In the dark about my light bulbs
June 2, 2009 7:16 AM   Subscribe

Why do the glass parts of my light bulbs keep separating from the metal?

New homeowner here. So far, in less than a month, three burnt out light bulbs have just slid out of the sockets, leaving behind the threaded metal part. I know about the potato trick, but there's no broken glass left behind. I found this question that seems to describe my problem, and tried this solution (didn't work, although it seemed promising at first), and I've already broken two fixtures trying to get these bulbs out (sigh).

At this point, I'm less concerned about how to fix what's already happened, and more interested in WHY it's happening so that I can keep it from happening again. It may be noteworthy that once I can get the metal part to twist out, a powder comes out (like a corroded battery). Is it the wiring? The fixtures (the house is about 30 years old, and the two fixtures I've had problems with (so far) seem to be original or nearly so)? Just old bulbs? Would it help to change them all right now?
posted by emumimic to Home & Garden (7 answers total)
That dried up stuff is just a glue that seals the glass into the metal base, so for it to eventually dry out and crumble doesn't seem out of the ordinary. My guess is that they are either lower quality bulbs or just plain old and worn out.
posted by orme at 7:30 AM on June 2, 2009

I had that happen in my house. Twice. The house had been unoccupied for over a year, and the bulbs that did this were infrequently used.

Considering what you can save changing to compact fluorescents, I'd just change 'em all (except near mirrors - they still have a weird glow to them thataway).
posted by notsnot at 7:44 AM on June 2, 2009

You or the previous resident may have purchased a package of bad bulbs that are all breaking at once.
posted by theora55 at 9:19 AM on June 2, 2009

I had problems with fixtures at my house becoming corroded (exactly as you described) & my electrician said it happened because someone put in bulbs with the wrong wattage in the fixture. It was incredibly irritating & I ultimately changed out the fixtures because of this.
posted by oh really at 9:54 AM on June 2, 2009

Are they enclosed or recessed fixtures? If so, the bulbs may be too high a wattage, leading to excessive heat. If the fixtures have a label make sure the bulb is of that wattage or lower. No label, try 60W max, or compact fluorescent.
posted by 6550 at 11:02 AM on June 2, 2009

I had this problem with Sylvania bulbs, they did it all the time. Switched to GE, it hasn't happened once.
posted by Wet Spot at 1:03 PM on June 2, 2009

Cheap globes. Also happens more with globes hanging downwards (heat rises & cooks the glue in the globe base), and when the rating is too high for the fitting (heat is trapped in the fitting, leading to the same problem).
posted by Pinback at 5:07 PM on June 2, 2009

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