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Electricians/Experts: Are Higher (Equivalent) Wattage LEDs Safe in Incandescent-Rated Fixtures?


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I've got a big question that's been rolling around in my head for quite a while now, concerning LED bulb technology and converting from incandescent. We just purchased a new ceiling fan & light fixture for our master bedroom. It has 4 lights, each rated for 40 Watt incandescent bulbs (though I think it came with CFLs), and we are putting the lights on a dimmer switch.


40 Watt equivalent LED bulbs are actually around 6 or 7 Watts. In my limited understanding from some preliminary research in looking for an answer to this question, consumer LED Wattage-equivalence ratings that are listed on most packaging is meant as a way to help consumers match the light output, though the lumen rating is a more accurate way to gauge that. But this way, they can just easily compare to their old incandescent bulbs... However, as I understand it for lighting, Wattage is actually more of a temperature rating than brightness or electrical consumption. From what I've read, LED bulbs run considerably cooler than incandescent bulbs, but that LED bulbs are more sensitive to and less tolerant of heat, because of their internal electrical components. And while a traditional bulb will fail and just stop working, an LED bulb that is being taxed by heat may fry and possibly catch fire when failure occurs.


What I want to know is if it is safe to put 60 Watt-equivalent LED bulbs in the 40 Watt rated fixture? The 60 Watt bulbs are still well below the 40 Watts the fixture is rated for, usually around 10-12 Watts, I think. Also this is an open fixture. I would not feel safe pushing past the equivalent-wattage in the couple of completely enclosed fixtures that we have. However, the fixtures are downlights, with glass cup/bell shades, so I wonder if the heat from the bulb might accumulate inside the shades and push the bulbs past their tolerance, or at least beyond optimal temperatures, either causing a failure or just shortening their lifespan.


While I prefer warm, not-too-bright mood lighting, my wife likes bright lighting. And since this fixture is going to be on a dimmer, I figured it might be nice to use 60 Watt bulbs to give off even more light and make it nice and bright for my wife, but be able to dim it down to a comfortable level around bedtime and when we don't need all that brightness.


I am curious if anybody around here knows enough about this stuff to give me an educated answer.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I am not an expert or an electrician, but power is power. An LED that runs at 10w that gives the equivalent light to a 60w bulb should be fine in a 40w fixture. To test this, get a lamp and a KilaWatt meter. put in a 40w incandescent and measure the power. Then try it with a LED and compare the power consumed.

Wattage ratings on fixtures are based on wiring and ability to dissipate heat.

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