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Compact fluorescent light failures

Discussion in 'Electronic Design' started by Peter E. Orban, Oct 7, 2004.

  1. Hi Everyone,

    We replaced most of our incandescent light bulbs with compact
    fluorescent bulbs about a year and a half ago (it was before the NA
    blackout last year). The bulbs are holding up fine, except in the
    bathrooms, and I am wondering what could be the reason.

    The fixtures have five (three in the powder room) bulbs in parallel, and
    we use the 7W (40W equivalent) bulbs. We have lost about five bulbs
    since last year, all of them the 7W variety, four in the five-light
    fixture, one in the three-light fixture. I do not think they lasted more
    than 100 hours max, and they are guaranteed for 5000 hours. The same
    size bulbs in table lights so far are ok.

    I am wondering what could be the reason for such a high rate of failure?
    Is it possible that the powering up event of three or five lights in
    parallel produces more transients, or something like that?
    There is also more moisture for short periods of time in the bathroom,
    but not in the powder room.
    I have double checked the wiring of the fixtures, they are wired
    correctly, for live and neutral, with the ground attached.

    They are also selling similar bulbs, specifically for vanities, about
    2.5 times the cost of the regular ones. They only seem to have the
    balloon shaped and sized differently around the spiral. I would be
    surprised if there were any other differences between them.

    Any comment on the above?
     
  2. Jeff Rigby

    Jeff Rigby Guest

    Had the same problem in my bathroom. The fixtures were recessed and I
    speculated that heat buildup was the problem. A different bulb from a
    different mfg fixed the problem.
     
  3. NSM

    NSM Guest

    | Hi Everyone,
    |
    | We replaced most of our incandescent light bulbs with compact
    | fluorescent bulbs about a year and a half ago (it was before the NA
    | blackout last year). The bulbs are holding up fine, except in the
    | bathrooms, and I am wondering what could be the reason.
    ....
    | I am wondering what could be the reason for such a high rate of failure?

    Made in China? I bought 25 from the dollar store and they have a higher
    failure rate.

    | Is it possible that the powering up event of three or five lights in
    | parallel produces more transients, or something like that?

    No

    | There is also more moisture for short periods of time in the bathroom,
    | but not in the powder room.
    | I have double checked the wiring of the fixtures, they are wired
    | correctly, for live and neutral, with the ground attached.

    None of that matters. Position (base up, down or sideways) is more
    important.

    | They are also selling similar bulbs, specifically for vanities, about
    | 2.5 times the cost of the regular ones. They only seem to have the
    | balloon shaped and sized differently around the spiral. I would be
    | surprised if there were any other differences between them.

    US made might be better if you can find them. Often they all come from the
    same factories, and the prices differ because of greed, not quality.

    N
     
  4. Ken Finney

    Ken Finney Guest

    This situation has been discussed ad naseum in alt.energy.homepower. Google
    should yield some good info. IIRC, it is not only a question of quality,
    but some of the brands are radically overstressing the parts in the
    ballasts. The "5000 hour" claim for some brands is pretty much bogus; it
    doesn't matter how reliable the lamp itself is, if the ballast stops
    working.
     
  5. Jerry G.

    Jerry G. Guest

    This is interesting that someone brought this up. It seems that I am not
    the only one with these lamps failing more often in the bathroom.

    I am using compact fluorescents all over our home, my in-laws home, and
    at my parents home. The only places where they are not used, are in
    locations with dimmers, or for antique type lighting fixtures (only a
    few around the place for fancy).

    I found some of the low cost ones to fail more often. The ones that I
    bought at the regular price under a well known brand name lasted very
    long. I have a 15 Watt one in our living room that is sharing on a UPS
    with a FAX and a computer. (The idea is to also have a light source
    during power failures) These devices including the lamp are running
    24/7. The lamp is starting its 3rd year. This makes it running for more
    than 16,000 hours, which makes it a "lucky lamp".

    The one in our kitchen was an expensive one that was bought about 5
    years ago. This one is still running, but it is only on when someone is
    in the kitchen.

