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Can LED Lights Be Used in Enclosed Fixtures?

So who else wants to replace their old school bulbs with some sweet, energy-saving LED ones? Some of you have already been there and are enjoying the savings in your energy bills. And some are thinking about it and looking for the right place to start.

It definitely seems like it’s a simple enough task. Throw out your incandescent bulb, and put in one of the new LED bulbs you bulk ordered enthusiastically. You have existing light fixtures in your home that you’re not too worried about, and so your hot incandescent are now replaced with cool LEDs.

But a few days pass, and not everything seems right. Either your new bulb is flickering, or it just turns off after a couple of hours. Or worse, it starts to smoke up.

That’s why it is crucial to know the right kind of LED bulbs that go inside what are called ‘enclosed light fixtures.’

So maybe you are researching what went wrong. Perhaps you want to prevent yourself from such a headache.

In both cases, let me help you out here.

Only LED bulbs that are officially ‘Enclosed Rated’ will operate without any problems inside enclosed light fixtures. Regular LED bulbs may be used but they will become damaged or lose their efficiency quickly.

What is Considered an Enclosed Fixture?

example of enclosed fixtures

Let’s jump right in and find out what exactly is an enclosed light fixture.

Your most common one is the globe or dome-shaped light on your ceiling. Most homes have these versatile lights, and they sit flush against the ceiling. They are great at lighting up a large room easily.

But they’re not the easiest to replace a bulb out of! So all the more reason to make your hard work count and not end up with a wrong LED bulb inside.

Bathrooms and kitchens usually have semi-flush enclosed lights that hang a little away from the ceiling to give a more open look to the area.

Also, think about your outdoor porch lights that are covered in glass to protect from the weather. Or maybe you’re considering getting those fancy retro mason jar housing you saw in the restaurant last night, to set the right mood.

Recessed lights, or pot or can lights, fit inside the ceiling and are covered with a glass front and trim.

Those are all examples of air-tight enclosed applications.

But did you know that a fixture doesn’t have to be completely covered to be counted as an enclosed fixture?

Surprisingly enough, track headlights and some lamps would also be counted as an enclosed fixture even though they’re essentially open from the front end. That’s because any fitting that does not allow air ventilation around the bulb for dissipating heat is considered an enclosed one.

So take note of that, and let’s read ahead to see what the big deal is in using the wrong bulb in the wrong place.

Why You Cannot Use All LED Bulbs In Enclosed Fixtures?

street lighting in enclosed fixtures


LED technology is advanced and uses electronic chips installed at the base of the bulb. And just like any other circuitry, these chips are very sensitive to excess heat.

You may wonder why LED bulbs that are supposed to run cooler than traditional bulbs are at the risk of overheating. It’s counter-intuitive, isn’t it?

But the interesting part is, traditional bulbs use energy restrictors without which they would simply explode due to the heat they generate. Regular LED bulbs don’t have those.

When regular LED bulbs are trapped in an unventilated or enclosed light fixture, the heat produced from the light source cannot flow out, and instead goes back to the bulb. This heats up the bulb, which is designed to perform best in cool environments.

In using an incorrect LED bulb, these are some ways in which its performance is impacted:

  • Flickering: The bulb may start flickering after a few days
  • Shut off: The bulb may turn itself off after a few hours
  • Color: The color gradient may be affected significantly
  • Dimming: The light may become dimmer over time

Have you run into any of these problems?

Essentially, your LED light will not get you the engineered thousands of hours of use it is intended to. And let’s not forget that the main reason most of us switch to LED is to save running costs. So the value of your LED bulb investment is lost.

Now you may be wondering if the loss of efficiency is the extent of your worries. Perhaps.

Are LED In Enclosed Fixture a Fire Hazard?

heat circulation in enclosed fixture

This is where the manufacturer comes in. Regular LED bulbs will have on their base a version of this warning: ‘not for use in totally enclosed or recessed fixtures and luminaires.’

Inversely, an ‘Enclosed Rated’ bulb, will indicate: ‘suitable for totally enclosed fixtures.’

Your best bet is to get in touch with the bulb manufacturer and ask them if a regular LED can be a fire hazard. Most bulbs not rated for use in enclosed fixtures will only run into the reduced efficiency problems listed above.

Nevertheless, you do not want to risk a fire that might occur not entirely due to the LED itself, but other factors around it. What if the recessed housing is quite insulated or the fixture has plastic parts that might melt. Off-brand LED bulbs could be a safety hazard anyway, but even more so if used in an enclosed housing.

Be warned that there are user experiences where they caught an LED starting to smoke up, which they immediately unscrewed. Other users felt the bulb bases extremely hot to touch and ended up with blisters.

Stores also warn not to ‘hot swap’ the bulbs but to turn off the fixture before replacing the existing bulb.

Arm yourself with the right information, and proceed with caution. It is not wise to risk injury when the correct equipment is readily available.

What Type of Bulbs Work Best Within Enclosures?

different types of bulbs

So now the question remains: how do you find the perfect bulb.

There are a variety of specifications where you can filter and find different bulbs for your indoor or outdoor light housing. You can sort by shape, lumens range, average rated life, among other basic filters.

Many websites let you sort by LED and Enclosed Fixtures. Keep an eye out for ‘Enclosed Rated’ LEDs.

This rating means the bulb has certain safety features in place to prevent overheating and continued optimal output.

Some of the features of enclosed rated bulbs include:

  • The chips are designed to withstand temperatures up to 150°C, so they continue working
  • If the temperature keeps rising, the electronic chips will regulate the power output of lumens the bulb is producing. The reduction in power is not obvious to the naked eye but saves your bulb’s life.
  • The bulb body itself utilizes ceramic heat dissipation technology (CHDT).
  • The bulb also has a hollow housing base design to allow greater airflow and keep things cool.

I would suggest you check out SGLEDs (Amazon), one of the more popular enclosed rated bulb on Amazon.

Another company that makes Enclosed Rated LED bulbs is Luxrite, and user reviews have confirmed no issues with heating in their totally covered fixtures.

Final Words

So what does it all mean?

Taking the time to read a handy guide like this helps you make the right decision based on solid research that we carry out for you.

Do not let your initial upfront cost of pricey LEDs go to waste and end up with a flickering bulb. Go for the specialized LEDs that are guaranteed to last for years. You will use your correctly rated bulbs with ease of mind in regards to safety and savings.

Now that you’ve read the guide, I’m curious to know a few things from you!

  • Do you have any enclosed light fixtures in your home that need special LEDs?
  • Are your LED bulbs giving you any performance issues?

Looking for an LED bulb but not sure what type you need?

Check out my free bulb picker and select the right bulb within few clicks.

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