When you place or replace light bulbs into a fixture, lamp, or other devices, it is imperative that you use the proper bulb with the appropriate wattage for that product. Many people do not realize it, but there are a few problems that may occur from using light bulbs that are the wrong wattage.

While there are many variables that must be considered when buying light bulbs – such as the size and the type – the most important of these is the wattage. Failure to use bulbs that are the proper wattage could result in serious dangers. Continue reading to learn more.


Wattage That is Too High

If you have an electrical fixture that calls for a certain wattage light bulb like an emergency light or exit sign, it is imperative that you only buy those that match that wattage. If you buy one that has higher wattage than what is called for, you stand the chance of the bulb experiencing overheating.

This is also referred to as “overlamping”.

While this may not seem like too big of an issue, it is. It could result in the actual socket melting. As this happens, the insulative casing surrounding the wires within the fixture will also become worn.

In both cases, there is a very high risk of the development of a fire.

Additionally, if you elect to use a bulb that has a higher watt label than is advised for your electrical fixture, it could result in direct damage to your fixture.

Not only will this result in your having to engage in either the repair or the complete replacement of that fixture, but it could also pose a fire risk.

This could happen within the fixture itself, or it could result in sparks that may catch on surrounding items such as insulation, walls, curtain, furniture pieces, and more.

What are the Main Risks of Overlamping?

It is a known fact that bulbs that have a higher wattage level quickly produce higher levels of heat. Many fixtures are unable to safely handle the level of heat that is produced. As a result, the socket will get too hot and the wires within that socket will actually start to melt.

If melting occurs, an electrical arc could quickly develop.

This occurs when sparks jump from one wire to another. These are often referred to as “arc faults”.

This could cause an electrical discharge to occur. If this happens, a fire could develop. It could be worsened by flammable materials and substances that are in close proximity to the electrical fixture. If not caught in time, this type of fire can quickly destroy a structure.

lightbulb plugging itself in

How to Determine the Proper Wattage

It is usually very easy to figure out what watt bulb is the safest for a fixture. Simply look at the socket or the base of the electrical fixture. It is usually after the word “Caution” and will say the maximum watts that is safe for that fixture.

If you are unable to locate the wattage information on the fixture, most electricians agree to only use 60-watt bulbs or watts under 60 watts that are able to fit within the fixture.

This is if you decide to use an incandescent bulb. If you use a CFL or LED bulb, you may be able to increase wattage safely as these do not create as much heat as the traditional incandescent.

If you have any questions about the proper wattage for your particular device or fixture, contact a professional electrician to ensure that you make the safest choice.

Is it Safe to Use Lower Wattage Bulbs?

As long as the light bulb fits into the electrical fixture properly, it is typically safe to use lower wattage bulbs. These will actually draw much less of an electrical current. Additionally, the lower the wattage, the lower the heat that is generated from the bulb.

As a result of these facts, lower wattage bulbs are much safer than using higher wattage bulbs.

Electrical Questions?

If you have any questions pertaining to light bulb wattage and safety or other types of electrical questions, we here at Hardcore Electric encourage you to contact us directly today. We offer a multitude of services for residential structures, industrial structures, and commercial structures. In addition to basic information on bulbs, we specialize in lighting upgrades, retrofits, and more! We can handle any job – large or small. We are licensed and insured and guarantee your complete satisfaction! Call us now at: 720-841-3897

Hardcore Electric is hiring in Nebraska and Colorado! Call 720-841-3897