Did you know that electrical fires are the second leading cause of US home fires from 2012-2016?
All that electric juice pulsing around your home is why we’re so much more comfortable than our ancestors.
Still, it’s also the cause of almost 51,000 home fires every year in the US.
Let me put it into perspective for you.
The average US household consists of 2.5 people per house. Taking this into account, the fire causes 128,000 people every year to lose their homes. This is a massive number.
Surprisingly, 15% of these fires were started by ‘lamps, light fixtures, and light.’ I’ve always looked at light bulbs as self-contained. If something is wrong, they make a popping sound, and the room goes pitch black.
So if you’re concerned about the safety of your home or just plain curious like me, let’s explore this topic further.
Incandescent bulbs get hot enough to start contact fire if they are nearby flammable objects, while LED bulbs never reach that temperature. However, improper wiring and overloaded LED light fixtures are often the cause of fires.
By the end of this article, you will learn:
- Can led lights catch on fire?
- Do LED fixtures generate heat that can cause contact fires?
- How to safely work with strip and string led lights
Do LED Lights Get Hot Enough To Start A Fire?
An incandescent bulb, after 3 minutes of operation, reaches a temperature of 216℃.
In comparison, an LED light bulb heats up to a running temperature of 32.6℃ after 3 minutes of operation.
This tells you that LED lights can hardly start contact fires.
But that is not the only way lighting systems cause a fire.
According to this study, the leading causes of fire are wiring problems and fitting a bulb with too high wattage on a light fixture that is not supposed to.
So, in wiring and incompatible installation, are LED lights just as susceptible to start a fire?
If you use LEDs for your home or are looking to buy them, then listen up.
LED bulbs are sophisticated compared to incandescents. They require proper installation if you want to keep your home safe.
You see, LED bulbs need a driver to provide the right amount of electricity to their components. The driver regulates the mains voltage to a lower amount that is compatible with LED elements.
LED drivers are quite complex components. So, if there is going to be a heating issue, it will come from the driver and capacitor.
The majority of the standard LEDs have the driver built-in the bulb itself, so they don’t require any external driver to be installed in a common fixture.
For your convenience, here are general safety guidelines for LED lights:
- Follow LED manufacturer’s specifications and use only in compatible fixtures and environment.
- Do not obstruct the heat dispersion system of your light fixtures. This means avoiding enclosed fixtures (lamps that enclose the bulb in glass or plastic instead of open-air). If you have an enclosed fixture installed in your home, buy LED bulbs that are “Enclosed Fixture Rated.”
- Make sure your electric parts, light bulb included, are UL listed or ETL listed. These are standards that make sure the product is up to par.
Is Leaving LED Light On A Fire Hazard?
Generally, leaving any bulb type on for long periods is considered a fire risk.
You might have done it once or twice in your life with no harmful consequences (I’ve done it too), but it is inadvisable.
Between 2004-2008, there were, on average, 260 home fires started in the US every year due to Christmas trees. An additional 150 home fires per year were caused by decorative and festive lights.
These lights tend to be left switched on for long periods. And with Christmas trees, they’re wrapped around very flammable material.
So, you should not be leaving your led light on for too long for the safest option. There are many different types of control for your lights such as timers and motion sensors that can help switch on the lights at an appropriate time for you.
Besides, you’ll be saving money on your utility bills.
But if you have to leave them on, are LED light bulbs safer than other types of light bulbs?
Well, you’ve learned that LED lights are nowhere near as hot as incandescent lights. That makes contact fire very unlikely.
If everything is installed correctly, there should be no worry about your lights starting a fire.
How Long Can LED Bulb Stay On Safely?
Ideally, if you installed the LED bulb correctly, using the proper wattage, and without any physical objects hindering its heat dissipation, the light bulb can be left switched on 24/7.
LED lights do not deteriorate from switching on and off. They deteriorate from high temperatures. So if heat factors are efficiently managed, the LED bulb should not be a fire hazard.
However, I advise you to use timers or sensors to manage the lights you wish to leave switched on. One reason is to save your LED bulb’s lifespan.
For example, you can use motion sensors for your outdoor lights instead of leaving it switched on. Another apparent reason is to reduce the cost of your utility bill.
As a general rule of thumb, you should leave your lights on for 12 hours at the most to save on costs.
Can String LED Lights Catch Fire?
String LED lights require a bit more know-how to ensure proper safety. They’re a bunch of LEDs stringed together. Naturally, there is more heat involved.
The most common problems with strip lights are overheating and power cord failures. You need to install them properly if you want your house to be safe.
The first thing you should know is that LED string lights come in either line-voltage(120V) or low-voltage(12V or 24V).
Line-voltage string lights come in spools of 50 meters, while low-voltage ones come in spools of 5 meters. Low-voltage string lights require a power adaptor that is usually included in the package.
So the first step to safety is to ensure that the power source is not overloaded by the length of the string or multiple string lights.
Remember what I said previously about Christmas trees?
Your next step is to ensure that the string light is not installed nearby flammable materials.
Even though heat emissions of string lights are low, add curios pets to the equation and suddenly risk of fire becomes much higher.
Can LED Strip Lights Cause Fire?
A similar approach should also be taken when dealing with strip lights.
The more LEDs there are on the strip, the higher the heat generated. So, to be on the safer side, you would ideally use the aluminum heat sink that can efficiently dissipate the heat away.
This being said, another thing that you should be aware of is air circulation. The strip light will get hotter in tight spaces without enough room for air to take the excessive heat away.
Similarly to string lights ensure that power supply unit is not overloaded. It is always best to have wattage at least 20% then total strip consumption if you decide to connect multiple strips together.
Also, make sure that there are no other safety hazards nearby, like heaters.
You’ve learned how to save your home from electrical fires caused by lightning.
I think this is quite a lot of learning for now but feel free to explore other articles here if you think otherwise.
LED bulbs are safe, provided they are correctly installed. Overheating is a common issue with strip lights, so be sure to take extra precautions. LED bulbs can be left switched on indefinitely but inadvisable.
LED strip lights are hot in the market right now.
- Do you have one in your home?
- Were they installed professionally or by yourself?
I’d love to hear your input on them.
And for those looking to have lights on for long periods, I’m curious to know what for. Is it a security measure? Are you leaving on holiday?
Let me know below!