Buying Guide – How to Shop for a Bedside Lamp
Many sleepers rely on bedside lamps for nighttime reading and other activities before sleep. These lamps are available in a wide range of sizes and styles, and most represent a relatively low investment despite performing for years.
However, buyers should take several factors into account when choosing a new lamp for their nightstand or bedside table. These include the lamp’s design, brightness level, and built-in features such as USB ports. Read on to learn more.
Bedside Lamp Designs and Features
Although shoppers can choose from many different shapes and styles, most bedside lamps include the following components:
- Bulb: Bedside lamps typically have an electrical socket for screwing in the bulb. Most bedside lamps are designed to use one light bulb, although some can accommodate two or more. With rare exception, bedside lamps sold in the U.S. should be used with a 60-watt light bulb or lower. Some newer lamps can be used with standard or LED bulbs.
- Lampshade: As the name implies, a lampshade’s primary purpose is to soften the bright light emitted by the bulb. Many lampshades are made from fabrics such as linen or polyester, which have a backing made of pressure-sensitive materials like styrene to prevent heat damage. Additionally, shades may be made of glass, plastic, metal, and other more durable materials. Many lamps are designed to be compatible with shades of different sizes and shapes.
- Frame: The lamp’s ‘frame’ refers to structural components that hold the socket/bulb and shade in place. Frame components vary by lamp design, but often include a thin wire known as a harp fitter that prevents the bulb and shade from coming into direct contact. Harp fitters connect to the saddle, another frame wire that extends from the neck of the lamp.
- Base: The base or stand supports the lamp. This component is often made of solid wood, plastic, ceramic materials, and/or metal. The power cord usually feeds into the base. Some modern lamps have additional features on the base, such as on/off switches, USB ports, and electrical outlets. Additionally, some bases have non-slip bottoms for added stability.
- Power Cord: Although some bedside lamps run on batteries, most models are powered by cords plugged into electrical outlets. The cord length will vary, but at least five to six feet is recommended to it will reach the nearest outlet.
Additional bedside lamp features found on some models also include the following:
- Wall Mounting: Rather that setting the lamp on a nightstand, some lights are designed to be mounted on walls over the bed using sconces and other features. Some sleepers prefer overhead light to light beside the bed.
- Swing Arm: A swing arm is a long, rounded frame component that can be swiveled to change the direction of the light. This feature can be helpful for those who constantly shift positions while reading in bed.
- USB Ports and Electrical Outlets: With the growing prevalence of smartphones and tablets, many bedside lamps have adopted USB ports for convenient nighttime device charging. A lamp may have anywhere from one to six ports. Some lamps also feature conventional outlets for plugging in laptop computers or other larger devices.
- Adjustable Settings: While many lamps offer one brightness setting, others allow owners to brighten or dim the light to different levels. Most of these models have switches on the base and/or power cord for adjusting the settings.
- Touch Controls: Although somewhat rare, some modern lamps are engineered for touch controls. Owners simply tap the base to turn the light on or off, or to adjust the brightness settings. This feature is usually found on more expensive lamps.
- Smart Hub Compatibility: Many homeowners use the Amazon Echo and other smart home hubs to manage different appliances and controls throughout the house, including light levels. Select lamps made today are designed to be programmed with these hubs.
Bedside Lamp Safety Concerns
Because they operate using electrical power and require light bulbs to work properly, bedside lamps carry certain safety risks. In this next section, we’ll discuss some of these issues and how to properly mitigate them.
Bulb Wattage and Socket Design
Lamp owners must ensure the bulb they use is rated for the correct wattage. Most lamps made today cannot handle a bulb that produces more than 60 watts. Using a bulb with too much wattage can cause an electrical fire. Each lamp comes with a sticker or tag indicating the maximum wattage.
Owners should also check the bulb’s base design to make sure it will fit securely into the lamp’s socket. Bulbs that are improperly fitted can easily overheat, and they may also slip out while hot.
