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Buying a Light Fixture Abroad? A Guide for US and Canadian Globe Trotters

Buying a Light Fixture Abroad?  A Guide for US and Canadian Globe Trotters
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You are in the bazaar in Marrakesh or Istanbul feeling the energy from being in an exotic place.  The unfamiliarity of your surroundings heightens your senses so that everything you see is beautiful, everything you eat is delicious and almost everything that is up for sale looks like something that should be brought home.  We know the feeling - we’ve been there.  But, as sellers of lighting, we also get many calls from customer fresh from their foreign trips frustrated that the gorgeous lamp they brought back home doesn’t work or let out a scary spark (yikes!).

So here we have put together a few pointers to guide you in your purchase of a Turkish chandelier or Moroccan lamp so that you don’t end up bringing back a headache or a major project.

  1. Voltage. There is a misconception that the wiring of the lamp is different from country to country because the voltage is different.  It isn’t.  Wire conduct electricity whether it is 110 volt or 220 volt – wire doesn’t discriminate.  So long as you use a bulb purchased in the US (made for 110 volt usage), you don’t have to worry about the voltage difference.
Pro Tip: Don’t bring a lamp from abroad with a light bulb in it and plug it into a socket in the US.  If you do, the light produced from the bulb will be very dim or just won’t work.

 

  1. Bulb socket. The most common bulb sockets used in the US are E26 (standard/medium) and E12 (candelabra/chandelier).  The European equivalents are E27 and E14 bulb sockets.  You can fit an E26 (US) bulb in an E27 bulb socket, so you will be able to use an American E26 bulb with without much problem if you have a European E27 bulb socket. But, the smaller American chandelier base bulbs (E12) will not fit an E14 bulb socket.  You will either have to get an adapter (widely available) that converts E14 to E12 or change the bulb socket. 

Pro tip: Don’t insert a US chandelier base bulb into the E14 socket and turn it on to test it.  The bulb could go deep into the bulb socket and short circuit, which will cause there to be a spark, bulb to burn out and melt the metal or plastic inside the bulb socket.

  1. Wiring. This is where you have to be careful.  We have seen many light fixtures sold in Turkey, Morocco and other countries where the wiring is an extremely thin gauge wire.   Wire gauge that is very thin heats up fast and is a fire risk, so this is not a matter to be taken lightly.  In the US, we typically used 18 gauge wire in lamps, which is about 1mm thick.  The correct thickness (gauge) of the wire depends on the amps that the bulb is going to draw, the higher the wattage of the bulb or bulbs, the higher the amp load it is placing on the wire.  With typical Turkish mosaic chandeliers that have multiple bulbs, you have to consider not just the rating of each individual strand but also the rating of the line that connects to these individual strands and goes into the wall.  

Pro Tip: Without getting into the technical details, we recommend that you start with LED bulbs that are low wattage (5-7 watts).  The mosaic globes will not appear as beautiful or sparkly as when used with higher wattage incandescent bulbs (because of the difference in color temperature), but it is safer to use your fixture with these bulbs until you can figure out the wire gauge used and what wattage bulbs will be safe to use. 

  1. Hanging. In the US, we use a cross bar and a canopy to hang most of our fixtures.  A 5” diameter canopy covers most junction box holes in the ceiling.  Not so in Turkey or Morocco.  In most cases, you will find either just a hook or a canopy that is too small to cover the junction box. 
Pro tip:  Ask the seller if they can provide the fixture with a 5” (13 cms) diameter canopy and a crossbar.  If they sell a lot to US customers as they may claim, they should be able to accommodate your request.  If you get the fixture with just the hook, it is a bit of task to retrofit it for US ceilings, so if there is a way to avoid the hassle, we recommend that you at least try.

  

  1. Price. The price of mosaic globes vary by the quality of the glass, the grout and its construction and of course, the size of the globe.  Here are some tips to look for to spot low quality globes: look for glass pieces that jut out when you run your hand over the globe (indicating shoddy construction), grout (the white part between the glass) easily scrapes off when you scratch it with your nail and is dusty (as opposed to pasty) and glass looks dull when lit (as opposed to sparkly).    

 As a general guide, in Turkey, you should be able to purchase a lamp for 50-60% the price of what you would pay for a similar item purchased in the US.  Do a quick google search and find the product on Amazon or on our site, www.littlelightbazaar.com and get an idea of its retail price in the US and then half it.  That’s where you should begin your haggling!

With respect to prices for light fixtures in Morocco, generally, we have found them to be priced quite high and most sellers are not very inclined to bargain the price down very much.  So if you are expecting a bargain purchasing in light fixture in Morocco, best of luck.  We have found that for most items, our prices are often less than what you would find similar fixtures for in Morocco, with the added benefit that our lighting is specifically made for US or Canadian homes and is UL listed (electrical code compliant).    

Pro tip:  If you have found something in a shop that you cannot find with a google search, remember that many suppliers in the US, including us, can have the lamp you have your heart set on sourced or made by reputable manufacturers and deliver it to you in the US and it might not cost much more than buying it at a Bazaar and save you the hassle of stuffing it in your luggage and potential breakage.  Just make sure to take a nice picture of the target lamp and note down the size.

As far as Moroccan-style metal lamps, look for heavier gauge metal and brass or copper construction.  Fixtures that feel like they are made of thin gauge metal and are light are easier to crush during transport and are typically not of high quality.  If the lamp is made of iron, it will also be susceptible to rusting in the more humid environment found in most of the US. 

 Hope this little guide helped!  Happy Shopping and Safe Travels to All!    

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