Totally Enclosed Luminaires: Sealed Lighting Fixtures for Indoor and Outdoor Use


Totally enclosed luminaires are typical fixtures in most homes for indoor and outdoor use. And they have existed for longer than LED lights. Therefore, as the world shifts towards energy-efficient LED bulbs, can you swap the existing traditional bulb for an LED in this fixture? 

We will look at totally enclosed luminaires and explain which LEDs you can use in these fixtures. Take a look!

What is an Enclosed Luminaire?

An enclosed luminaire or fixture is any light fixture that seals off its internal cavity where the bulb sits. This seal means there is poor airflow and ventilation inside the fixture. The design might be essential for keeping water, dust, or bugs out. It is also ideal for protecting the circuit underneath.

An enclosed light fixture for marine applications

An enclosed light fixture for marine applications

Enclosed fixtures can have different designs. Some, like recessed lights, have an opaque top and sides, meaning they only emit light from a translucent bottom side. Others resemble mason jars with transparent glass or plastic walls.

Types of Enclosed Luminaires/Fixtures

  • Recessed/ can lights
  • Pot lights
  • Semi-flush kitchen and bathroom lights
  • Globe/dome-shaped lights
Globe light fixtures as wall sconces

Globe light fixtures as wall sconces

Benefits of Enclosed Luminaires

Although most people are shifting towards open light fixtures, enclosed luminaires have several benefits, such as the following.

Sleek Design

Modern enclosed light fixtures have a sleek design that can be part of your interior decor.

Light Focusing

The light fixtures with an opaque top and sides focus the light from the bottom section. This design is ideal for creating mood lighting for bedrooms, bathrooms, and other indoor areas.

A can lighting fixture

A can lighting fixture.

Also, some of these units have a translucent cover above the light bulb for diffusing the light. Such fixtures can provide ambient light, creating a calming and relaxing atmosphere.

Protects the Bulb

The enclosure protects the bulb from external elements that can cause premature burnout. Therefore, these fixtures can lengthen the bulb’s lifespan.

An enclosed street lamp light fixture

An enclosed street lamp light fixture

Easy to Clean

Enclosed luminaires also keep dirt and dust outside the light bulb. Wiping the bulb can be tricky. But it is safe and easy to clean an enclosed luminaire’s metal, plastic, or glass housing.

Ideal for Outdoor Use

Since these fixtures protect bulbs from dirt, dust, and the elements, they are the perfect option for outdoor use and damp locations.

An enclosed light fixture for outdoor (street light) use

An enclosed light fixture for outdoor (street light) use

Have a More Polished Look

Enclosed luminaires can give your home and outdoor spaces a refined and polished look. Additionally, they come in a wide variety of decorative styles and designs. So you can pick the types that suit your preference.

Drawbacks of Enclosed Luminaires

  • It is challenging to replace the light bulb. You might have to unscrew the bottom panel or remove the entire fixture from the ceiling.
  • The luminaire traps excess heat inside.

How To Pick The Right Enclosed Luminaire


Enclosed light fixtures come in different shapes and styles. Every person has unique tastes, so you should pick a luminaire that suits your preference and decor.


These fixtures also come in different sizes. Ensure you buy the right size that fits in the section you want to install the light.

Type of Lighting

You need to determine the type and purpose of the light you need before buying the fixture. It could be a task, ambient, or accent light. Once you figure out this factor, it will be easy to pick the most suitable luminaire.

A pot light fixture

Type of Bulb

Some fixtures can only handle specific types of bulbs. Ensure you buy a unit that can work with the bulbs you have.

Functional vs. Decorative

If you are looking for a functional enclosed luminaire, get one that is more suited for task lighting. However, if shopping for a decorative fixture, get one with a pretty design and beautiful materials.

An old vintage luster glass globe light fixture

An old vintage luster glass globe light fixture

Which Bulbs Work Best in Enclosed Fixtures?

Incandescent Bulb

Incandescent bulbs are known for emitting warm, natural light. And they come in several sizes and shapes. However, their energy inefficiency will give you high energy bills.

CFL Bulb

CFL bulbs are more energy efficient and have a longer lifespan than incandescent bulbs. Also, they are available in several color options.

LED Bulb

LED lights are the most energy-efficient and long-lasting light sources. CFL bulbs can last up to ten times longer than their incandescent counterparts. But LEDs have up to 50 times the bulb lifespan of incandescent units. LEDs are available in many color options, as well.

Recessed ceiling light with an LED bulb

Recessed ceiling light with an LED bulb

However, you cannot use just any LED bulb in an enclosed fixture. While regular LED bulbs have high energy efficiency and last longer than other bulb types, they have one disadvantage. They do not perform well in hot environments.

Since enclosed fixtures have a sealed design with no air vents, heat dissipation is impossible. Although LEDs emit low amounts of heat, the little they release will raise the ambient temperature inside the luminaire. After a while, LEDs become hotter. Hot LEDs have a lower junction voltage. So they will draw less energy from the driver. This situation can cause the LED to:

  • Glow in a slightly different color
  • Emit less light
  • Flicker
  • Shut off after a few hours

How To Know if your Light Bulb is Suitable for Enclosed Fixtures

Regular LED bulbs usually have a label on their base indicating they are not ideal for recessed or enclosed luminaires.

However, there are specially designed LED bulbs for use in enclosed fixtures. These units have an enclosed fixture rating, meaning they have the necessary features to prevent overheating or damage caused by high temperatures.

A set of LED bulbs

A set of LED bulbs

The features include the following.

  • LED chips can withstand temperatures up to 150°C
  • Automatic regulation of the power and lumen output if the temperature keeps rising
  • Ceramic Heat Dissipation Technology (CHDT) on the bulb’s body
  • Hollow bulb housing base design to improve airflow

Are LEDs a Fire Hazard When Used in an Enclosed Fixture?

It depends on the bulb’s design and quality. Most bulbs not rated for use in enclosed fixtures will only get damaged. However, low-quality LEDs can begin to smoke when the temperatures rise.

Also, the fire risk can occur due to other factors around the bulb. For instance, the fixture might have plastic parts that melt when exposed to high temperatures.

A burned and damaged LED light bulb

A burned and damaged LED light bulb.

Some people rush to remove the bulb, and the hot surface can cause blistering. You should turn off the fixture, then replace the bulb. Don’t do a hot swap.

It is crucial to know this information to handle the LED with caution if it overheats.

Can I Use an Enclosed Fixture Rated LED Bulb in Open Fixtures?

Yes. An LED bulb with an enclosed fixture rating can function effectively in an open fixture.

It will even operate better because its design can handle higher ambient operating temperatures than the one in the open luminaire.

Wrap Up

There you have it! The one sealing advantage in totally enclosed luminaires can cause LEDs to overheat and burn out inside. However, specially designed “enclosure fixture rated” LED bulbs can function for long periods in these units. That’s all for now, and thanks for reading.

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