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Philadelphia Electric Code Ruling on Exposed CFL’s

by Chad Ludeman on October 20, 2008 · 11 comments

in Design,lighting

A couple of weeks ago we met with our new electrician who informed me that we would not be able to use our exposed CFL light sockets as planned due to the City of Philadelphia Electrical Code that requires all light fixtures to be covered. This bummed me out to say the least since we had been planning to use these from day one of the project.

Exposed CFL Example

After one of our readers, Jake, commented that he did not think that this code requirement was accurate, I decided to dive into the City of Philadelphia Building Code myself to find out. Unless I missed something, I think our pal Jake is right. There is a requirement to have ceiling fixtures in a bathroom shower covered, but besides that I did not see any other mention of covering fixtures or bulbs. So, as far as I’m concerned, the exposed fixtures are back on the table. Thanks to our reader, Jake, for prodding us to look deeper into this issue.

If you look closely in the image above (from the IndigoMODERN project via Jetson Green), you will see another take on the same concept. They are using exposed CFL’s just as we have planned over the bed, but to the right of the image they are using exposed spot lights that would normally go in a recessed can or flood light. There are plenty of CFL versions of these lights now that essentially have a standard CFL covered by a hardy glass sheild just like a normal recessed light would have. This could add some variety to our homes as far as the lighting goes without needed to change the fixtures planned anywhere.

For those of you interested in this exposed light fixture look without the limitations of our strict budget, check out these 10 ceiling socket fixtures from Remodelista.

{ 1 trackback }

Jetson Green
September 10, 2010 at 1:30 am

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 kirby grimes October 20, 2008 at 12:55 pm

your house size ‘argument’, irrelevant
your projecting your needs on the project
do objective ‘home work’
survey potential buyers for that neighborhood
min. lin ft of closet space, ect
your thinking too much like architects

2 chad October 20, 2008 at 1:02 pm

We’ve done all that Kirby. What’s your point and what does it have to do with this post? It’s hard to understand your rambling, incoherent sentences…

You’re thinking too much like a greedy McMansion developer. There’s room to meet in between and this credit crunch and economic correction will prove that all the more.

3 Rob October 20, 2008 at 1:17 pm

I think the whole point of using the bare bulb is to be as simple and as efficient as possible. Certianly this house is not for everyone. But it is for the person(s) who wants to live in the city, in a modern styled home and be as sustainable as possible on 100k budget. This light fixture accomplishes that very well in many ways; using less material to make the fixture, cheaper fixture, less energy used due to fewer fixtures due to more light because of lack of shades.

To say that you do not like the “look” of the bare bulb is fine, but you cannot deny the logic of its use in this application.

4 Asa October 20, 2008 at 1:35 pm

Have you considered leapfrogging CFLS and going straight to LED lights? They’re cooler because they’re even more efficient, and the homeowner won’t have to replace the bulbs for years and years and years (plus, no mercury!). More expensive up front, but I doubt light bulbs will drive you over budget in the end.

5 chad October 20, 2008 at 1:45 pm

Excellent point Asa and this is one we considered. During our energy modeling with Zero Energy Design, we actually compared using CFL’s to LED’s and found that LED’s would be less efficient. While they do last longer than CFL’s, they put out only about 35 lumens/watt compared to the 85 lumens/watt that the average CFL puts out.

LED lights also emit light in only one direction and good light bulbs that can replace traditional ones are hard to find. Recessed LED’s or pendants are more common and we just aren’t using any of those.

Another thing that we considered was placing light sensors on the fixtures or in the rooms that would regulate the light output (via dimming) of each fixture depending on the amount of ambient light that was coming in from the windows. This was a bit beyond our budget also, but is a pretty cool tactic to lowering lighting bills further.

If you are interested in more lighting info, you can watch this ridiculous video we did on the subject a few months ago http://www.viddler.com/explore/postgreen/videos/7/.

6 moderns-r-us October 23, 2008 at 1:02 am
7 chad October 23, 2008 at 9:11 am

Very cool idea modern. I like it. Having trouble finding the kit to buy or is it only a DIY project at the moment?

8 Elemental LED staff January 21, 2010 at 7:22 pm

what a great house, Chad. Just found out about it now, shortly after your final blog post! it’s true that LED retrofit bulbs are lagging a bit behind in brightness, but strips and bars are now very bright, some of them emitting more like 100 lumens per watt, rather than 35.

9 Greenbuildingindenver September 12, 2010 at 7:16 pm

I agree, my research is showing that lumens per watt LED vs CFL are pretty close. Expected lifespan of the bulbs are about 7yrs for CFL, but 40 yrs for LED. LED’s also are instantly at full brightness (not so with CFLs), with a more pleasing light. Nevermind about color temperature, CFLs have a flicker that makes some people edgy.

Cost is the LED problem, but HD has come to the rescue with a bulb that looks great for $20: http://www.homedepot.com/h_d1/N-5yc1vZ1xhf/R-202188260/h_d2/ProductDisplay?langId=-1&storeId=10051&catalogId=10053
This one is also dimmable, and will look great in your bulb sockets. Is that still your approach?

10 Robert Monk April 6, 2011 at 3:28 pm

City of Philadelphia is currently operating under National Electric Code 2008 edition (NFPA 70, 2011). The requirements I know of from this, are:

410.97 Lampholders Near Combustible
Material
Lampholders shall be constructed, installed, or equipped
with shades or guards so that combustible material is not
subjected to temperatures in excess of 90°C (194°F).

The commentary included in the NEC 2011 Code Handbook suggests that this MAY apply to lampholders installed over bedding, such as above a bed. However, the same commentary is applied after a discussion of incandescent lamps in a closet, suggesting that the concern applies primarily to incandescent filaments, which operate at a much higher temperature than any part of a typical CFL lamp.

http://electric.phillylicensedcontractor.com

NEC 2011 COMMENTARY:
The requirements of 410.11, 410.12, 410.14, and 410.16
regulate the placement of luminaires near combustible materials
so that they do not become a heat source that could ignite
the fuel source. Tests have shown that hot particles from
broken ****incandescent**** lamps can ignite combustibles below
the lamps.

Beyond this, there are VERY restrictive requirements concerning non-enclosed lamps in closets. Incandescents are totally out, unless enclosed. The take-away is basically: don’t put ANYTHING in a closet, unless you designed the closet to accommodate your lamp. Even protected lamps are tough to accommodate in a closet.

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