Can You Use LED Bulbs In Any Light Fixture?

Being the energy-conscious, tech-savvy, economically-sensible person in your family and your street, you’re ready to swap out your old incandescent and halogens for the best LEDs on the market.

Before you purchase 10 of those LEDs you’ve had your eyes on, give this guide a read to see if you can use LEDs in any light fixture.

LEDs can be used in any light fixture, as long as it’s not enclosed or air-tight, and is not an old-style dimmer system. Both these will shorten the lifespan of LED bulbs.

Can You Put LED Bulbs in Halogen and Incandescent Fixtures?

If everything fits and is the correct voltage, yes, you can easily swap all your halogen and incandescent bulbs in your fixtures with LED replacements.

The fitting of the bulb base is the first thing you need to keep in mind. The two most common bulb bases are either the E27 screw type or the GU10 pin type. Both of these are available in LED bulbs as well.

gu10 and e27 comparison chart

Sometimes the halogen or incandescent bulb is meant to be decorative and visible outside the fixture.

If this is the case, your replacement LED bulb should be appealing to look at. For example the Edison (Amazon) or Globe bulbs (Amazon) are all the rage in aesthetic lighting.

And if you’re wondering how to see if you have the correct wattage as you exchange the bulbs, read ahead.

When you’re buying the replacement bulbs for your traditional fixtures, remember that the wattage of the LED bulbs does not have to be the same as the older bulbs.

Keep an eye out for Lumens, which is the light output, instead of wattage, which is power consumption.

For example, LEDs may use 8.5 watts, and halogens may use 30 watts of energy to shine as bright as a 60-watt traditional bulb.

Similarly, an 18 W halogen bulb outputs around 220 lumens, while an 18 W LED bulb outputs more than 1300 lumens.

Here is a conversion chart with some more answers for your replacement questions.

LUMENS TO WATT CONVERSION CHART
Brightness in Lumens 220+ 400+ 700+ 900+ 1300+
Incandescent 25W 40W 60W 75W 100W
Halogen 18W 28W 42W 53W 70W
CFL 6W 9W 12W 15W 20W
LED 4W 6W 10W 13W 18W

Also, you can read up on the differences between a halogen and an LED bulb to see which will serve you better. I think you know the answer.

Can LEDs Be Mixed With Incandescent Bulbs In The Same Fixture?

Unfortunately, using LEDs along with incandescent bulbs in a multi-socket enclosed fixture will put your LED in harm’s way as the other bulbs bring up the ambient temperature inside the fixture.

So even if your LED is good quality with a well-designed heat sink, it may still fail due to the unexpectedly excessive heat which it wasn’t designed for.

One thing a lot of people do, and you also might be thinking of is this: Buying the LEDs for one fixture one-by-one and replacing them gradually.

But I must warn you, don’t do that. It is much better to change all of the bulbs in the same go. Otherwise, you will risk reducing the life of your LEDs considerably.

Having a mix of LEDs and other bulbs is not a good idea.

The heat of the incandescents will gradually destroy the sensitive semiconductors, drivers, and electronic chips inside the LED bulb.

LED bulbs love and thrive in cool conditions, and putting them next to a traditional bulb will mean an early death.

That’s not all.

Incandescent also draws more power than LEDs, and when both are on the same circuit in the fixture.

The LED will get lesser power, making them wide open for a host of other problems like flickering, buzzing, or outright failing.

You don’t want to mix halogen and incandescent bulbs with LED bulbs if your fixture is a dimmable type fixture.

You may observe that your LEDs may dim poorly, flicker, or not work at all.

The dimmer, which has been working well and is compatible with the traditional bulbs, might not work well with the new LED bulbs as it’s an older system.

And you’d want to blame the LEDs, but using incandescent dimmers with LEDs is like using apple seeds to grow oranges!

For these reasons, it is, in fact, even better to buy all LEDs in one fixture of the same brand as they will be rated for similar conditions and fixture usage.

