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Can I Exceed My Light Fixtures’ Recommended Wattage Limitations?

  • Transcript

    LESLIE: Kirk in North Dakota is on the line with a lighting question. What’s going on?

    KIRK: So I’ve got a quick question on fluorescent lights. A lot of your lights are, of course, rated 60 watts, et cetera. So, my question kind of came in the fact on the fluorescent bulb, it says, “This is equal to a 60-watt bulb.” But sometimes, that’s just not enough light. So what happens – are you allowed to put a bigger bulb wattage because – since fluorescents are supposed to be taking less electricity, can a guy put a bigger bulb in there – on a fluorescent that says, “Equal to 100 watts”? Because it’s still drawing less electricity.

    TOM: So, I think what you’re talking about here is compact fluorescents, Kirk?

    KIRK: Right.

    TOM: So, the wattage limitations on fixtures is based on a calculation that involves incandescent bulbs and it – because it equates to heat. A 100-watt bulb is going to emit a certain amount of heat and the fixture is rated to take that heat. That’s what it’s rated for and you can’t put more than that.

    When it comes to fluorescents, you’re only using a quarter of the energy. So a 15-watt bulb will deliver you – deliver the same equivalent of 60 watts of light. You can have a bulb that delivers the equivalent of a bigger watt bulb but you’re still not actually putting that amount of electricity into it. Does that make sense?

    KIRK: Right. So you could actually – like you say, if it’s a third, if it’s rated for a 60-watt incandescent bulb, you could virtually – say, if there’s a 150-watt bulb in a fluorescent, you should be able to put that in there and not cause an overload and get more light out of that same fixture.

    TOM: Yeah, I probably wouldn’t double it. But I might – if it calls for a 60, I might go up to 100 because then you’re moving from saying 15 watts to 25. But I have a better suggestion. Forget the compact fluorescents. They are an outdated technology. The LED bulbs are where it’s at today. They deliver a much better-quality light with just the same, if not more, savings.  It can be tough to determine LED compatability with older fixtures, but LED manufacturers can help.

    KIRK: But that was – the whole issue is sometimes you just don’t get enough light out of some of those fixtures.

    TOM: Right. And I think that if – right. And also, they’re very temperature-sensitive. If it’s a cold area, like …

    LESLIE: And then they’re color-sensitive, as well. When you get a CFL, you have to pick what color temperature you want that bulb to feel. And they can all feel extremely different. So you might pick something that gives a cold, harsh light and you want something warmer. So there’s a lot of experimenting with what type of fluorescent bulb you’re going to get.

    KIRK: We’ll have to try to some different things but I was just worried about the wattage and making sure I didn’t overheat the original fixture.

    TOM: Nope. You’re smart to be concerned but I’d take a look at the LEDs. And I think once you start trying them, you’ll be disposing of those CFLs.

    KIRK: Well, thank you very much for taking my call. I appreciate it.

    TOM: You’re very welcome. Good luck with that project.

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