Light Bulbs Burn Out Quickly

28 responses

  1. Dallas Caley
    December 7, 2012

    I like this theory, unfortunately it is wrong at least in my case. With my bulbs (intermediate base 40 watt plugged into a ceiling fan) i can clearly see that the bulb is in fact blown, the wire between the terminals is broken and the glass is blackened on the bottom. My bulbs consistently last about a month which is just short enough to be super annoying. I was thinking about getting a base converter to either candelabra or the standard bulb size, that way at least i would have more bulb options and could possible get a more heavy duty bulb. Do you think this is a good idea?

    • Tim Carter
      January 3, 2013

      Dallas, your question(s) require lots of typing and I have some questions for you. You should consider investing in a 15-Minute Consult with me. Look at my cart for that. Lot's to discuss. I just do short pithy answers here.

    • jim
      January 10, 2016

      For future reference (as I am sure Dallas' problem has been solved by now), ceiling fans require bulbs label "rough duty" or "fan-rated" or "rough service". These types of bulbs have stronger filaments / filament supports. Another "trick" is to order 130VAC bulbs from a local electrical distributor. They will be slightly dimmer but their life spans will increase measurably. For example, a typical 60W 120 volt incandescent bulb is rated 1,000 hours / 555 lumens / 2700K color temperature (soft white). Now, replace it with the 130 volt version and it now outputs only 423 lumens but rated life jumps to over 2,800 hours! BTW, the rated wattage is reduced to 53W ... seem familiar? 😉

  2. kristy
    December 14, 2012

    How helpful that was!!! After years of light bulb more! Thank you!

  3. Rick
    February 14, 2013

    For Dallas, I would think that maybe when the solder melts it lets air get into the bulb and it promptly blows the filament. Just a thought. Bend the tab up as suggested and see if the problem goes away.

    • Mortimer Adler
      March 23, 2016

      Incandescent bulbs have a heat-pinched glass seal separate from the metal socket.

  4. Eric Kline
    March 1, 2013

    Tim, thank you very much. I was having the same problem. I installed 12 can lights with no problem. I tried to "straighten" a bulb in one and broke the bulb. After that bulbs kept burning out fast. I think your theory is correct. If the contact is not good with that brass tab, then the arcing will generate a lot of heat, which quickly causes the bulb to fail. I had a suspicion it might be something like that, but it's great to find your confirmation by Google search. You saved me a lot of headaches trying to pull out the can light from a just finished living room 🙂

  5. boris
    June 15, 2013

    hi, i have my house running on 220v 50w down lights
    but they keep on burning, i even tried energy saver 7w but
    i keep on changing, kindly what could be problem?


  6. angela
    January 27, 2014

    I am having these same issues...and others with my electrical in my new house. Bulbs heat up to ungodly levels almost instantaneously. It is not limited to one or two areas. It has totally blown out the light kit in a fan. Many bulbs have gone out quickly including range light, flood light, fan lights, ceiling lights. It's all over the house. Plus now when I turn on my porchlight it immediately turns off but turns on and stays on after a couple of tries. Electrician has no clue what is going on. Very disturbing.

    • jim
      January 10, 2016

      Sounds like a residential situation where either the 120V / 240V Main Panel ground / earth lead has come loose or the incoming utilities are not proper. Ask a professional electrician to take a look. The local utility may also have to check the pole / transformer for balance and voltage output. I've had both instances happen to me over the past 60 years. Hope this was cured quickly as these kinds of problems can also damage any electrical equipment from televisions to refrigerators.

  7. John
    April 24, 2014

    Simpler terms, I just think bulbs are not made to better standards anymore. Maybe the quality is just bad. I have typically bought incandescent at places like home improvement stores. They typically have standard bulbs on sale. I bought several packs of 60's and put them in several places. They all began to burn out early. Strange yes, because previous those same sockets had bulbs that lasted years not months. I think its clear that bulb quality differs greatly, and that how much jarring in shipping and handling can also affect bulbs. Maybe the stock boy dropped a few boxes or mishandled them unloading or loading the truck that bought them. Not to mention our wonderful roads that those bulbs traveled to get to your store shelf. Many come from Mexico or farther. I agree, electrical issues can play a roll as well as socket problems. But common sense might prove that a bad bulb is just that.

    • jim
      January 10, 2016

      Once incandescent bulbs were outlawed, so to speak, domestic production wound down fairly quickly. Several local manufacturing operations shed hundreds of jobs over this nonsense. So, bulbs are coming a lot further (most from China to put a name on it). Obviously this means cheaper in every sense of the word.

      Another factor is Europe's rabid fear of lead resulting in the successful global ban of its use in solder. Millions of new problems in printed circuit boards lie in wait for us but it is quite possible that this also affected the reaction of the bulb's solder joints to minor arcs and such. Any research on that, Tim? I haven't seen any. Curious.

  8. Ronnie
    February 11, 2015

    I've run into the problem that the light bulbs in my house numbers continue to burn out after a few weeks to a month. I have had the unit responsible for regulating the current to the fixtures replaced, the wiring inspected in the units and it still continues to happen. I'm not sure where to go from here. Any thoughts? Thank You

    • Tim Carter
      February 11, 2015

      Yes. Just check what I say in my column.

