Those closet lights that don’t have an enclosure around them pose a fire and safety risk in the home. According to Buell Inspections, under normal circumstances a 60-watt light bulb will not get hotter than 175 degrees Fahrenheit but under some conditions it could reach close to between 290-500 degrees, high enough to ignite things likes table tennis balls, which begin to melt around 130-150 degrees, according to Nittaku, a table tennis equipment manufacturer.
A light bulb like this needs to be moved farther away from the PVC pipe or replaced with a LED or CFL bulb, which work at much cooler temperatures. Here’s what you need to know about CFL bulbs.
While at one time it was acceptable to have these lights in closets as long as the bulb was at least 18″ away from the closet shelf, exposed incandescent lights are no longer allowed in closets, period. Here’s what the 2014 National Electric Code (NEC) says about closet lights:
410.16 Luminaires in Clothes Closets.
(A) Luminaire Types Permitted. Only luminaires of the following types shall be permitted in a closet:
(1) Surface-mounted or recessed incandescent or LED luminaires with completely enclosed light sources
(2) Surface-mounted or recessed flourescent luminaires
(3) Surface-mounted fluorescent or LED luminaires identified as suitable for installation within the closet storage space
Also, here’s the definition of a luminaire:
Luminaire. A complete lighting unit consisting of a light source such as a lamp or lamps, together with the parts designed to position the light source and connect it to the power supply. It may also include parts to protect the light source or the ballast or to distribute the light. A lampholder itself is not a luminaire.
To prevent a fire hazard, try installing a LED closet light replacement like the one pictured below. It is a UL Listed LED luminaire that comes with the parts needed to make it hardwired, or it can simply be screwed into an existing light bulb socket, right over a porcelain lampholder.