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Safe Light Bulb Wattage

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Safe Light Bulb Wattage TIPS

Gabriele, who lives in Crofton, Maryland, was worried about putting in the wrong bulb in a recessed light fixture.

She wanted to make sure the bulb wattage was safe. Here's what she asked:

"My recessed light housing reads 60-watt bulb maximum.  The GE bulb I have says the 75w "uses only 53w."

Since I just can't grasp electricity and watts and  watt hours, will you kindly tell me if it is safe to use the mentioned bulb in the mentioned light fixture?

My sincere apologies if this is covered in one of your older Q&A posts.  I searched back about six or seven "pages" and didn't find this. However I found other interesting items, though!"

It was very wise of you to stop and think about this Gabriele. Many people don't ask and some become a number in the National Fire Protection Association statistics that deal with fire deaths. Overheating in recessed lights causes many fires and people die.

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More Watts = More Heat

Here's what you need to know about light bulbs. When a bulb converts electricity to light, it produces heat as a byproduct.

The brighter the bulb, the greater the amount of heat.

Recessed Fixtures TRAP Heat

This is not so much an issue for normal bulbs that are out in the open and can dissipate the heat. The issue with recessed lights is that they're often in confined spaces and some get covered by insulation that traps the heat.

Regular ceiling-mounted fixtures can also be problematic which is why you'll often see insulation between the bulb and the wiring. 

Wall Sconces Or Ceiling Lights Can Melt Wire Insulation

If you install a bulb that has a higher wattage than the fixture recommends, the heat can build up and get so great it can melt the insulation on the wires. If this happens, the bare wires can and do arc starting electrical fires.

The good news is that your new bulb should be safe because it's using less than the 60 watts an older-style incandescent bulb would use.

The only other thing I'd check, and this may require a professional, is to be sure you don't have insulation packed around the recessed light fixture. 

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