Light bulbs blowing way too much
March 13, 2009 4:44 AM   Subscribe

I replaced my kitchen over-the-sink fluorescent light with two incandescent pendant lights, and also added halogen under-cabinet lights on the same wiring, so that they all come on when you flip the switch. I did the wiring myself. Within the first couple of months at first 4-5 out of the 8 halogens went out and had to be replaced. Those aren't going out as much anymore, but the incandescent lights are burning out more than ever. What happens is that when I flip the switch, one or both of them will blink for several seconds, then pop and it's cloudy black and burned out. I doubt it matters but they're the kind with the little small screw base, like a small version of the standard incandescent bulb base. I know the electrical connections in the switch box and the box above the sink are the prime suspects, but I've opened the boxes and the connections all seem to be good. I'm going through several bulbs a month at this point. Does anyone know what could be causing this?
posted by atm to Home & Garden (15 answers total)
Could be vibration weakening the filaments. I'd suggest trying:
  1. Rough service bulbs
  2. Lower wattage bulbs
  3. higher voltage bulbs
Going to be a bit of a chore finding any of those in a smaller base type though.

Could also be something with the socket though it would a bit unusual for both sockets to have a problem. If you still have the manufacturer information try giving them a call, they may have a solution.
posted by Mitheral at 4:56 AM on March 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Are the lights recessed? I've heard that recessed halogen lights can burn out quickly as they generate a lot of heat, and there isn't much room for air flow. That could be a possibility for the initial burning out of the halogens.

Vibration sounds like a plausible reason for the demise of the incandescent lights. Are there cupboard doors that open above them?
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 5:12 AM on March 13, 2009

It sometimes is as simple as the quality of the bulbs. El-cheapo bulbs have poor quality control and can burn out very often. Stock bulbs that come with many light kits are generally crappy, low-budget Chinese bulbs. Stick with good name brand bulbs.

BTW, what wattages are we talking about? It sounds like a pretty high load on this circuit.
posted by JJ86 at 6:05 AM on March 13, 2009

Bulbs can also go early because the wiring is bad. Voltage spikes can cause burnout. Especially in new construction, I'd get this looked at. Were the junctions done properly? Is there an intermittent short somewhere? Is one of the sockets bad? Some of this can be checked with a good line tester, no disassembly required.
posted by bonehead at 8:48 AM on March 13, 2009

Are your bulbs at too high a wattage for the wiring? (when I put halogen bulbs into my track lighting, they behave like yours do if I've accidentally used a higher wattage - or whatever its called for the halogen equivalent - than i should.)
posted by Kololo at 8:56 AM on March 13, 2009

The halogens are from a kit I bought at Home Depot. The kit came with the puck-style halogen fixtures, each with 20 watt bulbs, and the wires attached to each looked like lamp cords without ends. Then it came with clamp-on vampire-y attachable plug ends to put onto the wires so each fixture could be plugged into an outlet. And it came with power strips for plugging those into. The installation I did was like this: I removed the existing fluorescent fixture from above the sink and replaced it with an electrical box. I ran the two new over-sink incandescent fixtures into the box in the cabinet, and, with pig-tails, installed an outlet onto the box. I plugged the power strip for the halogen bulbs into the outlet. The effect is that the box (and its outlet) get power when the switch (below) is flipped. There are 8 20 watt halogens and 2 60 watt incandescent connected all together.
posted by atm at 9:28 AM on March 13, 2009

I'm not 100% sure if the bulbs' wattages are too high for the fixtures. They're 60 watt bulbs, but I really don't remember the limit on the fixtures. I'll go to the store where I bought them and see if they still have them and check it there.
posted by atm at 9:31 AM on March 13, 2009

Our kitchen has puck-style halogens under the cabinets and the bulbs just die and die, regardless of the make of bulb. I've given up on them and just won't replace the bulbs any more, which is not very helpful for you to know but maybe you can replace the pucks with another form of lighting.
posted by airplain at 9:42 AM on March 13, 2009

When we had puck-style halogens installed under our cabinets the cabinet guy drilled holes through the bottom of the cabinet above each light for heat dissipation. Our burn-out rate was not as high as you describe, but we did have one or two pucks that seems to go far more often than the others. My guess is also heat issues.
posted by GuyZero at 10:16 AM on March 13, 2009

The installation I did was like this: I removed the existing fluorescent fixture from above the sink and replaced it with an electrical box

I'd guess, and I emphasize guess, that you neglected to remove the ballast when you took out the fluorescents, and that the ballast is still in operation. The blinking you see in the incandescents is the momentary high voltage the ballast applies to start the arc in fluorescents (a voltage much too high for incandescents), followed by the normal operating voltage.

Look around the area where the fluorescents were for a black box with wires coming out of it and get that out of the circuit.
posted by jamjam at 10:29 AM on March 13, 2009

OP here. Thanks for the replies. The halogens may have a heat problem and drilling holes for heat dissipation is probably a good idea. However, the halogens are not really why I submitted this question. I only gave info on those in case it related to the incandescents. The problem I'm asking about is the two incandescents over the sink burning out so much.
posted by atm at 11:33 AM on March 13, 2009

OP here. The ballast was removed with the fluorescent fixture during the change-over. Thanks though.
posted by atm at 11:34 AM on March 13, 2009

The halogen lights are probably 12 volt DC. The strip they plug in to would then be a transformer. If this is the case, I suggest you disconnect the transformer from the circuit for a while and see if that improves the problem with the incandescent lights. There may be some odd voltage profile during the transformer start that's creating a momentary spike. If you have any geek friends with good electronic instruments, look at the voltage profile during power on.
One crude test would be to disconnect the the halogen system, turn on the pendants, then connect the halogen system. See if the pendants flicker at all. If they do, that might suggest that there is a problem with the transformer.
posted by Carmody'sPrize at 12:03 PM on March 13, 2009

OP here. There's not a transformer. These are 120 volt fixtures. Thanks though.
posted by atm at 12:17 PM on March 13, 2009

as someone in the building biz, I have heard home despot electric fixtures (and plumbing stuff) are not the same quality as from a "real" electical (or plumbing) supplier stuff. I had a mini florescent light fixture I got from them before I had heard this that never would work right. some lights would come on some times, and not other times, very unpredictable and anoying. they had no problem swaping for another one that did pretty much the same thing. an electrician friend told me to go to his supplier, where I got the same fixture same brand for $3 more and it worked right the first time and ever since. now I don't buy anything from them with moving parts, electric or water flow. just my experience but I have herad other stories since on dewalt drills. apparently they use their enormous buying power to specify some lower grade internal parts on a mass purchase to undercut the price of the same (to all appearances) tool. or kohler faucet. or lighting products
posted by Redhush at 1:42 PM on March 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

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