Halogen bulb makes crackling noise
July 5, 2006 11:51 AM   Subscribe

Is it normal for a halogen light bulb to crackle a little bit after you first install it?

The bulb in my halogen lamp burned out, so I bought a new bulb and put it in today. I was careful not to touch my fingers to the bulb, handling it only by the ends.

When I turned it on, it lit the room nicely, but it made some soft crackling noises. They lasted a couple of minutes, and I turned off the light because it was freaking me out. I turned it back on, and the crackling noises were on-again-off-again.

It's a 300-watt bulb, and the lamp says "Use 300 watt or smaller."

I've replaced this bulb before, and I honestly don't remember whether I heard similar noises in the past. It's been a while.

Are these noises normal for a new bulb? Should I take the bulb out and put a new one in, with lower wattage?

This is a torchiere-style lamp, if that matters.

Thanks for helping this non-handyman.
posted by adrian_h to Home & Garden (8 answers total)
I'm not speaking from authority here, but in the several times that I've replaced halogen bulbs on torchiere's, they have never made crackling noises.
posted by chimaera at 12:07 PM on July 5, 2006

Please ignore the apostrophe in the above comment.

Also, are you sure that it's not a humming sound? There is sometimes a 60Hz hum in torchieres that (usually) is more noticeable when the dimmer switch is not turned up all the way.
posted by chimaera at 12:09 PM on July 5, 2006

Best answer: I would say that no, this is not normal based on my experiences. I've only ever had to replace 2 halogen bulbs, though.

Tip #1: Try as you might, handling by the ends may not be flawless. I recommend using gloves or a paper towel to hold the bulb, just to be sure.

Tip #2: Take the bulb out and look at what's near/below it. Debris gets in those torchieres and the crackling you hear may be something other than the bulb, perhaps even icky dead bug parts.

Tip #3: If you don't see any debris, then yes - definitely try a lower wattage bulb and see if you still get crackling.
posted by twiggy at 12:09 PM on July 5, 2006

Best answer: I can think of two sources of crackling, electrical arcing at the terminals, and thermal expansion of parts of the lamp - who knows, there could be something else too..

You should be able to tell the difference based on the sound. Thermal expansion will sound like hitting a steel bar with a hammer, arcing will sound like insect wings. In some circumstances though, I expect these can sound similar.

If you disassemble the lamp, you should be able to see evidence of arcing - small black spots on the copper contacts. Try to clean this off a little with a brush, and then reseat the bulb taking care to insure that the electrical connections are made firmly (try rotating the bulb back and forth, you should be able to tell that you have copper against copper contact, rather than copper against ceramic).

If you disassemble and then reassemble you may change the mechanical arrangement enough to prevent thermal expansion/contraction noises. My suspicion is you should assemble things more loosely, but the opposite might also work..

The only other factor I can imagine is possible contamination of the glass surface..
posted by Chuckles at 1:32 PM on July 5, 2006

twiggy's debris idea is probably good too.
posted by Chuckles at 1:33 PM on July 5, 2006

I'd suggest carefully wiping down the bulb with a soft cloth... you should never handle them directly with your fingers, because a fingerprint can overheat the bulb and cause the glass to break. Because of the temperature and pressure, I believe it amounts to a small explosion, and can throw searing hot glass shards around your room. That's why they come with the shields... and why they're so very hard to find these days.

Also wipe down the shield and clean out the area under the bulb as well.

If it still crackles... honestly, I'd probably try a new bulb. I LOVE the halogen torchieres, but I don't think I'd want to risk using a potentially defective bulb.
posted by Malor at 1:36 PM on July 5, 2006

Best answer: These bulbs ship with some kind of sprayed-on coating that burns off. It takes a few minutes, and it can crackle and smell funny during that time.
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:35 PM on July 5, 2006

Best answer: I seem to remember that all halogen bulbs are sensitive to the correct running temperature. So undervoltage or overvoltage will kill them, although the newer types are to some extent 'ruggedized'.

Any kind of arcing will disturb the steady flow of current, therefore the heat produced, therefore the temperature. Yes fingerprints also kill bulbs because they reduce transmission of light/heat and over time raise the temperature. So will running the bulbs in any enclosed [cramped] space not specifically designed for.

That said, ikkyu2 seems to have a good point, but why the "on-again-off-again"? That would suggest an intermittent problem, which is probably not good news.
posted by metaswell at 1:26 AM on July 6, 2006

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