Do LEDs Need Special Fixture?

There might be a couple of reasons why sometimes you cannot simply put LEDs in any old fixture.

As mentioned previously, if an existing fixture has a dimming feature, and your new LEDs are not compatible. You will run into trouble with dimming capability, such as flickering or strobing or incomplete dimming.

Now to the LED’s strong feature. They love cool conditions. And any fixture that allows that is a great one for LEDs. First, you need to identify the fixtures that are NOT suited for LEDs.

Here are some enclosed fixtures that are the bane of LED bulbs and will kill them faster:

  • Bathrooms and kitchens usually have semi-flush enclosed lights that suspend close to the ceiling.
  • Outdoor porch lights are covered in glass to protect from the weather.
  • Fancy retro mason jar housing seen in restaurants is airtight.
  • Recessed lights, or pot or can lights, fit inside the ceiling and are covered with a glass front and trim.
  • Even track head lights and some table lamps will be counted as enclosed since they don’t have enough space to dissipate the heat away.

So those are all examples of air-tight enclosed applications. Now you know what NOT to put your LEDs in.

How To Determine Whether Fixture Is Suitable For LED?

Conversely, any fixture that is well ventilated, allows for good heat dissipation and is open from all sides is a good fixture for an LED bulb.

There’s always a way out, though!

If you have bought an enclosed rated LED bulb, which has a large aluminum heat sink that dissipates heat quickly and effectively. You can easily use those in your existing enclosed fixtures.

Final Words

Until the existing systems and fixtures in place catch up with the growing LED industry, it’s always a smart idea to first buy one new bulb, try it out, without mixing it with other bulbs, and if all goes well, then purchase the lot.

Do you have a strategy in mind to replace the bulbs in your fixtures?

Are your existing bulbs on dimmer systems?

40 thoughts on “Can You Use LED Bulbs In Any Light Fixture?”

  1. hi eugen,
    we have E27 halogen pot spot lights in basement ceiling that are flush with the ceiling , nothing covering them; the flat top surface of the bulb is flush with the circular metal rim that surrounds them and covers the joining to the ceiling. The base for the bulb is held in a cylinder, like a tin can, that extends up into the fixture and ceiling. So everything behind the bulb is sealed in, but not airtight since there is nothing covering the bulb, and a bit of air exchange between the bulb and the inner metal ring that hold it, and allows the potlight to be swiveled and tilted a bit to direct the light where you want it to shine.
    There are 7 pot fixtures in a continuous wiring setup; they were put in fairly recently (within the last 5 years.)

    the hallogen bulbs we have been using so far are
    120 V 50 W
    BB 10 15

    They burn out so fast, it seems i’m always changing them; maybe they last for 3 to 6 months. I haven’t been very good at writing down or documenting just how long they do last. Maybe my perception of it is exagerrated because i feel like they are burning out way too fast, but i think they really don’t last more than a year. And it’s not like this basement room is constantly lit like the ground floor would be.

    Do you think we can use LED’s here and have them last longer? or does the fact that the bulb base is held in the can mean that we can’t use LED?

    Thanks alot for your help, and for your informative blog.

    • Hi Catherine,

      LED bulbs are normally used within ceiling spotlight fixtures so I don’t see the issue with using them. The only thing I would advise you to do is to get high-quality renowned LEDs. These will likely have more reliable built and will be more prone to heat due to airtight space as spotlight fixtures usually have. Other than that I don’t see any reason why you cannot use them.

      Eugen

  2. Hello, I have a hanging light fixture that says to only use Type A bulbs under 75W. I have a PAR30 bulb that is 32W. Is it still ok to use the PAR30 in this light fixture?

