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Use the Correct Size Light Bulb to Avoid Structure Fires

April 1, 2011

Several years ago someone went to the hardware store to get a new halogen light fixture for use over the kitchen sink.  The light fixture came in two styles.  One used a 75 watt halogen bulb and one used a 150 watt halogen bulb.  The hardware store clerk told the customer he could buy the cheaper 75 watt fixture and use the 150 watt bulb for more light, which our consumer did.

A few days later our customer smelled something different in the kitchen.  Upon examining the light fixture he found that the larger 150 watt bulb was getting too hot for the smaller light fixture.  The extra heat was melting the insulation off of the fixture wiring.  In fact, it had melted all of the plastic off of the yellow wire nuts and was melting the insulation off of the household wiring inside the junction box.  We checked the fixture and found it stamped with a warning not to use any bulb greater than 75 watts.

I went and talked to the hardware store staff about light fixtures.

A basic incandescent light fixture is rated for 60 watt light bulbs.  For a little more money you can get fixtures that are rated for higher output bulbs, say 100 watts. The larger wattage bulb gives off more heat.  If the fixture was not designed to withstand that heat, it starts melting plastic, and pyrolyzing combustibles so they’ll burn.  This problem is greatly compounded when using recessed ‘can light’ fixtures.

Several weeks ago we had a lamp that started a fire.  The bulb was destroyed by the fire so we don’t know what wattage bulb was used.  However, elsewhere in the house we found 100 watt bulbs used in small bedside lamps that should have been 60 watt bulbs.

As you can see, it’s crucial that you use the correct size bulb for your light fixture.  Manufacturers of new light fixtures are supposed to include a sticker or warning telling consumers what size light bulb to use.

Before you buy higher wattage bulbs to get more light, make sure your fixture is rated for larger wattage bulbs.  If you can’t find any product information, assume it can only be used with 60 watt light bulbs.  That could keep us from coming to your house to extinguish any fires.

The following links have more information on light fixtures and bulb size.


From → Fire Prevention

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