5 Reasons Why Light Bulbs Repeatedly Fail

Broken light bulb
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If your home suffers from frequent light bulb failure in one or more locations, there is probably a reason for the early burnout. Don't assume its normal, since a standard, since incandescent light bulb has an average lifespan of around 1,000 hours, and compact fluorescent (CFL) or LED (light-emitting diode) lightbulb can last several thousand hours. So even a standard incandescent bulb that is run for four to five hours each day should last for roughly six months. If you are burning bulbs out much faster than that, it's worth investigating to determine the causes.

Five Reasons Why Lightbulbs Burn Out Quickly

No lightbulb lasts forever—not even the high-end LED bulbs that are sometimes touted as "decade" bulbs. But if your bulbs burn out suspiciously fast, look for one of these conditions as a likely cause.

Bad Lightbulb Socket

Fixture socket problems can lessen the service time of lightbulbs. The light fixture or lamp may have a loose electrical connection, loose contacts, or a damaged contact in the socket base itself. These problems often cause the lightbulb to run much hotter, which could melt the connection solder joints or burn the contacts. If one particular lamp or light fixture is a particular culprit when it comes to burned-out bulbs, it's a strong indication that the problem lies with one particular socket.

Lightbulb sockets, especially on room lamps, are quite easy to replace. It can be a little more difficult, though not impossible, on permanent light fixtures. Here, people often opt for replacing the light fixture, since this also gives you an opportunity to make a style change.

Bulb Wattage Mismatched to Fixture

Although many people don't realize it, light fixtures are rated to operate with a maximum wattage rating for the lightbulbs. Exceeding this rating can cause the fixture to overheat, which can lead to lightbulb failure or worse problems. For example, placing 75-watt or 100-watt lightbulbs in a light fixture that has sockets rated for 60 watts may well lead to premature death to the lightbulbs. That's if you're lucky—such misuse can also lead to a fire.

Vibration

Vibration is yet another contributing factor to light bulb failure. You may see this in wobbly ceiling fans or in locations where a wall or building vibration is frequent. For example, in homes within close proximity to railroad tracks, the vibrations caused by passing trains can shake lightbulb filaments, weaken connections, and cause bulbs to fail long before their normal life expectancy.

If such situations are unavoidable, try a rough-service duty light bulb. These bulbs have a plastic coating on the surface that is designed to prevent the bulb from shattering if the bulb explodes, but they are also quite good at taking a beating from vibrations.

Excessive Line Voltage

Excessive line voltage can also be the culprit to bulb failure. While standard household circuits are rated for 120-volts, in reality, the voltage passing through the wires can range from about 110 volts to 125. This is entirely normal, and most lightbulbs rated for 120 volts can readily handle this normal voltage range. However, it is possible that your home's service is exceeding the normal range, and one symptom of this is lightbulbs that burn out more quickly than expected. There are bulbs rated for commercial- or industrial-grade use that can handle a larger voltage, but if you suspect this is an ongoing issue in your home, it is worth checking the voltage using a multi-meter, or having a professional electrician look into it.

Warning

If your voltage routinely reads between 130 to 135 volts or higher, call your utility company to check the voltage tap and incoming line voltage. This higher voltage can damage electronics and appliances in your home.

Poor Quality Bulbs

The most common cause of premature bulb failure is purely a matter of product quality: Cheap bulbs are very often inferior bulbs. If you find that your lightbulbs are burning out too quickly, try changing to a name brand and see if the problem persists. In all likelihood, investing a little more in better bulbs will solve the problem—and save you money in the long run, since you'll be replacing them less often.

Tip

The quality difference between economy lightbulbs and name brand bulbs is sometimes visible. Check the solder connection on the bottom point of the bulb itself. If this solder connection point is tiny and not half-mooned as it should be, the bulb may not be making a good connection to the lamp socket's center contact tab. Even a slightly compromised connection will create greater resistance and cause the connection point to heat up. This is a recipe for trouble, as excessive heat is the single worst thing for a lightbulb.