Lights and fixtures are unsafe for 90% of all homes????

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  #1  
Old 10-07-07, 12:13 PM
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Lights and fixtures are unsafe for 90% of all homes????

I was reading an article (written for the non-electrician who occasionally needs to work with electrical issues) in the latest Fine HomeBuilding.

One thing they touch on is nearly unbelieveable. They state that prior to 1987 nearly all wire was rated for 60 Degree C fixtures and safety. Yet after approximately 1987, the wiriing/romex was upgraded to be safe to 90 Degree C. What this means (according to them) is that buying a fixture off the shelf and putting it up in a house with pre 87 wiring is a code violation and possible fire hazzard!!

The article states that the only safe fixes for this are to replace the entire wire from the switch to the fixture, or 3' at a minimum (requiring you to make the transition inside a junction box for each and every fiture that you do this with).


This has got to be one of the most violated and unknown aspects of the code that there is, I searched Google and found 1 occurance regarding it!!! So is this a danger or is this not a danger? And who were the smart ones who decided to change the wiring standard to make everyone else prior to 87 SOL?


Steve
 
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  #2  
Old 10-07-07, 12:48 PM
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Prior to 1987 neither the fixture wires, or the house wiriing needed to be rated over 90 deg C.

I have changed out many a fixture where the insulation would crumble when moved.

This is due to the heat from the light bulb being trapped in the canopy above the fixture.

Later fixtures used a foil paper with insulation above it, in an attempt to reflect the heat away from the ceiling.

All new wire is rated 90 c as you stated. The only suggestion I can make is to upgrad your wiring in areas untill you feel your house is safe, to current standards.
 
  #3  
Old 10-07-07, 11:03 PM
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I can understand the need to make progress, and making things safer is always a good thing. It would have been nice though if it didn't mean that everyone else is now in a position where they have to upgrade their wiring (which seemed just fine before) to the new standard in order to avoid a hazzard. It's more than a little problem if I means I need to open up a wall or ceiling every time I put up a new fixture. Do they make fixtures that conform to the old 60 degree standard?

So what are the implications of this requirement in the code? Is it even enforced? I renovated a house once with a licensed electrician doing the new work, permited and inspected, while I replaced the fixtures. Inspector came and went, it would be obvious that the fixtures are new and the house is very much pre 1987.

Thanks,

Steve
 
  #4  
Old 10-08-07, 09:04 AM
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Safety standards improve all the time. In most cases, codes do not require you to update to the new standards unless you change something. Even then, they don't always require updating (e.g., buying a new clothes dryer for an old house). However, the mitigation for this situation is so simple that it is required in this case. You can either swap out the last bit of wire (really pretty trivial), or you can buy a new fixture that does not require the 90-degree wire (yes, many do exist).

Luckily, we still live in a society where the government does not break down your door to check your light fixtures. So no, it's not really enforced. However, it is possible (but not very likely) that the home inspector will cite this violation, which may complicate the sale of your house.

Do whatever lets you sleep at night. But don't convince yourself that the prevailing minimum safety standards are overblown merely to make your life more convenient. It's really not very hard to do this right.
 
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Old 10-08-07, 09:15 AM
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Originally Posted by sjenz View Post
Do they make fixtures that conform to the old 60 degree standard?
Yes, they are usually open-air style fixtures -- sconces, chandelier, etc. The style of modern fixtures has changed to use more fully enclosed glass which traps heat. A big advantage of an open air fixture, in addition to the wiring issue, is that the lower temperature will extend the life of CF bulbs substantially.

So what are the implications of this requirement in the code?
Well, I've seen many light fixture boxes where the wire insulation literally crumbles off into your hands because of overheating. This happens as a result of either a modern fixture used with old wiring or overlamping (100W bulb in a 60W rated fixture).

Is it even enforced?
Changing a fixture is not usually a large enough job to require a permit and inspection. It's more of a "right thing to do" situation. I think the big box stores and fixture manufacturers have been very lax at informing customers of this safety problem (of course because it would reduce sales); at least recently I have noticed some fixture boxes with stickers on the outside which say "requires 90°C wire".
 
