OverlampingDid you know electrical fire hazards, such as overlamping, are among the most common causes of house fires? Right after burning candles and cooking, electrical fires caused by malfunctions, overloading, or overheating are some of the biggest fire hazards in a home.

Learn what overlamping is, the dangers, and how to determine the correct wattage light bulbs for your lighting fixtures.

What is Overlamping?

Overlamping is a term used for when you put a light bulb with a higher wattage than the manufacturer’s recommendation in a light fixture. For example, if you put a 100-watt light bulb in a light fixture that recommends using a 60-watt light bulb, the socket can heat up to the point of melting the wiring, which can cause an electrical fire.

The insulation used in lighting fixtures is designed to resist heat up to a certain temperature. Newer fixtures can handle temperatures up to about 194 degrees Fahrenheit, however, older fixtures can only handle temperatures around 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Every light fixture has a recommended wattage in compliance with the manufacturer’s guidelines.

Why is Overlamping Dangerous?

Overlamping can be dangerous and the dangers involved with overlamping are far more severe than the term is credited for. When the socket and wiring insulation overheats and melts it exposes the wires which increases the risk of electrical arc and causes electrical discharge from the breakdown of gas. This leads to most house fires, but even if you don’t experience a house fire, the fixture damage is permanent, and you will need to replace it.

How to Find Recommended Wattage

It isn’t always easy to find out the recommended wattage for older light fixtures, but new fixtures should always have a warning when you purchase them.

Try looking at the wire jackets for the letters “NMB” or “NM.” The “B” means the cable conductors are rated for a maximum operating temperature of 194 degrees Fahrenheit. Older fixtures will only have the letters “NM” on the jacket, which means they can only operate at a maximum temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

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