Electrician Explains What Happens When Using Wrong Light Bulb Wattage

Electrical Experts

Everyone uses light bulbs in their daily life. These devices are so common that it’s so easy to take them for granted. That is - until the time comes when a light bulb needs to be replaced. Before you go out replacing that busted light bulb in your home, office, or appliance, it pays off to know if you’re buying the right bulb for your needs, because buying the wrong one can mean an ill-fitting bulb, higher energy consumption, and could even be a potential safety risk. More specifically, using a light bulb with a higher wattage than you are supposed to can is dangerous and could be a safety hazard in your home.

Related: Why Did My Electrical Outlet Spark? Let a Trusted Electrician Explain.

Using the incorrect lightbulb

What Happens When You Put A Higher Watt Light Bulb?

Most of the times when people have problems with buying the wrong light bulb, it is because they bought a light bulb with a higher wattage than they were supposed to. The watt rating on your light socket usually states the maximum wattage. In other words, replacing your light bulb with a lower wattage should not be an issue; however, replacing it with higher wattage could potentially lead to overlamping - a safety hazard for your home

What is Overlamping?

Overlamping occurs when you buy a light bulb with a wattage that’s too high for your electrical fixture to handle. Fixtures have a manufacturer-recommended wattage rating that you need to follow, and if you exceed it, intense heat is the result. Overlamping can lead to a number of problems, and the longer the overlamping occurs, the more you put yourself and your home at risk.

Dangers of Overlamping

Some of the dangers that result from overlamping include the following:


Overheating Light Bulb

Using a light bulb with too high of wattage can lead to overheating of the light bulb. This heat can melt the light socket as well as the insulation of the wires. Once that happens, you put yourself at risk of arc faults, and this is something that could even lead to property fires.

Related: Electricians Share Tips to Avoid the Common Causes of Electric Fires.

Permanent Damage To Your Light Fixture

Light Fixtures Lined Up

Overlamping leads to permanent damage to your light fixture. Even if you realize that you are using a light bulb with a higher wattage than you are supposed to and attempt to fix your mistake, it may already be too late. Chanced are that you could have already dealt with permanent damage to your light fixture. For this reason, it is important to ensure that your light bulb replacement matched the precise wattage specifications.

Light Bulbs Inside Enclosed Fixtures

Lamp Posts - Light Bulbs Inside Enclosed Glass Fixtures

If your light bulb is enclosed in a fixture, you will want to pay even more attention to buying the correct lightbulb. Enclosed fixtures increase the rate of overheating. This means, that a fire is more likely to start in such situations.

How To Avoid Overlamping

Modern fixtures reveal their wattage rating somewhere in the assembly—you just have to know how to look for it. Once you identify your fixture’s wattage rating, buy a lamp that matches or is below what’s listed. As long as you don’t go over the manufacturer’s recommended wattage, you’ll be safe. If your fixture doesn’t have a wattage recommendation, the rule of thumb is to choose bulbs with 60-watts or lower.

For better safety, have an electrician inspect your electrical system to see if there are any overlamping damages that need to be addressed. A certified electrician may also provide you with the best recommendations for your replacement bulbs.

Related: The 4 Things Electricians Will Check During an Electrical Inspection.

Need an electrical inspection? Our experienced professionals at Electrical Experts are here to answer all of your questions. Schedule an online call, or contact us at 413-276-4787 and get the electrical help or advice that you need today!

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