Does a fluorescent light in a clothes closet require a cover lens?
Friday, June 29, 2018
A cover lens is certainly a good idea, because it will provide protection against accidentally shattering a bulb overhead while moving things around in the closet, however it is not required for either a surface-mount or flush fluorescent light in a clothes closet by the National Electric Code (NEC). Excessive heat generated by a light fixture that might start a fire in the stored items in a closet is the biggest safety concern, and fluorescent lights do not generate the high heat of incandescent lights—which are required to have an enclosure around the bulb.
But any closet light fixture (called a “luminaire” by the building codes), both surface-mounted and recessed, can be installed on a wall or ceiling, with a minimum 6-inch offset from the "closet storage space," which is defined by the NEC as: “The volume bounded by the sides and back closet walls and panes exteding from the closet floor vertically to a height of 1.8 M (6 ft.) or to the highest clothes-hanging rod and parallel to the walls at a horizontal distance of 600 mm (24 in.) from the sides and back of the closet walls, respectively, and continuing vertically to the closet ceiling parallel to the walls at a horizontal distance of 300 mm (12 in.) or the width of the shelf, whichever is greater; for a closet that permits access to both sides of the hanging rod, this space includes the volume below the highest rod extending 300 mm (12 in.) on either side of the rod on a plane horizontal to the floor extending the entire length of the rod.”
The diagram below may make the definition a little clearer. It is essentially the space that would be occupied by hanging clothes down to the floor and the volume above shelving where stored items could be stacked.
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