    As for the bathroom, this is another story. This lamp is not lasting
    more than about 4 to 6 months. I am starting to think it must be the
    combination of the heat and the humidity from when people are taking
    showers. I found that the old style incandescent lamp is the best type
    for the bathroom, until I can find another solution.

    At the other homes where we installed the compact fluorescent lamps, we
    are having the same types of failures in the bathrooms. In all the other
    parts of our homes, these are more than paying for themselves.

    --

    Jerry G.
    ======

    Hi Everyone,

    We replaced most of our incandescent light bulbs with compact
    fluorescent bulbs about a year and a half ago (it was before the NA
    blackout last year). The bulbs are holding up fine, except in the
    bathrooms, and I am wondering what could be the reason.

    The fixtures have five (three in the powder room) bulbs in parallel, and
    we use the 7W (40W equivalent) bulbs. We have lost about five bulbs
    since last year, all of them the 7W variety, four in the five-light
    fixture, one in the three-light fixture. I do not think they lasted more
    than 100 hours max, and they are guaranteed for 5000 hours. The same
    size bulbs in table lights so far are ok.

    I am wondering what could be the reason for such a high rate of failure?
    Is it possible that the powering up event of three or five lights in
    parallel produces more transients, or something like that?
    There is also more moisture for short periods of time in the bathroom,
    but not in the powder room.
    I have double checked the wiring of the fixtures, they are wired
    correctly, for live and neutral, with the ground attached.

    They are also selling similar bulbs, specifically for vanities, about
    2.5 times the cost of the regular ones. They only seem to have the
    balloon shaped and sized differently around the spiral. I would be
    surprised if there were any other differences between them.

    Any comment on the above?
     
  6. CBarn24050

    CBarn24050 Guest

    Subject: Compact fluorescent light failures
    These lamps do not like being turned on, in situations where they are on for
    short periods during the day they will fail quicker than lamps left on for long
    periods.
     
  7. I read in sci.electronics.design that Peter E. Orban
    Check if the fitting closely encloses the base of the lamp. Think 'heat
    dissipation'. There's an electrolytic cap in there, and even if it's a
    105 C type, it can overheat and dry up.

    If the failure mechanism is that the lamp becomes increasingly reluctant
    to light up, and eventually refuses entirely, the cap problem is almost
    certainly the explanation.

    Been there!
     
  8. N. Thornton

    N. Thornton Guest

    Are the bulbs enclosed in glass so they dont cool properly? Could
    explain it. But some CFLs are like this anyway, some just are not
    reliable, try another brand.

    NT
     
  9. I have not had any of the really smnall ones like you referred to, but
    have some considerable use of the larger wattages. Name brands, like
    GE and Sylvania have held up well. Lights of America have been pretty
    poor, others somewhere in between. I have taken to saving the
    guarantees and using them whenever I had a failure. It is barely
    worth the trouble, but we need to hold manufacturers to the fire and
    so I go through the process.
     
  10. Rich Grise

    Rich Grise Guest

    I was going to mention that. As well as the heat in the fixture, the temp/
    humidity cycling, and even mounting position can make a difference - they
    do specify a mounting position, at least the ones I've seen.

    In an apartment I used to live in, they had one like a porch-light next
    to each apartment's front door, and they lasted what seemed like forever.
    But they were on 24/7, at room temp.

    Cheers!
    Rich
     
  11. Jeff

    Jeff Guest

    How often are they turned on, and for how long? Are they cycled often, with
    on times of a few minutes?
     
  12. James Sweet

    James Sweet Guest


    Are the fixtures fully enclosed? Some CFL's will overheat in those. Also any
    made by Lights of America are junk. I've had mixed results with Feit and
    Commercial Electric, both made in China. Some are very good and some are
    lousy. I had a whole rash of capacitor failures that I was able to fix and
    others have failed by burning out one of the cathodes in the tube making
    them junk. Turning them on often will shorten their life as well.
     
