How to Use a Higher Watt Compact Fluorescent in a Light Fixture

The wattage you can safely use in a light fixture is determined by the manufacturer and should be printed on the lamp or light fixture. Because fluorescent bulbs need a ballast, essentially an electric converter, the only light fixtures in which you can use a fluorescent in place of a halogen or incandescent bulb are regular screw-in lamps. Compact fluorescent bulbs, CFLs for short, have the ballast built into the bulb. In addition, they consume less power than their halogen or incandescent counterparts and should be safe to use as replacements for these bulbs.

CFLs use less power than incandescent bulbs.
  1. Inspect your lamp to determine the maximum wattage bulb that is safely allowed.

  2. Determine if you need a higher wattage. If you are replacing an incandescent bulb with a CFL, you may not need a higher wattage bulb to get the same amount of light. A CFL uses around 20 percent of the power (wattage) to create the same amount of light. A 13-watt CFL produces about the same amount of light as a 60-watt bulb, so you can actually use less wattage by switching to a 13-watt CFL. If you want a stronger bulb, a 23-watt CFL gives you more light at a safe wattage than if you had been using a 60-watt incandescent bulb.

  3. Switch out a CFL with a CFL of a higher wattage as long as the replacement does not exceed the maximum wattage of the light fixture. Since CFLs use much lower wattage than incandescent bulbs, and most lamps are built for incandescent bulbs, it is unlikely you will exceed the maximum wattage for most household needs.


  • Do not exceed that wattage with any replacement bulb under any circumstances.

About the Author

Bill Brown has been a freelance writer for more than 14 years. Focusing on trade journals covering construction and home topics, his work appears in online and print publications. Brown holds a Master of Arts in liberal arts from St. John's University and is currently based in Houston.