Preventing Lamp Failure

Sep 26, 2017

Know Your Fixture:

Wattage Capabilities

Many fixtures specify the maximum wattage for the light bulbs being installed. If a fixture has a 60W maximum wattage, that is the highest wattage that can be used safely in that fixture. Even installing a 75W light bulb could cause problems. The reason for this is because the wires used in fixtures are surrounded by insulation that is tested to withstand certain temperatures. Higher wattages will produce more heat – pushing the limits of the insulation and wires.

Outdated Fixtures

Many older fixtures will only list incandescent replacement wattages – simply because CFL and LED technologies weren’t around at the time that fixture was manufactured. If you aren’t sure if you can use a CFL or LED in the fixture, try contacting the manufacturer or doing some additional research to make sure it’s safe.

Many heat-related issues are caused by older fixtures that were never designed for LED technology. A great test is to run a sample light bulb for 30 days and observe the performance of the fixture before replacing all light bulbs in your home or building.

Know Your System

Dimming Systems

Dimmers control the brightness of a light source and can work with many common fixtures:

  • Ceiling or pendant fixtures
  • Table and floor lamps
  • Ceiling fans (with sockets)
  • Sconces
  • Recessed cans

Nearly all fixtures with standard sockets can be dimmed. It’s important to know what kind of system you already have or will need. This will determine the type of lighting you can have in the fixtures. If the wrong product is put into a system, the following can be encountered:

  • Flickering
  • Flashing
  • Stuttering dimming
  • Insufficient dimming
  • Failed LED driver
  • Failed dimmer

It’s also important to try and use dimmers that are specifically for LEDs (when using LED lighting), or universal dimmers that are compatible with low-voltage LED and CFL bulbs to help reduce control issues.

Dimming Switches

There are many types of dimming and control switches. Do your research before purchasing dimming switches and control panels to make sure your lighting is compatible with the brands. Here are a few common types of dimming switches and controls:

Over-and Under-Loading the System

It’s important to remember to look at the wattage equivalency of LEDs when it comes to dimming systems. Most systems either have a 600W or 1,000W (incandescent wattage) maximum. However, this doesn’t mean you can use twice as many LEDs. A LED might be rated at 14W, but the wattage going through the system is much more. Overloading can cause flicker, premature dimmer failure and lamp failure.

Under-loading a dimming system is possible as well. Most LED dimming systems will specify a minimum wattage requirement. If the LEDs aren’t drawing enough current, the dimmer can have unpredictable behavior and causes system or bulb failure.

Maximum and minimum requirements differ from incandescent to LED fixtures and systems. Be sure to do your research and even conduct some additional tests to determine the correct levels.

Know Your Lamp

LED Watts vs. Actual Watts

If you have a fixture that has a minimum wattage of 60, you cannot install a 100W equivalent LED even though it only uses 14W. This is where LED wattage and actual wattage comes in to play. LEDs use less energy than any other light source – that’s why they are lower wattages. The actual, or equivalent wattage you see on a LED light bulb package is the amount it needs to function. This is why a 100W equivalent LED cannot be used in a 60W max fixture. When purchasing LEDs, look at the wattage equivalent to help reduce premature lamp failure.

Wet or Damp Location

There are damp and wet location rated LEDs. Not all parts of the LED (drivers) are meant to be exposed to direct moisture. This not only applies to outdoor lighting, but even for bathrooms. A damp location LED should not be installed in an open fixture above a shower or outside due to the direct contact with water.

If the LED is in a fully-enclosed fixture and is damp-rated, then it is safe to use in that application. If you have an open fixture in a bathroom or outside, you must use a wet location LED. This will prolong the life of the LEDs.

Dimmable or Non-Dimmable

Halogen and incandescent light bulbs naturally dim, but LEDs do not. The driver is what tells the LED to dim, not dim, change color, etc. For the LED to dim, it needs to be equipped with a driver that has those capabilities. Installing a non-dimmable LED into a dimmable fixture will only turn on and off and possibly cause the LED or dimmer to prematurely fail.

Check packaging closely before purchasing lighting to ensure you’re getting what your fixture and system needs.

Correlated Color Temperature (CCT)

Color temperature refers to the color a light bulb gives off and can make a big difference in a home. Most homes use warmer tones between 2400K and 3000K for living rooms, bedrooms and some kitchen areas. Cooler CCT’s (4100K-6500K) are great for bathrooms, basements, garages, outdoor security and other areas where a more white or blue-tinted light is desired.

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