Bare bulbs in the attic ??

Around here is is very common to see a bare-bulb pull chain fixture in the attic. I usually identify it as a hazard and recommend replacement. I know such fixtures are not allowed in closets, but is there a specific prohibition against them in the attic?

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They are in every attic I have inspected (homes built probably within the last 10 years), as a matter of fact, required here for new construction, and a receptacle present also if the Air Handler is in the attic.

that’s all I ever see Frank…and if it’s on a pull chain i usually manage to break it…

How long has the receptacle requirement been in effect? I see them sometimes, but not always (usually without a cover !!)

Depends on what version of the building codes your municipality uses, I would need to start my other computer where my codes are downloaded, perhaps someone else could chime in Frank.

But if there is an Air Handler in the attic, it really makes no difference about code whether there is a receptacle and light present, simply recommend they have one installed if the house has the Air Handler in the attic, if not, there really isn’t a need for a light or receptacle.

I always recommend (no metal pull chains)
They conduct electricity.

Never thought about the isolating link, but most around here just have a string below the fixture chain.

we like to use dinosaurs

I am not aware of anything that would prohibit the keyless within the attic space.

I guess as an HI the largest concern really needs to be the placment of the bulb itself. If the bulb is in a location that is really…well…subject to someone hitting it when they enter the attic or in a position that makes it really subject to being damaged then I can see where it would make the report as a suggestion. Most certainly.

Now CODE wise I can only think of the following which may reference something for you.

**410.5 Luminaires (Fixtures) Near Combustible Material.
**Luminaires (fixtures) shall be constructed, installed, or
equipped with shades or guards so that combustible material
is not subjected to temperatures in excess of 90°C

*** So a specific location in an attic may come into play…**

**410.6 Luminaires (Fixtures) Over Combustible Material.
**Lampholders installed over highly combustible material
shall be of the unswitched type. Unless an individual
switch is provided for each luminaire (fixture), lampholders
shall be located at least 2.5 m (8 ft) above the floor or shall
be located or guarded so that the lamps cannot be readily
removed or damaged.

But other than that…I am not aware of anything but if it looks unsafe atleast report it and make them aware of it…then it’s there call.

Article 410 Luminaries (Lighting Fixture), Lampholders, and Lamps

Article 410.8 (B) Luminaries (Fixture) Types Permitted. Listed. The following types of light fixtures shall be permitted to be installed in a closet. Closets (Clothes and storage) eight ( square feet (0.74 m²) or larger one of the following type of light fixtures shall be installed:

  1. A recessed incandescent fixture with a completely enclosed lamp operated by a wall switch.

  2. A surface mounted or recessed fluorescent fixture with a completely enclosed tube(s) operated by a wall switch.

410.8 © Luminaries (Fixture) Types Not Permitted. The following fixtures are not permitted:

  1. Surface mounted incandescent fixture with enclosed, partially enclosed or open bulbs.
  2. Pendant Style
  3. Lampholders

Walk-in closets of larger area where no storage exists within forty (40) inches (1016 mm) in any direction of a vertical line extending from the floor to ceiling, away from the wall, incandescent fixtures with totally enclosed bulb(s) may be used. Said light fixtures shall be operated by a wall switch.

OOps for closets (but good to read anyway

The hazard of a keyless in an attic, if one exists, is the physical placement of the fixture and requisite lamp. If it’s right above a scuttle hole, such as you would bump it when you boost yourself up and in, then it’s in a bad spot. If it’s right in front of your face, or right behind your head at the place you’d normally stand to service an air handler, then it’s in a bad spot. I’ve smashed out a few attic lamps with my head before, and it’s never a pleasant situation. It necessarily involves a little bit of scorched hair. Placement of the fixture is the only thing I worry about; ie- whether it’s likely to get bumped with someone’s head.

Having said that, if you’re in an attic that has boxes piled up close to the bare lamp fixture, then you’re also looking at a present hazard.

The Sparkies’ already identified the only issue I have with the keyless fixtures. Often, with all the space inside an attic one can place a light fixture someone will place it right at the top of the ladder or hide it behind a truss so the bulb is very close to the roof sheathing. I had such a one in my own house when we bought it so I moved it so it would cast more light and got it out of the way so I would quit breaking the bulbs trying to go in and out of the attic. I got real tired of the piss ant string too so I added a switch just inside the hatch.

Since most attics I visit don’t even have room for a fairly short person to stand up without hitting your head on a rafter, etc., and given that you can purchase a perfectly good enclosed fixture for a few dollars, I will probably continue to recommend replacement without indicating that any specific requirement exists. Thanks to all.

This guy thought the attic was a handy place for a breaker panel. No light. Talk about bumping your head in the dark. :stuck_out_tongue:

John Kogel


As a layperson, I am curious as to why pull chains are considered a hazard? I can see why a bare bulb might be, although never in my 70+ years of life have I ever encountered someone whacking a ceiling fixture.

(I got here because I frequent an old house forum, and some people were discussing having to remove original fixtures in closets and replace them with “cheap Chinese junk from Home Depot” to meet codes.)

Greetings Trudy,

Sadly you resurrected a thread from 2008. There is nothing that is inherently a hazard within the pull chain. That was simply someones opinion and not a fact.

What you probably encountered is the requirement to not have open lamps ( commonly referred to as bulbs, incorrectly mind you) in the vicinity (Over) combustable material. Just so happens that In Article 410 it speaks of this in a more direct nature, by stating that open or partially enclosed lamps (and in the example spoken here in 2008, Lampholders) shall not be permitted in Clothes Closets. It would not apply to the attic space as talked about…Generally.