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Tips & Tricks Blog


What Does It Mean When Light Bulbs Keep Blowing?

09/27/17

LED, incandescent and compact fluorescent light bulbs

More and more homeowners are making the switch to LED light bulbs as prices continue to drop. These bulbs are extremely long-lasting and energy efficient, and they don’t suffer from some of the same durability problems of their filament predecessors, such as the tendency to blow out under certain conditions. 

If you’re using older types of bulbs and find that some bulbs or fixtures are leading to sudden and premature blowouts, it’s possible that you can stop the problem by upgrading to LEDs -- but it’s worthwhile to consider the reasons for the problem, do a little investigating and perhaps even call in an electrician if there are signs of underlying issues.

Here are some of the most common reasons why this can occur:

Cheap bulbs. Low-quality bulbs not only tend to burn out faster under normal conditions, they can be especially susceptible to failure under any of the less-than-ideal conditions that could otherwise cause a bulb to blow. When a filament bulb blows, for instance, the filament breaks at its weakest point, and cheaper bulbs have thinner filaments to begin with. Using higher quality bulbs, ideally LEDs, will generally avoid these problems.

Arcing electricity. When the bottom of a light bulb doesn’t make a snug connection with the hardware in the light socket, it can cause electricity to arc between the socket and bulb. You may not know this is happening just by looking at the bulb, but arcing electricity can generate excess heat, leading to a blowout. If you think this may be happening, remove the bulb and check the bottom for dark spots or pitting -- the telltale signs of arcing electricity. 

For safety’s sake, you may want to call an electrician to investigate and repair this issue. But there is one common, simple problem that you can easily fix on your own. Look into the problematic light bulb socket -- you should see a small brass tab that is slightly raised. If a light bulb is screwed in too tightly, this tab can be flattened, which can lead to arcing. You can bend this tab upwards again with your fingers or a pair of pliers, but only if the fixture is completely disconnected from electricity. If it’s a table lamp, simply unplug it. If it’s a wired fixture, shut off the corresponding circuit breaker and use a fresh bulb to confirm that the socket is disconnected.

High voltage. It only takes a small amount of excessive voltage to dramatically reduce the lifespan of an ordinary light bulb. Like the example of electrical arcing above, this is primarily due to the excess heat generated. Overvoltage that is too high, or sustained over a long enough period of time, can cause bulbs to blow. Consult an electrician to confirm instances of overvoltage and to correct the causes, which can originate from either in your local electrical grid or in your own home electrical system.

Vibration. Filament light bulbs are often very delicate, especially if they’re cheaply made. Mechanical vibrations, over a long enough period of time, can contribute to sudden blowouts by causing the filament to snap. These vibrations can come from nearby appliances, sound waves, second-floor foot traffic and many other sources. When vibration is the culprit, switching to an LED bulb is a sure-fire fix.

Are you having trouble with light bulbs blowing out in your home? Let the expert electricians at your local Mister Sparky track down the cause and put an end to the inconvenience and waste.



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