Closet Fires & Closet Light Fixture Fire Hazards

Is your closet light fixture safe? Keep reading so you can verify that it's not going to cause any closet fire.


Incandescent closet light fixtures can easily cause closet fire and this fire hazard is very often ignored by the home owner.

Closet fire can be easily caused by a closet light fixture - pull chain lights with a fully or even partially exposed incandescent light bulb are not permittedCloset fire - closet light fixtures with exposed incandescent light bulb are not permitted, plastic bags too close posing fire hazard

We rarely pay attention to our closet light fixtures for as long as they work. Stacking cardboard boxes and plastic bags filled with old clothing or Christmas gifts wrapping paper against that exposed, glowing light bulb can easily and pretty fast result in a closet fire.

Would you please go and check you closet light fixtures right now…

Closet light fixtures can result in closet fire - plush teddy bear touching exposed incandescent light bulb will be set on fire within a few minutes, or soonerCloset light fixtures can produce closet fire - exposed incandescent light bulb is not permitted, too close to storage, poses fire hazardDon’t start a closet fire and burn your house down either; it doesn’t take that much effort. Improperly installed closet lights and wrong types of closet light fixtures might easily create a closet fire. All it takes is a turned ON exposed incandescent type light bulb, and a piece of your clothing, or other combustible type material touching it or just being close to it.

Every time you turn that closet light fixture ON, ignition temperature of a combustible material next to the light bulb will gradually drop. You might not even notice when the closet fire starts until is too late… at least make sure that you have functional smoke alarms.

There’s a simple and not that expensive way to take closet fire out of the equation – replace closet light fixture with a proper type or correct installation of the existing one if possible. Since you should always update to the latest building / electrical code, this is what 2008 NEC (National Electrical Code) says about the closet lights.

Permitted closet light fixtures that minimize possibility of a closet fire :

Closet fire - fully enclosed incandescent closet light fixture is permitted but it must be at least 12 inches from the storage

  • Surface mounted or recessed type incandescent light fixtures with a completely enclosed light bulb – this eliminates still popular pull chain (or no chain) plastic / porcelain base light fixtures with an incandescent (regular type) light bulb from being used in closets. Simply because there is no enclosure that would completely cover the light bulb and the lampshade is not a solution!

  • Surface mounted or recessed fluorescent type light fixtures
  • Surface mounted fluorescent or LED type light fixtures that are listed / identified as permitted in a storage area

Not permitted closet light fixtures, these can easily result in a clothes closet fire:

Closet fire and closet light fixtures safety - Even a recessed incandescent light bulb must be fully enclosed

Open or partially open incandescent type light fixtures (already explained above), and pendants

Locations / minimum clearances between the closet light fixtures and the closest storage space that improve your chances for preventing closet fire:

Closet fire prevention - fully enclosed surface incandescent light fixture is OK but must be 12 inches from the storage or replaced with fluorescent for 6 inches clearanceCloset light installed on the wall above the closet door or on the ceiling

  1. Completely enclosed surface-mounted incandescent or LED closet light -12”
  2. Surface mounted fluorescent – 6”

Closet light recessed in the wall or ceiling

  1. Completely enclosed incandescent or LED light source – 6”
  2. Recessed fluorescent – 6”

Surface mounted fluorescent or LED closet lights are permitted only if identified for such installation.

There’s actually one more, very safe and not listed in the electrical code book – battery type 🙂

Now it is time for you to check if your closet light fixture presents a hazard and can be responsible for a closet fire.

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