Do contractor light bulbs last longer?
February 25, 2011 5:46 AM   Subscribe

Why do the light bulbs my builder installed last so much longer than the ones I replace them with?

My house was built 12 years ago and most of the light bulbs my builder installed--floods, fluorescents of various sizes, regular 60-watt household bulbs--have not needed to be replaced in that time. When one does burn out, the replacement I get from the grocery store burns out relatively quickly, in months rather than years, and needs to be replaced frequently thereafter.

Are there contractor-grade light bulbs that last longer than the ones available from grocery stores? Should I be buying pallet-loads of bulbs from Home Depot or some more-exclusive builder supply store?

My house is nice, but I have no reason to suspect that my builder did anything other than the most expedient thing when buying light bulbs.
posted by magicbus to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Two things... One, you might consider buying more expensive, better quality light bulbs.

Two, and I suspect the more likely source of the problem, perhaps some changes in the quality of your power source (spikes and such) are impacting on the life of your bulbs.
posted by tomswift at 5:53 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Light bulbs are one of those things where paying a little extra for a major brand actually makes quite a bit of difference. GE bulbs are, in my experience, pretty awesome, but if the only "brand" you've got on there is the store you got it from, that's less likely to be the case. We aren't talking about any brand you couldn't get at the grocery store or a hardware store, just a better brand.

YMMV, obviously, and the quality of your power source does make a difference, but all things being equal I'd just suggest springing for better bulbs.
posted by valkyryn at 6:12 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

I would chalk it up to manufacturing practices and materials. The last 10-15 years has seem an amazing influx of cheap, disposable Chinese made crap flooding every niche.
posted by sanka at 6:14 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

tomswift: "Two things... One, you might consider buying more expensive, better quality light bulbs."

I believe that's what OP is asking.

What are the higher quality bulbs, and where can they be purchased?
posted by ArgentCorvid at 7:24 AM on February 25, 2011

Are you buying CFLs? Most of them have warranties so at least if they fail you'll get a new bulb.
On bulbs that aren't CFLs I've always installed them without touching them with my bare hands. Oil + heat leads to early failure supposedly.
posted by zephyr_words at 7:29 AM on February 25, 2011

First just buy CFL's they last longer and they don't suck so much anymore.

Otherwise go to a hardware store or some place that has more then one type of light bulb and you will see on some package "long life bulbs" or some such. Check it. Most I have seen are not in such big type, but they do say that. Totaly worth the extra 75 cents or whatever it is.
posted by d4nj450n at 7:37 AM on February 25, 2011

I am an electrician - and yes, our bulbs last longer. There is no magic to it, we buy better bulbs.

Incandescant bulbs have a filament that lights up when electrified. The heat from the electricity slows burns the filament out. Cheap bulbs have filaments that burn out more quickly.

Fluorescent bulbs have mercury vapor in them that fluoresces when electrified. The vapor slowly burns out. The PSI of the vapor inside the determines how long it will last.

Big box stores are trying to sell customers products at low prices. Electricians buy their material at supply shops, not at big box stores. (Obvioulsy, sometimes we get stuck and have to run to a nearby box store - but then we pay more for lower quailty material).

Bulb manufacturers make different grades of bulbs - cheap bulbs for box stores, higher quality for supply shops.

If you want high quality bulbs, you should check out going to your local electrical supply shop - like graybar, mayer, or city electric. Electricians buy their material to sell install, they usually want quality material over cheap price - and the supply shops are the best for that.

Many institutions that buy tons of bulbs get them from supply shops. Your local hospital is not getting bulbs from a box store, they are going to am electrical supplier.

As a small buyer, you probably will not be able to set up an account, nor get a discount in prices because of the quantity of your purchases. So, the bulbs from your supply shop might be steep compared to the box store (twice the price maybe). But almost certainly, the quality of the bulb will be better.
posted by Flood at 7:42 AM on February 25, 2011 [13 favorites]

The builder may have used "rough service" bulbs. We did.
posted by jara1953 at 9:07 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Thanks, Flood, that's exactly the kind of information I was looking for. Thanks also for the search term, jara1953.
posted by magicbus at 1:19 PM on February 25, 2011

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