Electricians discourage overlamping. However, that hasn’t stopped consumers from using higher-wattage bulbs in lower-wattage fixtures. The reasons vary. Some people think higher-wattage bulbs are brighter. For others, higher-wattage bulbs are all they have on hand. The results depend on three factors, namely:
1). Age of the Light Fixture
Overlamping is dangerous because of the excess heat the practice generates. Light fixtures have wires that transmit the current. The Spruce expects a light fixture’s wires to tolerate roughly 90 degrees C.
Keeping the temperature below the recommended threshold allows the wires to maintain their integrity and flexibility. Exceeding a wire’s maximum temperature will start a fire. Unfortunately, older light fixtures have weaker wiring with a lower temperature limit (60 degrees C). They are more likely to overheat and melt.
2). Material of the Light Fixture
Cheaper, older light fixtures have plastic and paper-insulated sockets. They have lower ratings because they can’t tolerate excess heat (60 – 75W). Ceramic light sockets are more reliable. Their sturdy build allows the light fixture to survive high temperatures, which is why they typically feature ratings as high as 300 watts.
3). Open VS Enclosed Light Fixtures
Is the light fixture open or closed? Open light fixtures have higher watt ratings because of their superior ventilation. Even if their watt rating is lower, they can still tolerate higher-wattage bulbs because the open design allows the excess heat to dissipate.
Closed, recessed fixtures are the opposite because the airtight structure allows the heat to accumulate. Therefore, matching these fixtures with a higher-wattage bulb is more likely to start a fire.
What Does This Mean For A 75W Bulb In A 60W Fixture?
Overall, it’s a bad idea. Overlamping creates three challenges:
1). Overheating Sockets and Wires
This is your biggest problem. Electricity generates heat when it flows through a conductor. A higher-wattage bulb in a lower-wattage fixture (such as a 75W bulb in a 60W fixture) will melt the socket and insulation. If arcing occurs, the sparks could ignite the flammable materials in the vicinity, starting a fire and burning your house to the ground.
2). Dead Light Fixtures
The light fixture won’t survive this catastrophe. You can’t fix a melted socket. The only option is to replace the light fixture, which introduces unnecessary expenses.
3). Dead Light Bulb
Naturally, the bulb will also fail, forcing you to replace it.
These are the worst-case scenarios. They are not the guaranteed outcome. You can install a 75W bulb in a 60W light fixture without starting a fire. People do this every day. Consider this discussion on the Anandtech forum, in which many members have admitted to using higher-wattage bulbs in lower-wattage fixtures.
They expect the bulb to blow earlier than expected. Nonetheless, they disagree with suggestions that a 75W bulb in a 60W light fixture can start a fire. You are better off taking the cautious approach.
If a fire starts because you added a higher-wattage bulb to a lower-wattage light fixture, your insurance company may reject your claim.
Things To Consider Before Using 75 Watt Light Bulb In A 60 Watt Fixture
Many people use 75W bulbs in 60W fixtures because they think a higher wattage translates into a brighter light. But that is a mistake. According to Larson Electronics, the wattage tells you the amount of power a bulb will consume. It doesn’t say anything about the brightness.
Don’t assume that a 75W bulb is brighter than its 60W counterparts simply because the 75W bulb uses 15 additional watts. The lumens determine the brightness. A higher lumen rating equates to greater brightness. For instance, an 800-lumen light is brighter than a 450-lumen bulb.
2). Bulb Type
The bulb type and lumen rating are closely related. You shouldn’t install a 75W incandescent bulb in a 60W fixture because they generate too much heat. Incandescent bulbs make light by heating a metal element.
This process produces visible light and non-visible radiation. It also wastes a lot of energy as heat. Therefore, a 75W incandescent bulb in a 60W fixture is more likely to melt the insulation and socket.
LEDs are the opposite. They turn most of their energy into usable light. This allows them to remain cool. It also tells you two things:
- A higher-wattage LED bulb in a lower-wattage fixture is less likely to overheat.
- A 75W LED bulb doesn’t actually use 75 watts. The bulb’s rating is 9 to 13 watts, which falls significantly below a 60W light fixture’s rating.
From what Superior Lighting has seen, CFL lights are less efficient than LEDs but far better than incandescent bulbs. A 75W CFL bulb uses 18 to 22 watts. But if that is true, why would a manufacturer place a ‘75W’ label on an 18 to 22W CFL bulb?
Because an 18 to 22W CFL light generates 1100 to 1300 lumens. But most people don’t know what lumens mean. Therefore, an 1100 to 1300-lumen rating means nothing to them. The 75-watt label tells a layperson that an 18 – 22W CFL bulb produces as much light as a 75W incandescent bulb.
Manufacturers use incandescent bulbs as a standard of measurement because most people have seen an incandescent bulb.
If you must use a 75W bulb in a 60W fixture, find a ‘75W Equivalent’ such as CFL and LED that uses 60 watts or less. 150W LEDs can work in a 60W light fixture without starting a fire.
3). Bulb Quality
You can lower the risk of a 75W bulb by using an open 60W fixture. An open light fixture is less likely to overheat if you pair it with a higher-wattage bulb because an open design dissipates the excess heat.
However, the quality matters. A higher-wattage bulb is more likely to overwhelm a low-quality light fixture. Try to limit your purchases to reputable brands.
4). Bulb Distance From Light Fixture
Some consumers gamble with higher-wattage bulbs because they want brighter lights. But you can increase the brightness by simply bringing the light fixture closer to your target. The highest lights are the dimmest.
Lowering a fixture’s height concentrates the light, which, in turn, makes the bulb seem brighter. Lowering a fixture’s height sounds like a lot of work, but it’s safer than using a higher-wattage incandescent bulb in a lower-wattage fixture.
You should also select a bright color temperature. For instance, while red and orange can improve a room’s appearance under the right conditions, these colors are not that bright. The same goes for blue.
Look for color temperatures in the middle of the spectrum. White is your best option because it mimics the sun and enhances visibility regardless of the time of day or night. Interestingly, some LEDs have adjustable brightness and color temperature.
Depending on your needs, you can increase or lower the brightness and switch back and forth between different colors.