I recently had a CFL (Compact Flourescent Lamp) in my kitchen that would begin blinking rapidly, sometimes even going off after a period of time. I would always go over and switch it off at the light swith when that happened, then switch it back on to see if it would stop the blinking. It wouldn’t but I found if I waited for a couple of minutes and then flipped the switch back on and the light would again be working fine. It would normally work fine for 30 – 45 minutes before it would start acting up. My kitchen ceiling bulb is 150 watt and they are fairly expensive bulbs so it was my intent to squeeze every penny of my purchase price out of it before ultimately disposing of it for non-performance.
Normally I was only in the kitchen for short periods so the bulb would not be an issue, it usually acted up in the evening when I would be cooking my evening meal since I was spending a longer time in my kitchen. Finally however it got to be more of an aggravation than my ‘chef’ temperment could digest so I got a new bulb from cabinet and replaced it.
End of story, right? Well, not so fast it would seem. After I removed and replaced the bulb and then began to closely look at the bulb I saw obvious burn marks at the bulb base and melted plastic which gave me a real jolt and I found quite disconcerting. It looked to me that I was holding in my hand what appeared to be a definite fire hazard. I took the photos below of the bulb, to see a larger version be sure and click on the photo….
I decided this issue warranted some serious investigation so I immediately began checking into this issue on-line I was totally surprised at what I was to read from several seemingly reliable sources. First and foremost was the fact that what I am seeing in those photographs of my bulb are absolutely normal characteristics of the bulb and present no fire risk whatsoever. Are you kidding me? Burnt, melted bases are normal with a CFL?
Below is a specific quote from National Geographic’s ‘Green Guide’ regarding the burn marks and associated melting similar to those shown in my photographs….
“Bulbs burn out when the ballast overheats and an electronic component, the Voltage Dependent Resistor (VDR), opens up like a fuse in your home’s fuse box, shutting off the circuit and generating heat and possibly a small amount of smoke. This might sound dangerous, but the VDR is a cut-off switch that prevents any hazards. The melted plastic you’re seeing where the glass coil connects to the ballast is simply a sign that the heat is escaping as intended in the design of the bulb.”
In a nutshell, healthy CFL bulbs may emit a bit of smoke and smell and have burnt-looking bases when they die, but that’s as it should be — there’s no fire danger to any of that, and indeed the bulbs are functioning properly when they act that way.
However, flames shooting out the side of a bulb is not the way things should be. It needs be kept in mind that any electrical device can malfunction, either through manufacturing defects or as a result of misuse by consumers. Says Globe of the bulb in the photo, “As for this particular incident, the mention of flames/fire in the story is certainly outside of the norm and as such we would encourage the consumer to bring the bulb to their local fire marshal and/or safety authority to further investigate.”
Well, it may be standard operating procedure for them but I find that a bit hard to come to terms with. Besides, whose sitting around spending all their time watching light bulbs to see if their bases are melting or even worse, shooting out fire.
I’ve currently got mostly CFL bulbs though out the house with a few exceptions of some old incandescent that haven’t given up the ghost yet. I have never purchased one of the new LED light bulbs but understand they are quite expensive. Well expensive or not, it may be time to abandoned the CFL league of bulbs. I don’t think melted and burned bases is something I’m comfortable with living with…. 🙁