Are CFL and LED lights safe for indoors (in flush mounts)?
February 5, 2015 4:09 AM   Subscribe

I am getting conflicting opinions on when you can (and can’t use) CFL and LED lights indoors, especially with a flush mount light fixture. I am more confused now that ever. If someone can offer some insight, it would be great.

I have heard a lot about LED lights and CFL lights and their energy efficiency and long lasting properties, so I thought I would give them a try. I have a couple of lamps in my main living room space, but outside of that room, all of my light fixtures are now flush mounts such as this style. All of the light fixtures that I replaced are more of this style, which were open and easy to access.

After installing all of my flush mounts, I went to a local major hardware store chain to pick up some bulbs. The first clerk seemed to be very knowledgeable on all types of bulbs and told me the basic differences of LED and CFL technology. Among the things that he said was that LEDs can’t be used in enclosed light fixtures (such as the flush mounts that I have), so we moved to the CFL section where I picked up a couple of these lights. No problem.

I didn’t install them yet, as I needed to go back and get some more bulbs once I found out the proper wattage. Upon my second trip to the store, another clerk told me that the CFL lights also can not be used in light fixtures such as flush mounts (that don’t have access to air circulation and are mounted tight to a wall, etc). He stated that they get very hot and could cause a fire! This freaked me out. Both clerks also told me that they are phasing out the incandescent light bulbs and soon, you won’t be able to buy them. If that’s the case, what do people like myself, who have flush mounts installed in their home?? Do we have options for CFL or LED bulbs or do I have to stick with the incandescent that are soon to be phases and and resort to buying all new light fixtures again in a year or two?

I checked the light fixture box/instructions of the flush mount that I purchased for one of the rooms. It stated that the fixture uses a maximum 50 watt standard light bulb or the CFL equivalent. However, the CFL light bulbs that I purchased state that “this lamp should not be used in recessed or enclosed fixtures”

What should I do?
posted by dbirchum to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
I've used Cree LED bulbs in my apartment's flush mount fixtures for at least a year and have encountered no issues. I can't imagine what the problem would be; one of the advantages of LEDs is that they're dramatically cooler than incandescent bulbs, and I don't see how they would need ventilation.

Maybe I'm making a big mistake (and other MeFites will set me right here) but I'd say LEDs are a good bet.
posted by cvp at 4:25 AM on February 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


We also have purchased Cree LED bulbs that specifically are made for enclosed and recessed light fixtures. I don't know what is different about them, but so far they haven't burned the house down.
posted by molasses at 4:34 AM on February 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Look for a bulb where the packaging specifically states that it is good for enclosed light fixtures. Don't listen to people who state that ALL LED bulbs are bad for X or ALL CFL bulbs, etc. The technology is changing really fast right now and it depends a lot on which bulb you buy.

I replaced almost all my bulbs with LEDs a couple years ago. I have one recessed can light and two enclosed boob-light ceiling fixtures with LEDs -- between those fixtures, five bulbs (two in one fixture, three in another) are on regularly. Thus far, nothing has burned out or caused a fire. (Although, again, these are all rated for use in enclosed or recessed fixtures.)

Also, an LED burning out three times faster than the typical LED still gives it many more lifetimes than the average incandescent. They are much cheaper to operate and the bulb prices are only coming down.
posted by pie ninja at 5:24 AM on February 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


However, the CFL light bulbs that I purchased state that “this lamp should not be used in recessed or enclosed fixtures”
What should I do?


Return them and get the correct rated light. As others have noted, you need lights specifically rated for use in enclosed fixtures.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:26 AM on February 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


advantages of LEDs is that they're dramatically cooler than incandescent bulbs, and I don't see how they would need ventilation.

LEDs are cooler but not as much as you think, the difference is that they dissipate heat at the base rather than all over the bulb, thus keeping the bulb cool. The heat dissipation on a normal bulb typically won't work right in an enclosed space (obviously enclosed up lighting is the worst case) and therefore you need one engineered for the task.
posted by advil at 5:32 AM on February 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


LEDs are cooler but not as much as you think, the difference is that they dissipate heat at the base rather than all over the bulb, thus keeping the bulb cool.

They also have a lot less heat to dissipate - for the same light output as a 60w incandescent, an LED only draws 9.5w. The 50w it is not using would have gone into heating the enclosure.

This is not to dispute advil's other point regarding bulb lifetimes. FWIW I've been using Cree 800 lumen bulbs in enclosures for about a year now with no problems.
posted by mr vino at 5:48 AM on February 5, 2015


Halogen bulbs are more energy efficient than incandescent bulbs, albeit not as energy efficient as LED or CFL bulbs. They are not being phased out. So you don't really need to worry about it.

But, yeah, some LED bulbs are rated for enclosed fixtures. I would just get one of those and be done with it.
posted by J. Wilson at 6:03 AM on February 5, 2015


Incandescent bulbs give off most of their "waste heat" in the form of infrared radiation that immediately leaves the fixture, while LEDs and CFLs give of their (less but still existent) waste heat by actually getting hot.

That's why some fixtures can have incandescents but not the other bulbs, even though the later give off much less heat.
posted by Hatashran at 8:09 AM on February 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


In my experience, CFLs that are not rated for enclosed fixtures burn out much more quickly when you try to use them in an enclosed fixture. I'm really skeptical about one starting a fire, though.
posted by rikschell at 8:22 AM on February 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


I made the mistake of putting CFLs in enclosed fixtures...they burned out too quickly and the off gas smell was horrible.
posted by brujita at 9:02 AM on February 5, 2015


"Enclosure" lights mean they have been tested in an elevated thermal environment and that it keeps it's rated life. Just about any LED will do this, because they only put out a fraction of the heat of incandescent, but not all manufacturers pay to get the test and certification done.
posted by nickggully at 10:42 AM on February 5, 2015


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