When you replace light bulbs, do you check the light fixture ratings to ensure the wattage is accurate? It’s very likely that you simply grab any spare bulbs you might have easily accessible.

If you feel the light fixtures don’t seem sufficiently bright, you may replace a 40-watt bulb with a 60-watt bulb or higher. However, this can prove to be hazardous. A critical, yet often overlooked electrical safety concern is ensuring that the wattage ratings on the bulbs match the ratings of your light fixtures. Let’s go through the hazards of mismatched wattagesbelow.


Light fixture sockets always have maximum wattage ratings. If you exceed the recommended rating by installing a bulb that has a higher wattage rating, there’s a distinct chance that the excess heat generated by that bulb will scorch the insulation. It could quickly melt the insulating jackets on cable sheathing or wires, or even overheat the wood framing if you have recessed light fixtures (canister style).


In most cases, the light-bulb socket mentions the maximum wattage rating. It may state that you are required to use a certain type of lamp, having a certain rating. In the case of fixtures with multiple bulbs, the wattage rating mentioned may relate to the entire fixture. Here, you need to ensure that the sum total of the wattages of all the light bulbs doesn’t exceed the light fixture rating. The aim is to make sure that the heat generated by all the light bulbs combined, doesn’t penetrate through the insulation or damage your fixture.


There are certain signs you need to watch out for such as:

  • Scorch marks on light fixtures

  • Burning odour

If you have noticed any of these signs, it could indicate that you are exceeding the light fixture’s wattage rating. Switch off the light and carefully touch the fixture. If you find the fixture to be excessively warm to the touch, it’s definitely a danger sign. Just replacing the bulb with one of a lower wattage won’t solve the problem at this point. It’s also important that you check to ensure there isn’t any permanent damage.

Remove all the mounting screws, and pull the fixture away from its electrical box, carefully inspecting the wiring inside. If you see any scorched or melted insulation or scorched wire nuts, it means the damage is very severe.


It’s important that you call in a licensed electrician to inspect the feature, replace the holder, cut away all the damaged wiring and then reconnect them. Floor and table lamps are susceptible to this type of damage from light bulbs of a higher than required wattage. If you find that the shades on the lamps are hot to the touch or if they have become damaged in any way by the heat, it’s important to check whether the wattages match the socket ratings.

Scorched sockets need to be replaced without delay. If you notice damage to the wiring, get that replaced right away too. When you are using LED bulbs, check the rating information. It may read something like- “60 watts – uses only 11 watts”. Check these ratings before using Light Emitting Diode bulbs.

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