Can LED Bulbs Be Used In Enclosed Fixtures?

The rise of popularity in LED light bulbs is understandable. They’re energy-efficient, they save money, and they emit a cheerful cool light.  But before you throw out all your old incandescent bulbs and pop an LED into every light fixture in your home, you may want to make sure that the fixture is well-suited for LED technology.

What Counts as an Enclosed Fixture?

The term “enclosed fixture” typically refers to a flush-mounted wall or ceiling light. Flush-mounts are usually found in bathrooms and bedrooms, but they can be used anywhere, even outside as porch lights.

Some decorative lighting fixtures are also enclosed. Think about those trendy mason-jar lights or crafty light projects. If the fixture is sealed on all sides — if you have to take it apart or unscrew something in order to replace the bulb — it’s an enclosed fixture.

Other lighting fixtures that have an open side can also be considered to be enclosed. Any fixture that does not allow air to flow on all sides of the bulb is technically enclosed. That includes some types of track lighting and lamps, too.

Benefits of LED Light Bulbs

Most people know that LED bulbs have a long operating life when compared to fluorescent bulbs. In fact, with at least 50,000 operating hours, they last about 40 times longer than the average incandescent.

You may also know that LEDs consume less energy than other types of bulbs. Installing LED light bulbs can save you up to 90% of lighting energy costs. But there are other benefits to using LEDs you may not have thought of, which include:

  • True-to-life color rendering
  • Greater design flexibility due to their small size
  • No special handling is required for disposal
  • Don’t require a glass bulb surround
  • Excellent dimming capability
  • No warm-up or cool-down period

Like all good things, LED light bulbs do have a few drawbacks. The initial purchase price tends to be a little bit higher than a standard bulb, falling between $10 and $40 on average. Lastly, they aren’t always appropriate for every application, as you’ll discover below.

Risks of Using LEDs in an Enclosed Fixture

So what happens if you put LED light bulbs in your flush-mount light fixture? Will the planets collide? Will the house spontaneously combust? Nothing quite that dramatic will happen, but problems could arise.

Part of the appeal of LEDs is that they run cooler than incandescent bulbs. At first glance, it may seem counterintuitive that there could be a problem with placing one in an enclosed fixture.

But LED bulbs are fitted with an electronic chip at the base of the bulb. Like any kind of circuitry, the chip is heat-sensitive. Unlike traditional bulbs, LEDs don’t use energy restrictors—a technology that keeps other bulbs from exploding due to their own heat.

Without energy restrictors, the heat from an LED — small though it is — can become trapped in an unventilated fixture and transfer back into the bulb itself.

LEDs are meant to perform in a cool environment. Overheating can impact their performance in a number of ways, including:

  • Flickering
  • Significant degrading of the color gradient
  • Automatically shutting off after only a few hours of use
  • Dimming in a short time
  • Shortened lifespan

Basically, all the reasons you enjoy using LEDs—the great color, the bright cool light, and the long lifespan—will be compromised when you place them into an enclosed fixture.

But will it start the house on fire? It’s possible. While there is no available statistical information confirming that improperly placed LED light bulbs have started a fire, some users have reported seeing smoke emitted from LEDs and receiving burns from touching hot bulb bases when they have been used in an incorrect setting.

In other words, don’t risk it. Taking an extra moment to insert the right type of light bulb is an easy way to keep yourself, your family, and your property safe.

Which Bulbs Should I Use in My Enclosed Fixtures?

Using the right type of bulb comes down to one simple task—reading the label. Look for the words “enclosed rated” on your LED package. Granted, reading package labeling on LED bulbs is already confusing. With so many shapes, filters, life ratings, and lumens to choose from, searching for an enclosed usage rating may seem like a hassle. But it’s a necessary hassle. When in doubt, check the manufacturer’s website.

Can an Electrician Near Me Offer Advice on LED Bulbs?

A well-lit home is a safe home. And the team at MZ Electric is all about safety. If you have questions or concerns about using LED light bulbs in your light fixtures, we’re here to help.

Call us for all of your electrical service needs, including outlet and electrical panel installation, electrical inspections, and energy savings. You can even call us about light bulbs!  We are always happy to serve the Littleton, CO, community in whatever ways we can.

When you need an electrical team that you can trust, turn to MZ Electric.