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Light Bulb Failure...And Here's Why!

Electrical and Mechanical Causes of Light Bulb Burnout

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If your home suffers from frequent light bulb failure, there is probably a reason for early burnout. Typically, a standard incandescent light bulb has an average lifespan of around 1,000 hours. This is of course if other factors don't lesson its lifespan. This translates to running your light bulb for four to five hours a night for roughly half of a year. Sounds great right?

Typical problems that lesson this time may include fixture socket problems. The fixture may have a loose electrical connection, loose contacts, or a damaged contact in the socket base itself. These problems often cause the lamp to run much hotter which could melt the connection solder joints or burn the contacts.

Another problem could be the bulb itself. If the fixture is rated for a bulb no larger than 60 watts, a bulb with a 75- or 100-watt bulb can overheat a fixture, especially in an enclosed fixture. The overheating will shorten the lifespan and become a potential fire hazard. I've seen this actually start to melt the wiring in the fixture. Luckily, they caught the problem in time, but not before the fixture had to be replaced for safety reasons.

Vibration is yet another contributing factor to light bulb failure. You may see this in wobbly ceiling fans or areas where wall or building vibration is frequent. let me give you an example. I don't know about where you live, but in our town, there are multiple trains that run through town. In homes within close proximity to the railroad tracks, you can feel the vibration of the trains going through town. This is a good example of vibration shaking the light bulb filament, that weakens the connection and causes the bulb to fail.

Excessive line voltage can also be the culprit to bulb failure. We're looking for an average voltage of 120 volts on either leg of you homes electrical panel circuitry. Typical bulbs are rated for this voltage, but there are bulbs rated for commercial- or industrial-grade that can handle a larger voltage. However, if your voltage gets between 130-135 volts or higher, call you utilty company to check the voltage tap and incoming line voltage. This higher voltage will damaged electronics and appliances in your home!

All in all, bulb quality has the most to do with bulb failure, at least bulb life. Cheap bulbs are often made inferior, causing a shorter lifespan. Remember, you get what you pay for!

To buy a more protective bulb that can really take a beating, try a rough-service duty light bulb. These bulbs have a plastic coating on the surface that is designed to prevent the bulb from shattering if the bulb explodes. These bulbs also can take a good shaking from vibration from ceiling fans. I've used them multiple times on jobs for temporary lighting and they are as tough as they come.

One more thing to think about while discussing light bulbs is the solder connection on the bottom point of the bulb itself. If this solder connection point is tiny and not half-mooned as it should be, the bulb may not be making a good connection to the lamp socket's connection center contact. Even a minimal connection will cause a greater resistance and will cause the connection point to heat up. This is a recipe for trouble. In all likelihood, the bulb will have a short life and it doesn't help the condition of the contact either. So remember, when you shop for light bulbs, consider the tips I've provided and choose wisely. It will save you money in the long run.

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