Does Your Home Have a Phantom Light?
Have you ever encountered a recessed light in your home that seems to have a mind of its own and turns on and off by itself? As a home inspector, I have encountered them on many occasions. Believe it or not, they’re actually quite common. The one location where it most often happens is in the recessed light over the master bathroom shower.
Many people who have this issue in their homes generally just live with it because they’re not sure how to correct it. I know what causes this issue and how to correct it. It’s easily fixed and requires no tools! If you’re interested, read on!
In the 1970’s, there was a high rate of residential home fires that occurred as a result of over-heating recessed light fixtures. Incandescent light bulbs actually put off a significant amount of heat. Do you remember what the heat source is for the Betty Crocker ovens? A light bulb!
In the 70’s, when recessed light fixtures were installed, there was supposed to be a cone installed in the attic over the fixture that would keep insulation from covering the fixture. This cone was needed to provide a path for heat to escape. Covering the fixtures with insulation would cause an excessive amount of heat to build-up in the fixture and caused many residential home fires.
In the 1980’s recessed light fixture manufacturers began to incorporate a safety device called an “SHTP”. SHTP is an acronym for Self-Heating Thermal Protector. It is a simple bi-metallic component that would cut power to the fixture in the event the fixture became over-heated. This ingenious safety feature has all-but virtually eliminated recessed light fixture fires. In construction today, SHTP’s are now required in all recessed light fixtures.
But SHTP’s did create a problem for consumers who were (are) not aware of how they work and why it is so important not to exceed manufactures recommendation for bulb size.
The Phantom Light Phenomenon
Most recessed light fixtures specify that the maximum wattage bulb used should not exceed 60 watts. That’s because a larger wattage bulb puts out more heat. If a 75w or 100w light bulb is used in a fixture rated for 60w, chances are great it will cause the SHTP to actuate causing the light to turn off. If the light switch is left in the “on” position, the light will re-illuminate once the fixture cools off. Many homeowners who have told me about this issue happening in their home referred to it as their “Phantom” light.
When I would explain to homeowners that the problem can be easily resolved by replacing their installed bulb with a 60w light bulb, many people were not happy. They didn’t feel that a 60w light bulb put out the amount of light they wanted. Options used to be pretty limited. Compact florescent light (CFL) bulbs were an option, but many people don’t care for CFL’s because they take a while to warm up before they put out their optimum level of brightness.
Luckily, because of advances in technology, this is a simple problem to correct. LED lighting is here! LED is an acronym for Light Emitting Diode. LED’s consumer much less energy to put out the same amount of light (lumens) as a much larger wattage incandescent light bulb.
· An 8w LED light bulb puts out the same lumens as a 60w incandescent light bulb! 8 watts puts out so little heat that it’s almost indiscernible!
· A 9w LED is equivalent to a 75w light bulb!
· A 13w LED puts out the same amount of light as a 100w lightbulb!
It’s true, LED light bulbs are more expensive than incandescent light bulbs. However, because they consume a lot less power, they pay for themselves with lower electrical utility costs over time. Also, many LED lights have a life expectancy of 15 – 20 years! Chances are very high that once you install an LED lightbulb, you will never replace that bulb again as long as you own the home!