      • Hi Sally,

        The type A bulb refers to the shape of the bulb. A means the standard pear-like shape. The reason for the fixture to state that is most likely due to the width of it. PAR38 bulb is much wider than A type of bulb so you will likely struggle to fit the bulb in, but if you manage to do it, it can become a hazard because its width will block the air circulation within the fixture and 32W is a lot of power so it will generate some serious heat that can damage the wiring. And as you can imagine, damaged wiring becomes a serious hazard.

        So I would not advise you to do so.
        Eugen

  3. Hi Eugen,

    I have 2 vanity light fixtures that have 3 hanging lights across the top and 1 light on each side of the mirror (10 bulbs). I am down to 4 working incandescent bulbs.

    These fixtures are on a dimmer switch installed with the fixtures 15 years ago. Does that mean I need a new dimmer switch to use LED bulbs?

    Thanks!

    • Hi Kathleen,

      Yes, most likely you will need to swap the dimmer switch as well since dimmable LEDs were introduced in 2009.

      Eugen

  4. For a bathroom fixture rated at 60W (incandescent), is it safe to use a 15W LED bulb which gives a brightness equivalent to a 100W incandescent bulb ?
    Thank you.

  5. Hi, Eugene. I currently have GE Reveal 65watt dimmable non-LED bulbs in my basement recessed lighting system (pot-style with no glass covering). The dimmer switch in the basement that the electrician installed when we finished our basement is 5 years old. Do you think I can replace all of my existing GE Reveal 65watt non-LED dimmables with the GE Reveal LED’s? What do you consider as an “older dimmer system? Thanks!

    • Hi David,

      Depends what type of dimmer is installed in your basement. There are two types really, one is leading edge dimmer which has been used for incandescent bulbs and this is the one I consider an old type. Second one is trailing edge, which is the one that is used for LEDs.

      As long as you figure out the type of dimmer you have, you will have your answer there.

      Eugen

  6. You have noted that enclosed fixtures are not the best for LED lighting. As it is impossible to find true incandescent light bulbs to purchase, what type of bulb do you recommend? I have heard the halogen bulbs are not always safe and may catch fire so would not want them in an enclosed ceiling fixture.

    Thank you

  7. hi
    I have a random query that is completely stumping me.. we’ve just bought a new Lampshade which really needs a nice bulb.. we originally bought an LED diamond bulb for it which worked perfectly but then we realised the bulb wasn’t dimmable so had to take it back.. we bought an E27 decorative globe (its about 9cm across) dimmable which just doesn’t work at all in the shade (we also had one in a light upstairs so I tried that too but that didn’t work either!).. we moved a standard E27 dimmable bulb (standard size small bulb) into the lamp and that works fine but obviously looks lost!
    what am I missing??

    • Hi Carrie,

      Thanks for reaching out, but I am afraid I wont be much of the help in this situation.

      I can advise you to check the wattage of the fixture and bulb and compare if it all fits. Although it does seem weird that the previous bulb worked fine and this one does no work in that particular fixture. What you can try is to get the same bulb you had before but try to find a dimmable version of the same brand?

      Sorry cant be much of a help.

      Eugen

  8. I installed a led light in my kitchen that has just a regular light in it the led light flickers when it is turned on if stove or microwave is turned on why

    • Hi Paulette,

      This is very strange, what I can think of is that LED consume so much less energy, but because you have stove and microwave on the same circuit they draw majority of power to themselves leaving LED with no power. Such surge can potentially cause an issue. Your best approach is to keep these high power consuming appliances on the separate circuit to avoid that.

      Eugen

  9. For over a decade, I’ve had two hanging, cylindrical-glass-shade fixtures over my dining/kitchen table. They are open at the top and bottom, and about 1″-2″ larger in diameter than the classic-size light bulbs that I have used with them.

