what happens when you put a higher watt light bulb

Do you know what happens when you put a higher watt light bulb on a fixture? Would it be safe to do so?

Or should you stick with a wattage that is either exact or lower than the recommendation by the manufacturer?

We use different types and kinds of bulbs around our homes, so it is just right to know what’s safe from what’s not.

So, what I did was read through experts’ work about this to know it once and for all!

Using a light bulb that has a higher wattage can cause “overlamping.” Overlamping is dangerous as it can result in several problems such as overheating, irreversible damage to the fixture, and an increased risk of electrical discharge.

Understanding Bulb Wattages and Fixtures

understanding the bulb wattages

All electrical appliances come with a particular wattage. This is their unit of power and dictates how much electricity or power is needed for it to work.

Now, all light bulbs and light fixtures have certain wattages. On the other end of the rope, light fixtures have manufacturer-recommended wattages, too.

Usually, what people do is look for a light bulb that is at the same or lower wattage level as the fixture.

This is because typically, the wattage label on your fixture is simply the maximum wattage it allows.

NOTE: Manufacturers of these sockets and fixtures are the ones that label them. This is just the “recommended wattage rating,” as it doesn’t need to be exact.

After digging through some careful and thorough information about it, I found out that it is NOT and NEVER fine to do so.

What Happens When You Put a Higher Watt Light Bulb?

happen when put higher watt

Remember the manufacturer’s recommendation of the fixtures for the wattage I was talking about?

The bulb you’ll install needs to be at that wattage at the maximum. Going over it runs the risk of overlamping.

It’s not common knowledge, but overlamping is a term and is usually referred to as the thing that happens when a light bulb’s wattage is too high for the light or electrical fixture.

One concrete example would be buying and fitting a 100W bulb into a 60-watt-fixture.

What happens is that the power and heat generated by the 100W bulb are more than what the 60W socket can handle.

So, what happens if I use a higher-watt light bulb? Would that be just fine?

Let me give you the top four worst things that could happen in technicality when you try installing a 100W light bulb into a 60W light fixture.

Permanent Electrical Damage to the Light Socket

permanent damage to light socket

This is the most dangerous and riskiest thing that can happen if you install a light bulb that has a higher wattage than the socket’s manufacturer-recommended rating.

The intense heat generated by the bulb can melt the lighting fixture, as well as the wires and insulation.

Going further, it can be the cause of arc faults – which is actually one of the primary reasons for home and office fires.

NOTE: When an electrical socket is damaged, it can no longer be healed and repaired. You will have to replace the socket as a whole.


Usually, overheating is what happens when the wattage or the energy emitted by the bulb is greater than what the fixture or the socket can handle.

This damages the bulb itself and can cause it to become extremely heated.

Not resolving this soon also contributes to the damage it can do to the fixture.

an overheating

The heat can travel going to the wires and the inner workings of the socket.

If you’re going to place it inside an enclosed fixture, then it can overheat faster – worst case?

It can blow up because the heat would have a smaller or narrower space to escape.

NOTE: If the fixture is in an enclosed space, make sure that you will use a bulb that has a substantially lower wattage rating, especially if it’s fluorescent or incandescent.

Increased Risk of Electrical Discharge  

Last, and most definitely not least is the heightened risk for electrical discharges.

This is the act of energy release through a medium. In layman’s terms, this is the “sparking” of any electrical component.

Whatever component that sparks in the electrical spectrum is considered dangerous and hazardous.

So, if this happens, it’s automatically labeled as unsafe, leading to multiple types of risks.

So, in case you were asking, is it safe to put a higher-watt light bulb on a fixture, it’s not!

The most tedious thing you can do is to look for another fluorescent or incandescent bulb that would have an exact or lower wattage rating.

It’s always better to be safe than to be sorry, right?

However, the case is extremely different if you are going to use LED bulbs.

Using LED Bulbs

use an led bulb

LED bulbs or light-emitting diodes are the bulbs that are considered the best, safest, and most energy efficient.

Compared to standard incandescent and fluorescent lamps and bulbs, they consume about 70 to 85% less energy, meaning, they are not emitting the same levels of heat as their predecessors.

Does this mean it’s safe to use an LED bulb that has a higher wattage rating than a socket?

Let me discuss a common inquiry asked by people about this particular matter.

Would a 100W LED Bulb be Safe in a 60W Socket?

would 100w led bulb safe

This is one of the most common questions asked by homeowners when they are replacing their bulbs.

The short answer to this is yes, it will be safe for a 100W LED bulb to go into a 60W socket. Why is that?

Compared to your standard fluorescent and incandescent bulbs, LED bulbs to consume less energy as they’re able to convert it into something sustainable – light instead of heat.

Incandescent and fluorescent bulbs use filaments to light up (which generates heat) while LED bulbs use semiconducting materials.

So, when you see an LED bulb that’s rated as 100 watts, it doesn’t mean that it needs 100W to function.

Here’s a table that can help you identify the equivalent of LED bulb wattages to incandescent bulbs.

NOTE: This doesn’t mean that LED bulbs do not go hot, though. They still go hot, but they won’t emit the levels of heat that are dangerous. 

This means, overlamping will not be a problem, especially for high-grade LED bulbs and lamps.

LED to Incandescent Bulb Equivalents

the led to incandescent bulb
LED Equivalent WattageIncandescent Equivalent Wattage
10 Watts100 Watts
7.5 Watts75 Watts
6 Watts60 Watts
5 Watts50 Watts
3 Watts30 Watts
NOTE: This table implies that LED light bulbs only have to use 10% of energy to produce the same amount of light. So, if the socket is 60W, you can use an LED bulb that’s rated 125W.

Putting or installing a higher wattage bulb on a fixture is dangerous, and quite frankly, life-threatening. However, if you are going to use LED bulbs and lamps, it will be safe if it is within the equivalent of the incandescent ratings.

The Bottom Line

In case you’re wondering, what happens when you put a higher watt bulb in a socket, the results will not be pretty.

For incandescent and fluorescent lamps and bulbs, heat is a byproduct, and therefore, you should always be wary of the wattage ratings.

For LED bulbs, though, since they produce less heat, it should not be a problem.

Nicole B