How to Light a Lightbulb With a Battery

Written by joe friedman
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How to Light a Lightbulb With a Battery
The black stub on the bottom of this bulb is the "foot" terminal. The large silver part of the base is the "screw thread" terminal. (Clear light bulb image by simbolocoma from

A light bulb has two terminals to which you can connect batteries. The "foot" terminal is the small stub on the bottom of the bulb. The "screw thread" terminal is the threaded silver part that runs around the base of the bulb. You can connect either of these terminals to either of the battery terminals. As long as your batteries provide enough voltage to the bulb, the filament will light up for you.

Although a couple of batteries can easily supply enough voltage to light up a flashlight bulb, it's impractical and dangerous to use batteries to supply a household light bulb's power requirement (see Warnings).

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Small light bulb
  • Wires or paper clips
  • Enough batteries to supply the bulb's required voltage (see Tips).

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  1. 1

    Connect your batteries' terminals together in a row (i.e., in series), with the positive terminals connected to the negative terminals. The terminals need to touch, or be connected by a conductive material. You can use paper clips for smaller batteries (e.g., AA, C or D).

  2. 2

    Connect the positive terminal at the end of your battery to one of the light bulb terminals, using a wire or paper clip. The positive terminal on a small battery is the end with the little knob.

  3. 3

    Connect the negative terminal of your battery to the other light bulb terminal, using a wire or paper clip. The negative terminal on a small battery is the flat end. If you've connected enough batteries to provide adequate voltage, the bulb should light up (see Tips).

Tips and warnings

  • Flashlight bulbs only require about 3 volts, so two small batteries should be sufficient.
  • Household light bulbs require a household voltage of about 120 volts. Since small batteries provide only 1.5 volts each, you would need to wire 80 AA, C or D batteries in series to light the bulb. Alternatively, 10 car batteries could provide 120 volts. Either way, it's very easy to electrocute yourself fatally with 120 volts. Therefore, you should not attempt to power a regular household light bulb with batteries.
  • Make sure the voltage is appropriate for your flashlight bulb. If you provide too little voltage, the filament won't light up. If there's too much voltage, the filament will snap, which may break your bulb.

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