Question

I want to install a chandelier in a bathroom. Do I need to take extra steps to ensure it won't be damaged by moisture?

Asked by Gloria Herring
Seneca, SC

I want to install a regular chandelier in my bathroom. Do I need to do anything to insure it won't be damaged by moisture?

Answer

David Bergman

Answered by David Bergman

New York, NY

David Bergman Architect

September 26, 2011

Though there are some eco implications of your question (and we’ll get to those in a moment), at its core, this isn’t really a green home issue so much as one of building safety.

  • And before addressing that, we’d need to know where in the bathroom the chandelier would be installed?
  • There are some very specific electrical code requirements dealing with lights above or near bathtubs and showers.
  • A suspended light fixture, e.g. a chandelier, must be at least 3’ horizontally and 8’ vertically from the rim of a bathtub or the threshold of a shower. That may put a crimp in your plans right off the bat.

Use a fixture approved for damp locations

If your chandelier location meets those requirements, then I think you’d need to address common sense points such as whether water or humidity could cause deterioration or rust or, even more critically, could create a condition where anyone might be exposed to current.

Your best solution to that is use a fixture that is approved for either damp or wet locations.

Creating an inviting, relaxing atmosphere?

So where’s the green home part of this dilemma? I’m going to go out on a limb here and conjecture that what you’re looking to do is create an inviting, relaxing atmosphere for bathing. A beautiful chandelier could certainly do that. 

(If that’s what you’re into, that is. I might worry that my towels – or me – are not dressed up enough to meet the chandelier’s standards. Which is perhaps retribution for the fact that the chandelier may not be up to building code standards. But I digress.)

  • Most chandeliers, particularly the traditional type, are not going to use energy efficient bulbs.
  • You can relamp with tiny compact fluorescents but, and I hate to admit, the look isn’t the same, especially if you want to be able to dim them for that calm bath.
  • You can also now find LED bulbs that will fit in chandelier sockets. There you’ll have the opposite problem; though the technology is evolving almost daily, they still aren’t very bright. But perhaps that’s okay for a romantic bathroom experience.

Adventurous solutions

Part of what the green component comes down to is: how often will that chandelier be turned on?

  • Is it going to be the primary light for the bathroom? If so, it certainly should be (and may be required to be) energy efficient.
  • If, on the other hand, it’s a secondary light used only occasionally, then its efficiency becomes less important.
  • In other words, the energy savings are less significant when a fixture is less frequently used.

Another more adventurous solution might be to look at LED fixtures that use low voltage wiring. (You’ll still have to meet those code requirements.)

Better yet, how about a cool (literally and figuratively) fiber optic fixture in which the electrical parts are remoted to another space entirely? Added attraction: you’ll probably be the first on your block to have one. But perhaps you don’t want tour groups in your bathroom.

In a previous post, I ranted a bit against using candles as a substitute form of lighting in the name of energy efficiency. This, however, might be an exception to the rant, er, rule. Candle-lit baths (or so I hear!) may be your ultimate calming experience.

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