lighting which is often referred to as ‘mood lighting’ especially when it’s paired with a color as depending on which of the 3 settings you choose, you can make a room more vibrant for those busier occasion, relaxed when you’re on your own or dim for a more personal touch. 

It also allows you to save far more money and energy by putting the light on a dim setting whenever you can and only turning it up when absolutely necessary.

3 way bulbs also suit a much wider range of activities compared to standard bulbs.

For example when you’re planning to read a book in bed, a lamp staring down at you can often be a little too bright while a dimmer light in the kitchen sometimes needs to be a bit brighter to ensure we don’t make a mistake. 

Is It Possible To Buy A 3 Way LED Lightbulb?

Not only can you buy 3 way LED bulbs extremely easily these days, but they also add a massive amount of aesthetic value to a room especially since the range of colors you can choose from can be adjusted to a certain brightness.

They also have the added bonus of turning on bright immediately as opposed to regular bulbs which often take a little time to reach maximum brightness and they also produce a lot less heat making them easier to handle.

They are also a lot more environmentally friendly since they will often only use 3.5/7/14/5 watts but still let out the brightness equivalent to that of many other bulbs so they are never a bad way to go if you don’t mind spending a bit more and like the idea of adding some vibrant color to a room. 

What Is The Off-On-Off-On Pattern?

This is a fairly common occurrence in 3 way bulbs and refers to the bulb flickering on and then going off with usually a few seconds in between.

If you have a bulb that is doing this, it can sometimes be worth checking that you are using a 3 way bulb on not a standard one by mistake as this can sometimes mess with the wattage.

Other reasons are that the lower wattage part of the three way bulb has burned out or that contact for the lower wattage element may be defective and is causing an uneven balance in energy and lighting. 

If you have made sure you’re using a 3 way bulb and it keeps repeating this motion even when you reinsert it, it could mean that it’s time to replace the bulb as there has been some deficiency in its system.


When you want to make a room more vibrant or you just want a single light that can easily be adjusted for each and every situation without standing out and becoming an eye sore, 3 way bulbs are definitely the way to go if you don’t mind spending a bit more.

However, with the sheer amount of benefits and customisation they provide, we would say it is more than worth it.