Bulbs burn out
March 29, 2010 11:43 AM   Subscribe

Why do my lightbulbs burn out so fast?!

I find myself replacing lightbulbs in the recessed ceiling lights of my kitchen too often. like every few months -- they used to last for years. i don't think i'm imagining things. also, i feel like this has been happening since my kitchen got remodeled, including electrical work. is it possible that something happened to the wiring to make bulbs burn out a lot faster than before? and if so, what can i do?
posted by malhouse to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Could just be that the new enclosures get too hot. Have you tried "rough service" bulbs? CFLs should get less hot as well - have you tried those?
posted by GuyZero at 11:48 AM on March 29, 2010

Recessed lights can have problems with heat, which will reduce the lifespan of a lightbulb. This can be exacerbated by improper installation. Were your lights inspected when the contractor doing your remodeling put them in? If not, get them inspected. The lights should have thermal safeties in them, too, so if the bulbs are burning out very quickly, but you aren't noticing them lights intermittently shut off on their own for ten minutes for no apparent reason, this could be a red flag that something is amiss with your installation. Get them inspected!

Other than that, you may be using bulbs that are too high power for the fixtures. Make sure your bulbs match the rating on the lights, and/or try using bulbs with lower watt ratings.
posted by dsword at 11:59 AM on March 29, 2010

It could be that the contact is bent and not making a good connection. Look in the socket and see if the contact looks almost flush with the bottom or for black arc marks. If it does, you can bend it out with a finger and clean it with a small piece of sandpaper or emery cloth. Obviously you want to turn power off at the breaker before doing this.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 12:05 PM on March 29, 2010

Are you taking them all from the same box? You might have purchased a slightly defective lot.

The above suggestions are more likely though.
posted by unixrat at 12:06 PM on March 29, 2010

Second Confees, Fletch. I was having the same issue and my electrician friend came by and adjusted all the contacts. No more blowing bulbs.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 12:12 PM on March 29, 2010

what kind of bulbs are you using?...make sure to clean them with alcohol after you install them, as oils from your hands can cause them to blow, particularly halogens...or just install them with gloves on...
posted by sexyrobot at 12:16 PM on March 29, 2010

Are they on a dimmer? or timer? certain types of devices are known to blow incandescents easily. I have a porch light on a timer that I have changed more often than all the other bulbs in my house combined!.
posted by Gungho at 1:12 PM on March 29, 2010

I have a similar issue, except that it is all the lightbulbs in my apartment, instead of just the kitchen. Check to make sure the bulbs you are using are within the tolerances of the fixture. I finally switched to 60 Watt after using 100 Watt for a year and the life expectancy has shot up.
posted by Carillon at 1:45 PM on March 29, 2010

I'm not vouching for this and I have no idea if this is in any way valid or useful, but Lifehacker just had a post on a certain mechanical method for addressing this issue.
If you discover the tab is flattened, then you must turn off the power to the lights, and as an additional safety safety measure, turn off the circuit breaker to the lights. Use a needle-nose pliers and carefully grasp the sides of the brass tab and slowly pull it up so the end of the tab is about one quarter inch off the base of the socket.
I've been meaning to look into this. Is anyone here familiar with this approach?
posted by jroybal at 2:51 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

CFLs should get less hot as well

CFLs run much cooler, but.. CFLs are electronic, and the circuit inside the base is very sensitive to heat. You have to be just as careful with either type of bulb.
posted by Chuckles at 3:27 PM on March 29, 2010

If you have your refrigerator, garbage disposal, microwave and dishwasher all on one 120 VAC "side" of your 240 VAC main electrical service panel, and your kitchen light circuit on the other 120 VAC "side" of that panel, the asymmetrical load can produce low voltages on the heavily loaded side of the panel, with correspondingly high voltage on the other side (the sum of both "nominal" 120 VAC sides of a 240 VAC panel must equal 240 VAC). So, a heavily loaded "side" pulled down to 100 VAC by excessive current demand from several appliances cycling off and on, can cause the lightly loaded "side" to see intermittent peaks of 140 VAC, which will definitely affect light bulb life.

The solution is to move circuits driving 120 VAC kitchen appliances so that they "balance," on both "sides" of the 240 VAC main panel. Sometimes, a separate set of wires will need to be run from the panel to the garbage disposal, or the refrigerator outlet, to ensure that a full 15 A current rating is available on countertop outlets for powering the microwave, garbage disposal, and counter appliances like toasters, blenders, mixers and slow cookers.
posted by paulsc at 4:39 PM on March 29, 2010

Do you have upstairs neighbors? Cheap lightbulbs?
posted by gjc at 7:12 PM on March 29, 2010

Are they on a dimmer? or timer? certain types of devices are known to blow incandescents easily.

Seconding this, esp if they're halogen bulbs. I had 6 halogen bulbs in my living room from 2 stems and they blew all the time. I've swapped the dimmer switch for straight on/off and haven't had a blown bulb in a year.
posted by dmt at 9:52 AM on March 30, 2010

Regarding paulsc. There's a neutral wire that runs between the two 120 VAC wires and keeps each at 120 VAC regardless of what current flowing in the other wire. At least, that is the normal state of affairs. If that neutral wire becomes loose or disconnected, then the voltage on one wire will depend on the current drawn in the other wire. You'd see weird things happening, such as lights dimming or brightening as you hear the fridge cycle on or off. And the voltage might rise high enough to burn out light bulbs faster. But that is an unusual situation.
posted by exphysicist345 at 8:27 PM on March 30, 2010

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