    For decades, I used GE Reveal 100-watt bulbs; these:
    GE 48690 100-Watt A19 Reveal Bulbs, 4-Pack

    In June, I instead purchased GE Reveal 13-watt LED bulbs. These:
    GE Lighting Reveal HD LED 13-watt (100-watt Replacement), 1140-Lumen A21 Light Bulb with Medium Base, 2-Pack – 98878

    These fixtures are controlled by a Lutron dimmer paddle switch. I waited several years before buying the LEDs because previously I had tried using CFL bulbs, and they wouldn’t dim with this switch. When I first installed the LED bulbs (without changing the switch), they did dim, though not as nicely as the incandescent bulbs did.

    But a couple of weeks ago, one of the LEDs started flickering. Over a couple of days, it got worse. I swapped bulbs into opposite fixtures. Then they both flickered. I turned off the lights. The next morning when I flipped the switch, NEITHER TURNED ON. I swapped the bulbs, and still, no light. I removed both bulbs and tried an incandescent 3-way 50-100-150 bulb (the last incandescent around here) to one fixture and then the other. It only worked in one — the one that at first was not a problem.

    SO…what should I do? Is one fixture dead? Might it come back to life with a different switch?

    Thanks for reading this far, I really appreciate it.

    • Hi Richard,

      Is the Lutron dimmer switch LED compatible? Not sure if you changed the switch, but if incandescent bulbs worked fine, it might be that the switch is the problem. Have a look at my other post about it. Usually, LEDs work fine with incandescent switches for a while and then they start to flicker.

      Eugen

    • Hi Brearley,

      As long as you have got the same base type and dont go above the rated wattage, I dont see a problem.

      Eugen

  10. Hi there, we have an led bulb that is leaking or emitting some sort of a clear liquid. It is housed in an enclosed kitchen ceiling fixture . The bulb says that it’s suitable for an enclosed fixture. Should we be concerned? We had an electrician check our fixtures and wiring a few years ago and everything was good.Thanks

    • Hi John,

      Thanks for you question. This is very odd, but I think the clear liquid might be some sort of steam/humid build up if its enclosed fixture that is placed somewhere above the stove top. That steam that goes up can get into it and accumulate only to start leaking later. I would definitely change the light bulb as it can short the circuit also try to insulate the fixture more.

      Eugen

  11. Hi, Thanks for sharing the info on this page. It is very interesting and helpful. I’m hoping you can help me out with my specific issue…I am trying to sort out an issue with my home lighting. I have GU10 light sockets (pot lights but no glass cover) and led dimmable bulbs. I have a regular light switch on one wall (on and off) and a three way Lutron LED compatible dimmable switch (AYCL-153PH Ariadni C-L) to dim the lights (on another wall). The light bulbs are Philips dimmable LED bulbs. The lights flicker so we upgraded the dimmer switch to the Lutron LED compatible one but the lights still flicker – especially so when they are dimmed. I had originally thought changing the dimmer switch would solve the issues but as I said, it hasn’t. I’m not sure what my next step should be. I considered replacing the LED bulbs with another brand and after reading this article I wondered if having incandescent bulbs in the same circuit could be a contributing factor. There is an outside light switch on the same circuit and here is an incandescent light in that fixture. Is there anything else easy that it could be? One of the bulbs even goes completely out occasionally and then will come back on when the switch is turned off and back on again.

    • Hi Al,

      Yes it is absolutely possible that incandescent bulb causes that. The reason for that can be that incandescent takes all the show (in this case power) to itself so LEDs are not getting enough juice. Try to take the incandescent bulb/s out of the circuit and see what happens.

      Eugen

  12. Hi Eugene, I’m making my 2 boys bedside lamps from either mdf or pine. If I use a G4 fitment with a led bulb can I wire it straight to the mains or do I need to add resistors. If I do need a resistor how do I know which to use without too much of a brain melt on the workings out. Many thanks in advance Andy

    • Hi Andy,

      G4 bulbs usually require voltage of 12V. So what you can do is get a 12V power supply and connect it to the fitment. Then you can plug the power supply to the mains socket and it will give the right output for G4s. When looking for power supply consider wattage rating as well. G4s normally use about 2W and I assume you will have more than one so you need power supply that will cover the load.

