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CFL failure question

Discussion in 'Lighting' started by Travis Evans, Dec 1, 2006.

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  1. Travis Evans

    Travis Evans Guest

    Just wondering, do CFLs usually go into a "works sometimes" mode rather
    than completely not working at all? I've only seen a few CFL failures
    so far, all of which were the "just stopped working upon switch-on"
    type*... but it seems like in a couple of cases they acted as if they
    couldn't make up their minds whether they were truly burnt out or not.

    For instance, we have two Commercial Electric "daylight" (high
    color-temperature) CFLs installed in a fixture above the sink (we've
    had them for a couple of years). I just noticed that on some days one
    of them doesn't work at all, and others it does work and gives off full
    light output without flickering.

    In the past there was an occasion (this was the first CFL failure I had
    ever witnessed) where a GE CFL that was in a bathroom (which admittedly
    was a windowless bathroom where the lights were switched quite
    frequently) that very briefly lit up on switch-on, then went out and
    remained out thereafter. I may have tested it in another fixture to
    make sure it had failed (I don't remember for sure), but I was somehow
    sure it was dead for good. For some reason I stored it away instead of
    throwing it out, and one day I took it out and put it in a lamp and
    turned it on just for the heck of it, and I was surprised when it lit
    up! We put it in a living room lamp and it continued to work for a
    while, albeit with seemingly slightly lower light output than when new.
    I don't remember what happened to that one; it might have died again
    later on.

    * with the exception of a 2-3 month-old Lights-of-America 3-way CFL
    which didn't completely stop working, but which gradually and
    dramatically lost light output over time until it was no longer useful
  2. The short lived Phillips Geni lamps sometimes behave like this. I think
    the strike voltage of the tube raises to the borderline of operation.
    Sometimes "pinging" them makes them light.

    I'm afraid the Phillips Geni lamps are the most ecologically unsound
    CFL's I've come across. Their tube ends blacken quickly and their
    lifespan is low.
  3. In addition to what Clive said, I would like to add three
    more issues:

    Variations in power line voltage, ambient temperature and
    even humidity can determine whether a CFL, or any
    fluorescent lamp, with a starting voltage that has risen
    near the limit of the ballast will or will not start.

    Vic Roberts
    To reply via e-mail:
    replace xxx with vdr in the Reply to: address
    or use e-mail address listed at the Web site.

    This information is provided for educational purposes only.
    It may not be used in any publication or posted on any Web
    site without written permission.
  4. I did have a Sylvania 13 watt spiral that appeared to have a broken
    connection in the base, apparently at/near the central tip contact. Every
    few days I had to screw this one more tightly into the socket before it
    would work. This started after at least a few hundred operating hours.

    Meanwhile, two other Sylvania 13 watt spirals have yet to give me
    trouble, and one has a few thousand operating hours.

    I have yet to see this happen with any other brand.

    One similar item: Several years ago I had two older model Lights of
    America units intermittently conk out. Both were "Q-Lites" (sp) models,
    with separate "bulb" (lamp) and screw-in ballast that the lamp plugs into.
    One had a ballast unit with loose contacts in the ballast's socket that
    the lamp pins fit into, and the other had a ballast with a cold solder

    I have had one dollar store unit (out of over 60 tried) have the
    particular problem of not starting until touched if the bulb surface
    temperature was on the cool side (about or under 20 degrees C). I have
    had dollatr store ones give other trouble, in addition to none
    significantly outshining a 505 lumen 40 watt incandescent despite plenty
    of claims for more, sometimes by a factor of at least 3.

    I have had enough compact fluorescent experience to find other
    problematic ones, such as some batch/batches of ca. 2001 25 watt spirals
    (both Lights of America and GE) and some dollar store models (purchased
    only so that I can say that I actually tried them when I say they rot).
    But other than the 4 above examples, in my experience when a CFL conks
    out it is obviously truly as in permanently dead.

    - Don Klipstein ()
  5. Well just for reference... The little torroidal feedback transformer
    makes an ideal core for the Joule Thief project on my website.

    Bigger than the ferrite bead, but much easier to wind and tends to work
    just fine.
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