I'm going through WAY too many lightbulbs

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  #1  
Old 02-02-05, 06:03 PM
paulam2
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I'm going through WAY too many lightbulbs

Our house is 35 years old. I have four light fixtures on two different circuits that go through lightbulbs like crazy. I would guess that the average lightbulb in those four fixtures lasts about a month or two. I've tried different brands of lightbulbs, I replaced the fixtures (they all hang from the ceiling), and I replaced a good deal of the wiring on one of the circuits, and it didn't make any difference.

Does anyone have any ideas about what could be going on?
 
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  #2  
Old 02-02-05, 07:05 PM
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Boy, there sure are a lot of people with light bulb problems!

Light bulbs burn out quickly for any of a number of reasons:
(1) Left on too long.
(2) Cheap brand of bulbs.
(3) Excessive vibration (kids jumping around, fixture loosely mounted or subject to impact, etc.)
(4) Using too high of a wattage for the fixture.
(5) Mounting the fixture in a manner not intended.
(6) Excessive voltage.
(7) Voltage spikes.

There are a number of things you can try:
(1) Buy national brand bulbs (GE, Philips, Sylvania).
(2) Buy bulbs marketted as "double-life".
(3) Buy bulbs marketted as "vibration resistant".
(4) Buy bulbs marked as "130V".
(5) Reduce the wattage of the bulb.
(6) Install dimmers.
(7) Turn them off when not in use.
(8) Measure the voltage.
(9) Ask the power company to put a voltage monitor on your house for a while.
(10) Try to reduce the vibration somehow.
(11) Install a TVSS (whole-house surge suppressor).
(12) Make sure all the connections on the circuit are tight.
 
  #3  
Old 02-03-05, 08:51 AM
paulam2
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The only thing on your list that I think may be a culprit is voltage problems. I've tried GE, Philips, and Sylvania bulbs, and bought the ones that claim they'll last extra long. I'm pretty sure that the fixtures and bulbs are secure, and there isn't any excessive vibration that I know of. And I feel pretty sure that the fixtures are installed correctly.

If the problem is with the voltage, would this be a whole-house problem, a problem with the circuits I'm having trouble with, or could it be either?
 
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Old 02-03-05, 09:02 AM
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If the problem is voltage, it could either be a whole house problem (loose service neutral), or it could be a circuit problem (loose branch circuit neutral). Since you said that this is only happening on two circuits, it sounds more likely to be a branch circuit problem. Are the two breakers that control the two circuits next to each other in the panel? Give us the breaker numbers (the number on the panel cover next to the breaker).
 
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Old 02-04-05, 09:31 AM
daves_trip
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I've seen instances where two hot leads go into the box and someone has inadvertently wired them both to the fixture making it 220.

If you turn on the fixture and find its breaker, does it go out when you flip the breaker off?
 
  #6  
Old 02-04-05, 11:34 AM
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Originally Posted by daves_trip
I've seen instances where two hot leads go into the box and someone has inadvertently wired them both to the fixture making it 220.

If you turn on the fixture and find its breaker, does it go out when you flip the breaker off?

Were that the case, the bulb life would be measured in tenths of a second instead of months.
 
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Old 02-04-05, 01:27 PM
daves_trip
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scott I'm just telling you what I found and saw with my own two eyes, and my meter.

have you tried it? the homeowner said they burned out frequently, but not how often. it was working when I got there.

I'm curious why you assume the life of the lamp would be over in seconds. doubling the voltage will certainly reduce the life expectancy by more than 1/2 but nothing as drastic as what you describe.


Originally Posted by scott e.
Were that the case, the bulb life would be measured in tenths of a second instead of months.
 
  #8  
Old 02-04-05, 01:31 PM
daves_trip
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Originally Posted by scott e.
Were that the case, the bulb life would be measured in tenths of a second instead of months.
in fact I am going to say that I bet (gentleman's?) that there is some stray voltage between the two circuits involved, if not the full 110 from both legs going into both circuits. he did say it is two circuits, replacing the fixtures didn't help, and neither did changing the wiring (no detail on that but maybe the op didn't change the problem area.)

the fact thaat it is on two circuits is the giveaway tho...
 
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Old 02-04-05, 01:40 PM
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Originally Posted by paulam2
I would guess that the average lightbulb in those four fixtures lasts about a month or two.
..........
 
  #10  
Old 02-04-05, 05:07 PM
WFO
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There could be two reasons to have high voltage on your lighting circuit, it's coming in high from the power company (their fault) or from a bad nuetral (possibly your fault or theirs).
If you have access to a voltmeter, check the voltage at your panel. It should read somewhere in the neighborhood of 120 from either leg to neutral and 240 across them both. (Note: these are guidleines, but it should be within 5% or so.)
If your bulb is rated 120v, then anything higher than that will lead to shorter and shorter life. However, it is very likely that you could have a "normal" voltage of 125 to 128 volts depending on how close you live to the power company's closest source of voltage regulation (for instance, if you live right next door to the subsation). If it's higher than that, I'd check with the power company to see if that's normal at that location. It might also be a bad transformer on the pole.

The other problem of a bad neutral goes like this. Your 240 volt transformer is center tapped so that each leg to the center( which is grounded) is 120 volts. If this connection is bad at the transformer, meter-can, main panel, or wherever, then the voltage will divide across a load proportionally to the impedance of that load. So instead of getting 120 from each side (120 + 120=240), you might get 140 on one side and 100 on the other (140 + 100 = 240). The easiest way to check for this is to put a large 120 volt load (such as a microwave oven) on one leg of the service and measure the voltage on the other leg. If it goes up from what it was when the microwave wasn't running, you've probably got a bad neutral, which results in voltage fluctuations, which burns out bulbs.
 
  #11  
Old 02-04-05, 09:18 PM
secret7
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possible simple solution

I was going through bulbs like crazy. Found out it could be caused by surges caused by loose wiring connections. My house is 80 years old, and the wiring for ceiling fixtures is the original.

I put new "guts" in the offending fixture but after connecting the wires I still had the problem. I took it down and cleaned up the old wire connections with steel wool until they were nice and shiny.

After reconnecting the wires I had no more problems.

Basically the old wires were dirty with residue from old insulating tape etc.
I'd imagine any fixture which has been disconnected could be dirty with residue, whether old or new, if the tape had been pulled off.
 
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