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Why Do My Light Bulbs Keep Burning Out?

Burning Out Light Bulbs

Although incandescent light bulbs typically have lifespans from 1,000 to 3,000 hours, many people have light fixtures in their home that burn through bulbs at a much faster rate. If you’ve had to replace light bulbs in the same fixtures time and time again, this week’s entry is for you. While burned out bulbs are sometimes the fault of defective products, often this blame is misplaced. Why not rule out other causes and possibly save yourself the expense of a new light? Below are a few reasons light bulbs routinely burn out.

Bulbs are Improperly Connected to the Fixture

Although this might sound like a “face palm” reason, it happens. You could be screwing in your bulbs too tightly. If you rolled your eyes at that, keep in mind that even if you yourself didn’t screw your light in too tightly, someone else may have at one point in the fixture’s life and ruined the fixture-to-bulb connection. In this case, it’s time to purchase a new fixture. However, the fixture-to-bulb connection might also be disrupted because of the particular brand of light bulb you’re using. Sometimes, cheaper bulbs have little or no solder on the contact point of the bulb. Verify your bulb’s operation in another fixture to see if the issue lies with the bulb or fixture.

Fixtures are Vibrating Too Much

broomhandleAnother reason your lights could be burning out quickly is because they’re subject to excessive vibration. Fixtures may undergo excessive vibration under a variety of circumstances, but common causes are wobbly ceiling fans or a fixture that’s placed beneath a kid’s room or exercise room. To fix this, consider using a rough service bulb or upgrading to a 130-volt long life light bulb, both of which have thicker filaments that can handle the stress. You may even consider an LED light, since LEDs don’t have filaments to begin with (not to mention they’re more energy efficient).

Bulbs are Getting Too Hot

Even if you purchased a bulb in the right wattage, your bulb could still be burning out from excessive heat. This is usually the case if you’re using a bulb that is too large for your fixture or when you are using the wrong bulb in an enclosed fixture. Although a larger bulb with the right base type may readily screw into a fixture, a fixture that’s designed to operate a smaller bulb may not be able to adequately disperse heat throughout it. If you think this may be your problem, make sure you’re using the right size bulb for your fixture, or try using a bulb with a lower wattage instead.

Your bulb could also overheat if you’re using it in a covered recessed fixture that is simply not getting enough ventilation (lots of dust on the bulb or in the wiring can exacerbate this as well). In this case, you would need to double check your bulb to make sure it’s approved for use in an enclosed fixture. If it is and the problem persists, you may need to replace your recessed can fixture. One way to check to see if your bulb is getting too hot is to check the area around where the bulb meets the fixture insulation for signs of heat damage, even if your bulb does not itself appear damaged.

High Voltage in the Home

Gardner Bender Voltage Tester

Gardner Bender Voltage Tester

If you have several fixtures in your home that go through light bulbs within a few months, then the problem may be that you have too much electricity entering your home. Although we’ve been taught that electricity flows into our homes at a steady 120 volts, that’s not always the case. Sometimes a house is actually a little overpowered. For nearly everything else in your house that runs on electricity, this isn’t an issue, but for light bulbs, it can seriously shorten their life spans. If you think this may be the problem, purchase a voltage tester to check the voltage of your home. Fluctuation is normal, but if you see a voltage that typically hovers above 125, chances are you’ve found the culprit. In most cases, the best thing to do is swap out your 120 volt bulbs with 130 volt bulbs. But if many of your fixtures are producing burned out bulbs, it may be a more long-lasting solution to call an electrician for advice about correcting your voltage supply.

Fixtures or Wiring were Poorly Installed

If you’ve tried everything else and are still sailing through light bulbs, it may be because your fixtures or even your wiring was poorly installed. Cut the power to your light fixture, remove it from the junction box behind it, and check to make sure all of the wire connections are nice and tight. A loose wire can result in wildly fluctuating current through the bulb, which can kill a light bulb in days. If your wires are tight and your fixture is well connected yet your light still isn’t working, your problem most likely lies elsewhere.

Have you already ruled out these causes and your lights are still burning out? We’ll confer with our lighting experts and help you figure it out! Tell us about your situation below in the comments or via FacebookTwitterGoogle PlusLinkedIn or Pinterest!

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Jessica Banke

Jessica graduated with a Creative Writing degree from Texas A&M University in 2013. As a Copywriter for 1000Bulbs.com, she uses her writing skills to illuminate the world on lighting topics from A to Z. Check back often for more fun and practical articles!

  • Will Parsons

    It sounds like the socket itself is loose or has expanded to allow the bulb to slide away from the electrical contacts. I’d recommend replacing the socket.

  • luke

    In some can lights there is a heat sensor. So that if the can gets to hot it will kill power to the socket. It’s a safety deal. Say you have a 60 watt light bulb in there now try to put a 40 or 30 watt bulb in there if it remains on after a while that would be the problem. You may have to replace the sensor or a qualified electrician do that for you. We have had this problem before. Hopefully this will help you!

  • Will Parsons

    Is this a recent problem, or an ongoing issue? If you believe it’s a power fluctuation, that could be due to faulty wiring or issues on the electrical grid. I’d recommend getting a licensed electrician to inspect the wiring for safety reasons.

    • Michael Scoffield

      Yes, it’s been an ongoing issue, for at least a year. I guess I must have an electrician inspect the wiring. Thanks for the advice!

  • Guest

    I have recently tried Cree 60 and 75 Watt equivalent LED lightbulbs in two fan fixtures and an enclosed fixture. Within one day, the frosting on one side of the bulbs burned off and the glass became clear on that side of the bulb. The centers of each bulb also turned dark and blackish. An electrician checked the wiring in my house, which he said was fine. Two electricians suspected excess voltage to the house. The voltage coming in was 124-5 volts. It is common in my area for the power company to supply voltage in this range. In defense of this practice, the power company said they are within the 5% allowed for variance. Cree said their bulbs are manufactured for only 120 volts and that LED bulbs are very sensitive to excess voltage. So, if LED bulbs are not manufactured to withstand the excess voltage commonly supplied by power companies in many, if not most, areas, what are consumers expected to do?

    • Will Parsons

      Most LEDs should be able to handle that much over-voltage driving. Your electrician should check for an intermittent ground (it’s not always apparent since it’s isn’t always an active problem) or a floating neutral.

      If you’ve tried any CFLs, do they have a similar issue?

      As I said at the beginning, LEDs should be able to handle that much voltage typically but driver designs and variances in construction can cause problems when operating outside of the ratings. You might try using a different brand of LEDs or finding an LED that’s rated for 110-130v.

      Otherwise, if the utility company is not willing to adjust the voltage or replace the transformer on-site, there is not a lot that can be done.