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, sure. 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 caused 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.’ This was surprising because 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.
This got me thinking: can LED lights start fire and how exactly do light systems start it? And is one type of light bulb more dangerous than another? And are LED bulbs inherently safer?
So if you’re concerned about the safety of your home, or just plain curious like me, read on to learn how lights cause home fires, and if LED lights contribute to the high numbers, you read above.
Incandescent bulbs get hot enough to start fires if they are nearby flammable objects while LED bulbs never reach that temperature. However, improper wiring of LED light fixtures may cause fires. Ensure proper installation to be safe.
By the end of this article, you will learn:
- How to keep your home safe from lighting fires
- How to properly identify fire hazards in your home
- Why closets and incandescent bulbs are a fire hazard waiting to happen
- How to make sure your LED fixtures are safe from fire hazards
How Bulbs Cause Blazes
I’m certain you’ve let your curiosity get the better of you and touched a live incandescent light bulb at least once in your life.
We know that incandescent bulbs can burn our fingers if we touch it when it’s switched on. Heck, we can feel the heat if we just place our hands close to it!
But how hot does it get, you ask?
Well, some scientists wanted to know how much lighting systems can affect the heat gains of an office building, so they devised an experiment.
They learned that an incandescent bulb, after 3 minutes of operation, had its filament(the thin wire inside the bulb that lights up) reach 216℃. Its surface, the glass part of the bulb, reached 134℃.
Now, I’m not the brightest bulb in the box, but I was taught in school that water starts boiling at 100℃. I’m sure you can see how these things start home fires. Have something flammable close to these bulbs, and a flame will begin soon enough. Paper, curtains, a piece of yarn… you get the picture.
The bottom line:
if you want to keep your home safe, be attentive to the lights in your closet, desk lamps, and the like.
Now, what about LED bulbs? An LED bulb heats up to only 32.6℃ after 3 minutes of operation. This tells you that LED bulbs cannot cause contact fires.
But that is not the only way lighting systems cause 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 terms of wiring and incompatible installation, are LED bulbs just as susceptible to fire accidents?
Let’s explore that next…
LED Lights Safety
If you use LED bulbs 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 its components. This driver regulates the mains voltage to a lower amount that is compatible with LED elements.
LED drivers are complex components. So, if there is going to be a heating issue, it will come from not using the right parts.
For your convenience, here are general safety guidelines for LED lights:
- Follow LED manufacturer’s specifications and use only compatible parts
- Some LED bulbs have drivers pre-installed in them. Again, read the manufacturer’s specification.
- 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?
Leaving a light on for long periods is considered a fire hazard. You might have done it once or twice in your life with no harmful consequences (I’ve done it), but it is generally 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, for the safest option, you should not be leaving your lights on for too long. There are always timers and similar devices 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 lights safer than other types of light bulbs?
Well, you’ve learned that LED lights are nowhere near as hot as incandescents. That makes contact fires very unlikely. And, if everything is installed correctly, there should be no worry about your lights starting a fire.
Can String LED Lights Cause 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.
You must use the right power adaptor for the wattage and length of striplight you plan to use.
Another thing to consider is the number of LEDs that are on your strip. The more LEDs there are on the strip, the higher the heat generated. Use proper cooling systems for your LED strip light.
Lastly, make sure the strip lights have space to dissipate the heat effectively. You should also make sure that there are no safety hazards nearby like heaters.
How Long Can LED Bulb Stay On Safely?
Ideally, if you installed the LED bulb correctly, using the right wattage, and without any physical objects hindering its heat dissipation, an LED 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.
You’ve learned how to save your home from electrical fires caused by light fixtures. And, you’ve learned that LED lights are a safe alternative to incandescents.
I think this is quite a lot of learning for now, but if you think otherwise, feel free to explore other articles here.
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.
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!