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Old 10-08-07, 09:36 AM
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Originally Posted by John Nelson View Post
However, the mitigation for this situation is so simple that it is required in this case. You can either swap out the last bit of wire (really pretty trivial), or you can buy a new fixture that does not require the 90-degree wire (yes, many do exist).
No disagreement on the danger I do though disagree on how trivial remediation is. Yes, in a one story house with easy access to the attic but first floor of a two story house or many other situations? And while 90-degree fixtures exist are they the style the home owner wants? Glad I'm not an electrician having to explain to the home owner.

From what I have read here I gather sleeving of the individual conductors with 90-degree insulation is not an acceptable solution. Even if you had to remove the box to individually sleeve each wire for one foot and replace the striped NM jacket with with 90-degree sleeving that would be easier in many cases. To bad I guess the NEC doesn't agree. (I'm sure there are valid reasons such as UL rating.) Oh well glad you guys have to explain the extra work -and cost- to the customer. not me.
 
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Old 10-08-07, 09:54 AM
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Here's a solution that just might work where there is no attic access.

Install a second electrical box in the same joist space (or next immediate joist space) as the existing box, and use the new box for a wired smoke detector or carbon monoxide detector.

This only works if the homeowner does not already have wired detectors in place and only if there is full power at the existing box, and only if you can move the light or the existing wires to the new box. But if it works, it avoids a box in the ceiling that you have to cover with a blank plate.
 
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Old 10-08-07, 10:40 AM
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Originally Posted by ray2047 View Post
.) Oh well glad you guys have to explain the extra work -and cost- to the customer. not me.

It is what it is. Plumbers and car sales people (the list goes on) don't have a problem maintaining current codes/laws and passing along the costs.
More work, more income. Keep the changes comming.
 
  #9  
Old 10-08-07, 02:05 PM
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By the way, this isn't an electrical code. The safety issue was identified by U.L. and it is a U.L. rule you are following when you mitigate this.

Installing an extra old-work box in the same joist/stud cavity is very inexpensive and quick, and doesn't even require moving the ladder that you put up to install the fixture. Two or three bucks, ten minutes, done. Not much for increased safety.
 
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Old 10-08-07, 02:35 PM
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It is not a new electrical code. It is new testing by UL, CSA etc that has determined that the wire above a fixture must have the 90ēC rating because of the heat created by the bulbs in the fixture. If you check the fixture it will tell you if it requires the 90ēC wires. You will notice that fluorescent fixtures don't have this requirement. They don't get hot enough. Also chandelier type dangling bulb type fixture also don't have the requirement for 90ēC wire.
It is true that prior to 1985 the old cable used in most house was NM. It was rated at 60ēC. The new cable NM-B(note the B) is now rated at 90ēC.
 
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Old 10-08-07, 07:19 PM
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Follow the lamp rating.

My home 1987, New fixtures. I sleep great.

Follow the lamp rating.

However, in a much older home. remember the wires have been there for a very long time.

Approach each situation with the facts on hand.

"When in doubt.. change it out."
 
  #12  
Old 10-09-07, 11:18 AM
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Hm, in a related question:

I know it wouldn't meet UL's standards, but just from a "will-it-be-safe-and-work" perspective, would installing ONLY CFL's in such a fixture be a good solution?

They generate approximately 70% less heat than an incandescent bulb. Even if you swap a 60w incandescent for a 100-w-equivalent (about 27 watts draw, iirc), that's still got to be a significant heat decrease.

So, for a well-informed, careful person who uses only 13w CFL's, it seems like CFL usage would be a good way to go with the 60 degree rated wire? This obviously isn't a long-term (or post-sale-of-house) solution, but short of pulling down every fixture in the house...
 
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Old 10-09-07, 11:54 AM
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Originally Posted by TheWGP View Post
I know it wouldn't meet UL's standards, but just from a "will-it-be-safe-and-work" perspective, would installing ONLY CFL's in such a fixture be a good solution?
Yes the CFLs produce a drastically smaller amount of waste heat which is safe for the wiring. You need to get CFLs that are rated for enclosed fixtures to ensure long life of the lamp if the fixture is enclosed.
 