Always turn off the lamp before replacing the bulb and wait at least five minutes for the bulb to cool down. Hot bulbs can burn the owner’s fingers and hands. When screwing in a new bulb, take care not to screw it in too tightly. Excessive rotations can cause the bulb to shatter, which poses an injury risk and can also damage the lamp socket.
Lampshades made of linen, polyester, and other fabrics should never come into contact with a working bulb. The heat from the bulb can burn the fibers and start a fire. This also damages the shade, usually beyond repair. The lamp’s frame should hold the shade in place, but after buying a new shade be sure to install it before plugging in the lamp to make sure it is stable.
As a general rule, never use lampshades made of fabric with no heat-sensitive backing. Paper lampshades should generally be avoided, as well.
Frayed Power Cords
If the lamp’s power cord becomes damaged, it might be time to replace the lamp altogether. Exposed wires are a fire risk when the cord is plugged into an outlet. Owners may opt to have the lamp repaired, but they should not attempt to fix this issue themselves.
Eye Damage and Sleep Issues
Overexposure to bright lights can damage the retinas. Although incandescent bulbs emit more radiant power, LED lights emit more light, including blue-spectrum light that has been linked to retinal deterioration.
Blue light can also affect sleep cycles by offsetting the sleeper’s circadian rhythm, a natural biological clock that tells the body when it’s time to sleep and wake up based on natural light cycles. Too much blue light makes people feel tired during the day and hyper-alert at night.
A lampshade can help soften light levels and reduce the risk of retina damage, as well as sleep-affecting blue light exposure. Many sleepers also find that warmer, more soothing bulb colors – such as deep orange – are better for sleep onset than bright yellows and whites.
When Should You Replace Your Bedside Lamp?
Owners should consider replacing their bedside lamp if one or more of the following issues occur:
- The light constantly flickers. This may indicate the light bulb needs to be replaced, but if the bulb is new or this occurs more than once, a defect in the lamp may be to blame.
- The lamp’s frame wires are broken. If the lamp cannot prevent the shade and bulb from coming in contact with each other, then this may cause a fire risk – especially if the shade is made of fabric and/or paper.
- The lampshade is torn or otherwise damaged. Aesthetics aside, a damaged shade may indicate too much heat exposure to the bulb. Holes in the shade can also lessen its light-softening abilities, leading to excessive brightness for users.
- The base is damaged, causing the lamp to lean on one side. Over time, this may cause the lamp to fall over, which poses a fire hazard if the bulb comes into contact with carpet fibers, bedding, and other flammable materials.
- The power cord is frayed. Never plug a power cord with exposed wires into an outlet.
Key Considerations for Bedside Lamp Shoppers
When shopping for a new bedside lamp, here are a few factors to take into account:
- How Much Should You Pay for a Bedside Lamp? Although price-points vary by design and features, most bedside lamps are available for less than $40. Bargain-seekers can typically find models for less than $20. If the lamp is an antique and/or it is constructed with expensive materials (such as gold or crystal), then expect the cost to be much higher.
- What Lamp Size/Weight Can Your Bedside Table Handle? A sturdy nightstand or table should be able to support a lamp of any size. However, excessively tall and/or heavy lamps may require an even more robust surface. Also make sure to measure the area around the table in case your lamp has a more irregular shape.
- What Is Your Preferred Brightness Level? Some nighttime readers prefer bright lights while others feel more comfortable with dimmer settings. The ideal lamp will provide enough brightness without hurting your eyes. If your preferred brightness level varies from night to night, then a lamp with adjustable settings may be the best option.
- What Type of Bulb Does the Lamp Use? This is important to note before purchasing. While most lamps can handle a bulb of 60 watts or less, some models are more restrictive. All lamps come with a tag or sticker that indicates the maximum wattage.
- Does the Lamp Come with a Money-back Guarantee or Warranty? Many lamp sellers offer trial periods – typically 30 to 90 days – for customers to test out the product. If you are not satisfied before the trial period expires, the company will issue a partial or full refund. In addition to trial periods, some manufacturers back their lamp with a warranty. For most lamps, the warranty will not exceed three years in length.