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How to determine maximum wattage for a light fixture?

I know from buying lamps and light fixtures over the years that they normally include info like "uses two 60 watt maximum bulbs." But how do you know a fixture's maximum wattage when it's already in your house? :thinking:

I was just about to order some bulbs for the bathroom vanity light fixture, and since the current bulbs are 40 watt, I was going to order 40 watt bulbs. But then I noticed the exact same type of bulb, but 60 watts. I'd LIKE the bathroom to be a little brighter than it normally is with its three 40 watt bulbs, but how can I know that it's okay to use 60s in it?

Here's what I'm looking at:

40 watt decorative bulbs

60 watt decorative bulbs

And, just generally speaking, how closely do maximum wattage guidelines need to be followed? I have two lovely table lamps I bought last year, and their packaging said to use two 60W maximum bulbs. But even with two 60s in both lamps, they're not nearly as bright as I'd like. Would I set my house on fire if I put, say, 75W bulbs in them? :eek:


#1 MoodyBlues, May 22, 2013
I personally wouldn't go over the recommended wattage for the fixture but a way to work around it would be to use one of the mini fluoro lamps, as they use approximately one fifth the wattage of incandescent lamps for the equivalent light output and it is the incandescents that they're rated on. One of these: [​IMG]

Presumably you do have a good range of this style of lamp available there, the government banned the sale of incandescents some years ago here, so we can't get anythng but.

edit: these also come in a covered style that looks essentially the same externally as your small fancy lamp.
#2 general eclect, May 22, 2013
I'm with GE on this, for the most part.
Problem with fluorescents is they're not fans of being constantly turned on and off like you'll be doing with bathroom fixtures. We have them in all the fixtures in our apartment but the only ones that die are the ones in the bathroom.
The nice part about them is they usually have on the package what the wattage "equivalent" is. I think it's somewhere around a 10 watt fluorescent is comparable to a 60 watt incandescent.
#3 breadnatty08, May 22, 2013
Look at the ceramic insulator on the fixture where the bulb screws in. Sometimes the wattage rating is printed there. If not, you could take the fixture down and see if its listed on the inside. If you're not farmiliar with replacing light fixtures, don't try to do that. Might have a shocking experience. ;):p

I agree with all of the above posts. Swap out all the incandescent bulbs in your house with the compact fluorescent (CFL)onces and you'll notice a drop in your elec. bill. :)
#4 Granite1, May 22, 2013
.. or if you're up for spending a little more, you could use LEDs which are even more efficient than CFLs, run even cooler and - even better - are instant on.

I use LEDs in my bathrooms, kitchen and lounge. They're really good.

Some CFLs are also a bit bigger than 'standard' incandescents so you could have problems fitting them in some light fittings. LED bulbs tend to be much closer in size to the 'standard' incandescents so this is rarely an issue.

One thing about both LEDs and CFLs is you need to check the colour temperature as some of the whites can be a bit .. yuck (technical term). For LEDs your best bet is probably to buy from t'interweb as you get a better selection (as well as prices): not many stores carry a big range.
#5 SiempreTuna, May 22, 2013
Regarding colour, go for 'warm white' rather than 'cool white' as they tend toward yellow instead of blue. LEDs are great but as yet (here at least) tend to be a tad overpriced.
#6 general eclect, May 22, 2013
Thanks for all the great input and info. :) It's very helpful.

:D Yeah, well, I can't even climb up on a stool to replace the bulbs (balance problems due to brain tumor and its removal), so there's ZERO chance I'll be doing any of that! I may, however, ask someone else. But I'm going to go ahead and order the 40W bulbs because 2 of the 3 current ones are out.
#7 MoodyBlues, May 22, 2013
Absolutely - right on both counts, however LED prices have come down quite a bit for lower wattages - which might work in this particular case. They are definitely still way expensive if you're after higher wattages.

I did actually find some fairly cheap LEDs last time I looked, however they turned out to be 'cool white' which is .. not nice.

One thing, though: LEDs are supposed to last a long time: I worked out that if the bulbs lasted anything near to what they claimed, I'd probably need to replace the bathroom before I needed to replace the bulbs :D
#8 SiempreTuna, May 23, 2013
Good idea. ;)

Didn't know you had a tumor in the past. Stay strong MB!! :)
#9 Granite1, May 23, 2013
We fitted them in a building I was managing a few years ago and they didn't last anywhere near as long as claimed.
#10 general eclect, May 23, 2013
Thanks. :) Yes, I had a brain tumor, which was successfully and completely removed via middle fossa craniotomy. However, they had to remove the vestibular nerve on that side, and it controls balance. Let's just say the immediate post-op period was INTERESTING! Eventually, the nerve on the opposite side does a pretty good job of picking up the slack, but I'm still prone to losing my balance, so climbing on ladders or stools is a thing of the past. Small price to pay, though, you know? :D
#11 MoodyBlues, May 23, 2013

It may be best to check if you have anything other than standard light switches though. Our HomeEasy light switches have a minimum wattage of 40W and will not take CFLs. The X10 switches we had before were similar but with a minimum of 60W.
#12 jonbanjo, May 31, 2013
I just recently got an led bulb for the living room, I can't remember what the wattage was(think it was like 8w or something which is equivalent to 60w, it cost around
#13 sntaylor, May 31, 2013
How about something like this?
Amazon.com: Lighting EVER 7W A19 LED Bulb, High Performance Samsung LED, Daylight White, 60W Incandescent Bulb Replacement: Home Improvement

Equivalent to 60W, but only consume 7W. As they're LED rather than CCFL, they don't contain mercury either. 30000 hours, so no climbing of ladders to replace them for a very long time.
#14 mikedt, Jun 1, 2013