Closet Light Clearance
Porcelain base “Lamp-holders” are inexpensive devices, and,if in closets, should be replaced with approved “light fixtures.”
Lights placed in closets are a real convenience, especially when looking for something in the dark. However, blankets, clothes, and other combustible materials piled high on a closet shelf can ignite, if located too close to the closet light. For that reason, earlier editions of the National Electric Code (NEC) required that incandescent lights be mounted in a location that was unobstructed vertically to the floor and had a minimum horizontal clearance of 18″ to storage areas above the front edge of shelves. However closet fires still persisted. In 1990, the NEC completely rewrote this article and banned incandescent bulbs from closets (hot filament wires could fall and ignite flammables if the bulb breaks) unless fully enclosed. Fully-enclosed incandescent fixtures were permitted to be surface mounted provided if they were at least 12″ from the nearest point of the “storage area”. Fluorescent, and fully-enclosed recessed incandescent fixtures were permitted as near as 6″ to the nearest point of the storage area. Fully enclosed means adding a globe or a wire-cage to protect the bulb.
A licensed electrician should thoroughly inspect and move lights that do not conform to current code requirements, and install fixtures that are approved for reduced clearance to shelves.