Something in Your Closet Could Start a Fire
(and what color are my pants?)
by John M. Wickline, President
Hilton Head Island, SC
OK, let's take a look at the safety issue first. The Culprit is Your Closet Light! Keep reading for information on Your pants.
This commonly applies to older homes. As a Home Inspector in Hilton Head Island, Bluffton, Sun City, Okatie, SC , I occasionally inspect older homes and observe bare bulb lights in closets. This poses a fire hazard, since paper and cloth goods (flammable) are stored in closets and often in close proximity to the closet lights.
Of course the fix is to install proper and safe lighting. However, don’t quit reading yet. At the end (of course, I have to keep your interest) I explain why some lighting choices are better than others. Not just any light will provide what a closet needs (OK, the closet does not need the light, you do). I will also help you with figuring out what color your pants are (the things you can learn on my blog are amazing aren’t they?).
|Bare bulb light fixture - Fire Hazard|
A closet is one of the few places in a home or villa where flammable materials can come in close contact with a source of high heat (bare light bulbs do give off high heat, and can start fires). Closet lighting must be installed with adequate separation from clothes, boxes and other flammables stored in a closet. Also, the quality of the light, and the bulbs efficiency should influence your lighting choices.
Now for some boring bits and kibbles (it gets better at the end):
The 2009 International Residential Code (IRC) on "Permitted Luminaires and Clearance from Clothing"
The IRC defines a "luminary" as follows:
a complete lighting unit consisting of a lamp or lamps, together with the parts designed to distribute the light, to position and protect the lamps and ballast (where applicable), and to connect the lamps to the power supply.
Types of luminaries permitted by the 2009 IRC include:
- surface-mounted or recessed incandescent luminaries with completely enclosed lamps, surface-mounted or recessed fluorescent luminaries; and
- surface-mounted fluorescent or LED luminaries identified as suitable for installation within the storage area.
Luminaries not permitted by the 2009 IRC:
- Incandescent luminaries with open or partially enclosed lamps and pendant luminaries or lamp-holders should be prohibited.
Clearances permitted by the 2009 IRC:
The minimum distance between luminaries installed in clothes closets and the nearest point of a storage area shall be as follows:
1. Surface-mounted incandescent or LED luminaries with a completely enclosed light source shall be installed on a wall above the door or on the ceiling, provided that there is a minimum clearance of 12 inches (305 mm) between the fixture and the nearest point of a storage space.
2. Surface-mounted fluorescent luminaries shall be installed on the wall above the door or on the ceiling, provided that there is a minimum clearance of 6 inches (152 mm).
3. Recessed incandescent luminaries or LED luminaries with a completely enclosed light source shall be installed in the wall or the ceiling, provided that there is a minimum clearance of 6 inches (152 mm).
4. Recessed fluorescent luminaries shall be installed in the wall or on the ceiling, provided that there is a minimum clearance of 6 inches (152 mm) between the fixture and the nearest point of storage space.
5. Surface-mounted fluorescent or LED luminaries shall be permitted to be installed within the storage space where identified within this use.
Now to answer that all important question, “What color are my pants?”.
Ah yes, the old Color Rendering Index (CRI)
The ability of a light source to reproduce the colors of various objects faithfully, in comparison with an ideal or natural light source is a quantitative measure called CRI. The closer the CRI of a lamp is to 100, the more it will render colors as "true". A light with a low CRI is why people are laughing at your color mismatched shirt and pants when you arrive at work. Now you know you can wipe those smirks off their faces. The CRI should be as high as possible in your clothes closet lighting. Believe it or not the old reliable incandescent lights shine brightly in this respect. With a CRI of 100, they are the most aesthetic lighting choice (but are inefficient). Compact fluorescents lights (CFLs) have a longer life and are far more efficient than incandescent bulbs, but with a CRI hovering the low 60s, they are a poor choice for clothes closet applications. Low-voltage halogen and LED lights however, are relatively efficient, long-lasting, and have a high CRI, although not as high as incandescent bulbs.
Take a look in your closet. What do you see? If you see a bare bulb, get that thing replaced. What do you not see? If you cannot see the colors in your clothing, now you are armed with the information to improve your wardrobe selection (go get yourself some serious CRI).
Wiping the smirk off the coworkers faces…Priceless.
Thanks for reading,