Understanding NEC clearance requirements for closet light

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Old 07-09-16, 07:31 AM
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Understanding NEC clearance requirements for closet light

I am building a closet and want to put in a light, and I don't want to fail inspection. I'm confused about the code requirements.

The closet is about 78" wide, 23" deep, and 105" high. The doors are 60" wide x 80" high, so there will be about 25" of wall above the door.

There will not be shelves in the closet at the time of inspection, and we haven't finalized the plan for shelves yet anyway.

We're thinking about a surface mount 48" LED fixture on the wall above the door or two recessed LED fixtures in the ceiling.

Can someone please explain the NEC clearance requirements in terms of where the lights can go? Thanks!
 
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Old 07-09-16, 07:38 AM
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Code calls for a 12" clearance from combustible items such as clothing. Playing it safe I would install a strip light, as you suggest, with a cover. Reasoning for the rule is bulb breakage and hot filaments falling on combustible clothing. With the LED's you circumvent that problem. Placing the light on the front wall not only keeps the light away from the clothing, but provides much better lighting for your clothes, since often the shelf will obscure them. You probably won't need the ceiling lights in a closet, as it may be overkill. The recessed cans can be converted to incandescent and would be nixed by the inspection.
 
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Old 07-09-16, 07:49 AM
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Thanks, Chandler. I read something about needing to provide clearance for a 12" deep shelf all the way around the closet (even if not installed, because it could be in the future), which is tough on a closet less than 24" deep.

Are you saying that a surface mount LED on the front wall has to be 12" above (since it is a shallow closet) the highest shelf or hanging rod? (There won't be a hanging rod, as this is a storage closet for stuff, not a bedroom-type closet for clothing.)

If there are no shelves installed, what would the NEC/inspector consider to to be the location of the highest imaginary shelf/hanging rod? The top of the door?

I was thinking that the recessed lights might be better, since the surface mount on the front wall will be 2" - 2.5" deep, and therefore there's a possibility of banging it with boxes when putting them on higher shelves. But maybe not.
 
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Old 07-09-16, 07:57 AM
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The front wall mount has no restrictions as no combustible items are below it. Your LED idea would be spot on as it would give all the light you would need and meet code. The recessed can lights would be problematic since someone could install incandescent bulbs in them, and they would be within the 12" spacing for hot filament falling (12" from shelf or rod). IF the can requires the use of a cover, then it would comply, but I doubt you would find one.
 
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Old 07-10-16, 07:36 PM
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Old 08-01-16, 02:34 PM
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My local inspector said that if it were a clothes closet an LED fixture would not be allowed on the front wall, since they would require the fixture to be 12" away from a hanging rod (or 12" away from an imaginary rod 12" from the back wall of the closet if there was not shelving/rods installed at the time of inspection), and the closet is less than 2' deep so that's not possible. A florescent fixture would only require 6" of clearance. But since my closet is a storage closet and not a clothes closet I can do whatever I want (within reason). In the end I found a 1' x 2' flat panel LED light that I'm mounting on the front wall above the door.
 
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Old 08-01-16, 05:55 PM
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Your inspector is incorrect . The 12 inches clearance is for incandescent lights, of which LED are not.
 
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Old 08-01-16, 06:04 PM
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Both the inspector and a licensed master electrician I consulted told me that LED is treated the same as incandescent. It doesn't make any sense to me, but that's what I was told.
 
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Old 08-01-16, 06:11 PM
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If it's easy to install the recessed fixtures install them that way there would be no question,they would be considered out of the space,just be sure they are IC rated.
 
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Old 08-01-16, 06:48 PM
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I was told that there is still a clearance requirement for recessed fixtures, the horizontal distance from the hanging rod to the closest edge of the fixture.
 
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Old 08-01-16, 07:00 PM
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Here's an article that addresses this topic based on the 2008 NEC. I can't see the whole article, but what I can see supports the basic ideas that I was told:
Florescent surface-mount fixtures and recessed, fully enclosed florescent, incandescent, or LED must be 6" from vertical plane of hanging rod/shelf
Surface-mount incandescent or LED must be 12" from plane of shelf/rod
Of course things may have changed since 2008, I dont' know:
Are LEDs Okay in Closets? | JLC Online | LEDs, Lighting, Fire Safety, Electrical Codes, Fixtures, Cabinets
 
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Old 08-02-16, 05:54 AM
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bajinnova - Your information is correct. The rules for LED luminaries in closet spaces are the same as incandescent luminaries. They did not change for 2011 or 2014 NEC cycles.

I was told that there is still a clearance requirement for recessed fixtures, the horizontal distance from the hanging rod to the closest edge of the fixture.
Correct. it is 6" from a totally enclosed incandescent, or LED, recessed fixture.
 
 

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