What Overlamping Is and Why You Should Avoid It

updated Jul 15, 2020
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

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.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

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)