What Overlamping Is and Why You Should Avoid It

What Overlamping Is and Why You Should Avoid It

Taryn Williford
Feb 11, 2011

Every industry has it's own jargon—words and phrases that most people outside that world would have a hard time understanding. So when our apartment's maintenance crew sees us carrying a box of 100-watt incandescent light bulbs (we're hoarding for the phase-out) and tells us to "be careful about overlamping," we immediately turn to one place: Google.

What is "Overlamping"?
It's when a light fixture is fitted with a light bulb that has a too-high wattage. Every fixture has a wattage rating that is recommended by the manufacturer.

Is it Dangerous?
For sure. Putting a 100-watt bulb in a 60-watt fixture could cause intense heat, melting the light socket and the insulation on the fixture's wires.

Any time you have that kind of damage on wires, you're at a big risk for arc faults, where an electrical current falls off its intended path— a leading cause of home fires.

Even after you pull the offending bulb out, you could still have lasting damage to your fixture.

How Can I Avoid It?
More modern fixtures should disclose their wattage rating—just don't go above that with your bulbs and you'll be safe. If your fixture is older, and without a wattage recommendation, go the safe route and use 60-watt bulbs (or lower).

(Images: Flickr member Deiru licensed for use under Creative Commons, Flickr member ntr23 licensed for use under Creative Commons)

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