      Hope that makes sense?

      Eugen

  13. I have an older chandelier, have purchased several different LED bulbs and none will work in this fixture. Does not have a dimmer. Why want the bulbs burn? Other bulbs burn in the fixture.

    • Hi Jeanette,

      It is hard to determine the root cause due to the very little info but from what it looks like, it might be that something is not right with your wiring or voltage of the fixture itself rather than bulbs.

      Eugen

  14. Hi Eugen,

    In my lounge I have a ‘Mother & Child’ uplighter and reading lamp. The uplighter and reading arm are operated by separate built-in dimmer switches. The uplighter is fitted with 1x R7s Halogen Bulb Max 300w and the reading lamp requires 1x G9 Halogen Bulb Max 40w.

    Is it possible to replace the uplighter lamp with a linear LED bulb which produces an equivalent output in lumens? (Based on the information you’ve provided in your article, I somehow doubt it?)

    If it’s not possible, are you aware of any LED floorstanding uplighters on the market that would give a comparable light output to my existing halogen version………..ideally at an affordable price?!

    Many thanks

    John

    • Hi John,

      Thanks for leaving a question. To answer your question, you should be able to replace both. There are plenty of R7 linear LED bulbs that would perfectly fit the for your uplighter. Because I dont know about your current light output, I dont want to make any recommendations due to the lack of that information.

      But to give you a hint, the light output is often stated on the bulb so if you can take the current one out you will most likely to find this information. Once you have it, it will be the piece of cake to find the suitable replacement.

      Hope this helps.
      Eugen

  15. Hi
    I have a chandelier with12 candle bulbs in my lounge. The bulb life has always been short. We are down to a few bulbs and I cannot buy the old ones and was going to replace them all with LED, but the light is currently on a dimmer switch. If I replace the bulbs with LED will it work (albeit with reduced life) or will it not work at all? Thanks

    • Hi N,

      If the light bulbs are failing I would probably start investigating the circuit and the surge in electricity. As long as you buy the correct socket type for your chandelier, I cannot see any reason why they shouldnt work.

      Just make sure when you invest in LED that you dont buy the cheapest on the market as you will end up paying more eventually.

      Eugen

  16. I have old recessed 12” square fixtures which have a glass cover; currently I use a regular light bulb in each. You mentioned that LED bulbs will not last as long as they are should due to the enclosed space. Will they still last longer than regular bulbs? These are on a vaulted ceiling and extremely difficult to access.

    Thank you!
    Karen

    • Hi Karen,

      Yes, it is not recommended to put LED bulbs that are not rated as suitable for enclosed fixtures into this type of fixtures. However, I also have an LED bulb placed into the oval shaped almost enclosed fixture and it is fine.

      Their lifespan is likely to be shorter due to that, but overall still exceed the incandescent bulb by miles. This being said, I would suggest you to get a high quality LED bulbs with good design of heat management.

      Eugen

  17. My church is wanting to improve the lighting in the sanctuary. We have hanging pendent lights that are open at the top and bottom of the shade and hang over the pews – there is a reflector grid at the bottom opening of the pendent shade. Also, along the two outer isles of the sanctuary are light fixtures that are open at the bottom with a reflector grid. All of these fixtures date back to the 1970s.

    Can we use LED bulbs with this older technology? or is it best to get new assembles for the LED bulbs that are made for LED use?
    Thanks

    • Hi Ned,

      Yes, you should be able to use the LED bulbs with old sockets. They are designed in a way to work with any socket as long as it is the same type of base. Although, I would suggest you to examine the condition of wiring and the bases itself to ensure that they are safe to use.

      Hope that helps
      Eugen

    • Hi Lois,

      Yes you can. It is safe to replace a bulb with a lower wattage than before. The problem arises when it is the other way around.

      Eugen

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