  9. Nathaniel
    June 11, 2015

    Hi tim. My cousin has four sets of flood light on each corner of the house. And on two different switches. 2 to 4 bulbs will blow out every month. Made cause this and how can it be fixed.

  10. Jackie
    June 24, 2015

    Thank you for this very clear explanation. There I was thinking that my floor lamp had finally failed forever, with a series of bulb simply blinking out. Instead of using pliers, I simply carefully lifted the metal tab with a fingernail. The new bulb came right on.

  11. Hiroko
    October 4, 2015

    Hi Tim.
    When I replaced an inside oven light bulb and screwed in new one, it almost immediately blew out. This stove is 13 years old. It might be have some problem with this old worn out socket?
    And I also can't find this appliances A15 light bulb in any nearby stores.
    I'm wondering if I continue to use it without inside oven light bulb.

    • jim
      January 10, 2016

      The oven lamp is wired to one of incoming legs. A stove is wired 220V; in other words, two 120V lines -- or legs as they say -- coming in with the burners wired across them to "see" 220V. If the neutral / return wire comes "loose", it can cause one leg to "see" a higher voltage than 120V which would shorten bulb life (and overheat burners) commensurately. Have a professional or certified electrician check voltages and tighten all screws from the stove to the Main Panel.

      As to the bulbs ... unfortunately, the crowd that mandated replacement of incandescent lamps with alternate technologies failed to take into account that there are many, many applications where an incandescent bulb IS the best choice and in some cases IS required in order for things to work properly. My tree-hugger buddy is still trying to get his lava lamp to work with an LED bulb. LOL Your local electrical distributor should be able to order proper bulbs. They may balk if you're not a regular and you may have to deal with Amazon dot com (not that that is a bad thing). Also, expect to pay a premium price; of course.

      In the mean time, leave a bulb in the socket so that the socket is protected when the oven is in use.

  12. Brooks
    January 6, 2016

    I have another issue: we have recessed can 2 sockets where the BR40 65w lights do not come one, but BR30 and a regular bulb - both 65w - do come one. I tried pulling up the tab but that did not help. All the solder ends on bulbs are the same condition, and the BR40s worked until about 3 months ago in one socket and the other socket started exhibiting this behavior today. Any ideas?

  13. Kel
    January 9, 2016

    Sorry to see everyone having trouble but glad to know I'm not the only one. I've been in my house 11 years and every Fall I have to start replacing light bulbs and some of them only last a couple of days. It's different fixtures that blows so it's not a single outlet problem Thanks for some helpful ideas. I will research farther.

  14. Steve
    January 10, 2016

    I believe my problem is due to the brass tab on the fixture being flattened, but I am unable to reach the fixture - it is in a chandelier about 25' up (in a church). I use an attachment on an extender pole to reach the fixture. Is there anything I can do to the bulb to get it to work? I have thought about adding extra solder to the tip of the bulb, but am not sure this is safe. Any ideas?

  15. elise
    February 26, 2016

    thank you for solving my problem! recessed kitchen lighting here as well. i used a ceramic knife to gently ease the brass tab away from its backing, then re-inserted the bulbs, only twisting a little after the light went on. all these years i thought the bulbs were burning out. i threw them away and bought new ones only to have the same thing happen. expensive bulbs too! about $12 a pop. the two i thought were blown are working great. so i wasted the bulb money but at least i didn't waste any more on an electrician. thank you again!

  16. Jesse
    April 30, 2016

    I used to blow bulbs weekly, don't know why but if I had to guess, it's because their cheap... I put led bulbs in and no more problems

  17. Jack
    July 12, 2016

    This solution worked for me. The tab had flattened and a new bulb would burn out immediately when inserted into the fixture. Thanks so much.

  18. Ted
    December 21, 2016

    I have a ceiling fan that has 3 lights. The ceiling fan has been in the house since we moved in over 12 years ago. I have been using energy efficient light bulbs and now the bulbs will alternate going "out" and coming back on. They never all go out at the same time. At most two will go out. Is the wiring bad or do is there another cause?

  19. Christina
    December 22, 2016

    I had and energy audit and the person changed all my light bulbs to CFL bulbs. They too burn out rather quickly and they are in a basement that doesn't get much use. Is it possible they blow out because they are on a dimmer and are not meant for dimmer switches? They do dim though. This is also happening to one particular light in my dining room chandelier that is also on a dimmer.

  20. Trella
    January 10, 2017

    We have a hanging candelabra-type light over our table, except the middle bulb faces downward and holds a regular based bulb. The candelabra lights work fine, but every time we put a regular bulb in the middle then turn the light on--the bulb explodes and blows all over the table. We haven't used that one in years, of course, but it would be nice to be able to use it. Any ideas what we can do?

    • Tim Carter
      January 11, 2017

      I'm sure you'll discover there's a short circuit in the base of the socket. The bulb base is connecting the hot and neutral together with no resistance and you bet that will cause a bulb base to melt exploding the bulb. Should be a somewhat easy fix.

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