  13. James Sweet

    James Sweet Guest

    I think the only US made CFL's these days are LOA which are made very
    poorly, likely to compete in price. If you want solid dependable quality
    look into the Philips CFL's, but they cost several times what the cheap
    Chinese stuff does. For the best in reliability look on ebay for some
    ballasts for 13W quad tubes, then find some tubes and buy sockets online to
    retrofit your existing fixtures. I've gotten nice name brand Advance
    electronic ballasts for a few dollars each, recently got a batch of 4
    1%-100% dimmable ballasts for $20, each will run a pair of 18W quads.
     
  14. James Sweet

    James Sweet Guest

    To their credit, I had Feit send me some replacement lamps for free when I
    explained a rash of early failures. LOA wanted me to mail them the old lamps
    along with the reciept from when I bought them, even if I'd found the
    reciept it'd cost more to mail the lamps than to buy new ones.
     
  15. One thing that comes to mind is, are these lights switched on / off
    frequently? Starting a fl. light stresses the fl. tube and certainly the
    underdesigned electronic ballasts in the CFL bulbs. I remember reading
    on a lighting website that starting a regular fl. tube "ages" the tube
    as much as 1 hour of on-time. Personally, I leave fl. lights ON when
    leaving the room, if I intend on returning within half an hour.
    The problem is training other family members to do the same, when all
    their lives they've been conditioned to turn off the light whenever
    they leave the room.

    That said, have you considered replacing the entire fixture with a
    fl. fixture? Outfitting a vanity bar with 4-8 quality CFL bulbs could
    cost at least as much as a new fixture, that used standard fl. tubes with
    10 - 20,000 hour lifetimes. The home-improvement warehouse stores have
    a very limited selection, and the Chinese fixtures they are starting to
    sell use the same cheap open-board electronic ballasts as in the CFL
    bulbs, and non-standard/proprietary replacement fl. tubes. If you go
    to an electrical supply house, they have catalogs from the established
    light-fixture manufacturers, and they can usually order what you want.
    I've installed fl. fixtures (standard fl. tubes and real copper & iron
    ballasts) in the bathrooms of the two houses we've owned, and the in-laws'
    house, and haven't had any problem with short lamp life.)

    Mike
    WB2MEP
     
  16. Ross Herbert

    Ross Herbert Guest

  17. I read in sci.electronics.design that James Sweet
    What about GE?
     
  18. Most of mine are GE spiral except for one that looks like GE with a
    generic brand. Except for the one I dropped (and it's schematic is
    in the FAQs, thank you!), they have been reliable with no failures
    so far. However, I only use them in fixtures that tend to be on
    for multiple hours a day, but not in the bathroom.

    --- sam | Sci.Electronics.Repair FAQ Mirror: http://repairfaq.ece.drexel.edu/
    Repair | Main Table of Contents: http://repairfaq.ece.drexel.edu/REPAIR/
    +Lasers | Sam's Laser FAQ: http://repairfaq.ece.drexel.edu/sam/lasersam.htm
    | Mirror Sites: http://repairfaq.ece.drexel.edu/REPAIR/F_mirror.html

    Note: These links are hopefully temporary until we can sort out the excessive
    traffic on Repairfaq.org.

    Important: Anything sent to the email address in the message header is ignored.
    To contact me, please use the feedback form on the S.E.R FAQ Web sites.
     
  19. I read in sci.electronics.design that Sam Goldwasser
    I asked because I shall be meeting my GE colleague next week, and I
    don't have to pass on bad news. (;-)
     
  20. Joel Kolstad

    Joel Kolstad Guest

    Hmm... is this the same guy who runs Talking Electronics? I recall a very
    similar editorial something like 4 or 5 years ago... Passages such as this:

    "In fact, we tried a succession of CFLs here in our office to replace
    incandescents which were on all day, five days a week. We were lucky if the
    CFLs lasted a few weeks."

    Something is clearly wrong here! If I had his those CFLs I'd feel perfectly
    justified in demanding my money back from whoever sold them to be. My own
    experience has been that CFLs typically do just 'last and last' -- I've had
    some dozens of them over the past decade, and I believe I've had no more
    than 3 or 4 that have died.

    ---Joel Kolstad
     
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