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Old 10-09-07, 11:54 AM
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Never install a fixture with incandescent lamps unless the lamps are fully exposed to the air around the fixture.

Avoid using a fixture where the heat dissipated by the lamps is "trapped" inside the fixture by a glass cover , etc.
 
  #15  
Old 10-09-07, 03:02 PM
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CFL will work but you can't control what the next guy might put in the fixture so you need to rate the fixture for the worst case senario.
 
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Old 10-09-07, 04:18 PM
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Originally Posted by joed View Post
It is not a new electrical code. It is new testing by UL, CSA etc that has determined that the wire above a fixture must have the 90ēC rating because of the heat created by the bulbs in the fixture. If you check the fixture it will tell you if it requires the 90ēC wires. You will notice that fluorescent fixtures don't have this requirement. They don't get hot enough. Also chandelier type dangling bulb type fixture also don't have the requirement for 90ēC wire.
It is true that prior to 1985 the old cable used in most house was NM. It was rated at 60ēC. The new cable NM-B(note the B) is now rated at 90ēC.
I removed the fluorescent 40 watt fixtures from my bathroom. They had a warning sticker not to use them with 60 degree wire. The ballast must be a problem
 
  #17  
Old 10-09-07, 05:13 PM
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I wouldn't be surprised if that warning was just sort of a "default" nowadays, at least if it's the type of fluorescent that does generate less heat.

And in my situation, I'm not going to replace every fixture (or a foot of wire or so on every fixture) all at once - I've got until the summer of 2010 to get this done, so for the time being, I sure can control what *I* put in the fixtures!

That said, I pretty much only use CFL's now, except for some specialty uses, like medium-base lamp bulbs. Once I replace those lamps for ones that have either chandelier or A-line bases, I guess I'll be left with.. the light in the fridge, one of two lights over the range hood, and the light out front that's on a dusk/dawn sensor that would eat CFL's for breakfast if I used them there. I think I'm doing pretty well, especially since I got some Sylvania 12-packs for $6.48 each at Lowes clearance!

I guess actually labeling fixtures to be OK with 60c wire and CFL's would end up confusing people, and they'd end up sticking a normal bulb in there. Of course, maybe that's not that much different from the people who love to overlamp every fixture in the house, warnings be darned...
 
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Old 10-09-07, 06:15 PM
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I use CFL's in my range hood and they haven't died in well over a year (maybe two years) of use. I usually have the range hood light(s) on for at six hours every day.

I also use CFL's in my outside lights that are photocell controlled. They last about a year to a year and a half.
 
  #19  
Old 10-09-07, 10:25 PM
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So am I hearing it right that the "adviseable" way to do this is to install a second box in the ceiling/wall and run minimum of 1' of new wire from the old wire to the new fixture, possible using it to also add a new outlet/detector/etc?

What about this as a possible solution, assuming you have two access holes in the box take your new 1-2' of wire and go from the inside of the box out the hole and then back into the another hole, tie it together and you have your required extra 1' of wire no extra box or hole in the ceiling or wall required.

Do you guys think that the reason most enclosed light fixture state 60W maximum for bulbs is because they know that people will have a tendancy to overlamp things, and also put a new fixture on the pre 87 wiring?

Steve
 
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Old 10-09-07, 10:48 PM
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What about this as a possible solution, assuming you have two access holes in the box take your new 1-2' of wire and go from the inside of the box out the hole and then back into the another hole, tie it together and you have your required extra 1' of wire no extra box or hole in the ceiling or wall required.
If I understand your suggestion, no. It can't be in the fixture box. It must be in another box away from the heat source.
 
  #21  
Old 10-10-07, 01:17 AM
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Rats. Well it was worth a try.

So where can I find 60 degree rated fixtures for ceilings with no access for a juntion box from above?



Steve
 
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Old 10-10-07, 05:29 AM
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At a lighting store.
 
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