Lights blowing frequently


Old 02-27-06, 08:30 PM
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Lights blowing frequently

My condo has a single circuit for the kitchen lighting and a second bedroom, which I use as a home office. Whenever I use my laser printer, the lights in the bedroom and kitchen start occasionally flickering, but the breaker doesn't trip. However, the lights will frequently burn out during this. Even if they don't burn out immediately, their lifespan drops dramatically if I forget to switch them off while printing. From some basic reading, I understand that the laser printer is temporarily drawing a large current, and this drops the voltage which explains the flicker, but why would this cause the bulbs to burn out so quickly?
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Old 02-27-06, 08:37 PM
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Central New York State
Posts: 13,973
I suspect that you are using cheap light bulbs. I suggest better quality bulbs and ones that are rated for 130 volts. You'll pay a little more, but they will last longer.

Actually, I suggest that you have a new circuit run for your computer equipment. A dedicated 20 amp circuit for nothing but your computer equipment will solve your problem. I also suggest that you put the computer on a good quality UPS, and the laser printer on a good quality surge suppressor. Do not put the laser printer on the UPS battery.
Old 02-27-06, 08:53 PM
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I've been using GE Reveal R30 lightbulbs, at $6 a bulb ( ), but I've tried a couple of other brands, and they all fail too. I haven't specifically looked for 130V bulbs, so I'll try that out next time. However, it doesn't seem like this makes sense, since it doesn't seem to be an overvoltage condition. I am just trying to figure out why this would happen.

I am looking at getting a new circuit put in, but this was quoted at $600, not including fixing the drywall, which the electrician said he would not do. Coupled with having to get permission from the condo association to do this, I just want to see if I missing something obvious before I do that.

NB - the computer is on an APC UPS, and the UPS does seem to switch to battery power when I first start printing.
Old 02-27-06, 09:22 PM
Join Date: Sep 2000
Location: United States
Posts: 18,497
If you look at the expected lifespan of a GE Reveal bulb, you'll see that it's not very long. You pay extra for that extra-white light, not only in purchase price but in lifespan.

Look at the expected life of various bulbs. But the one with the biggest number. Also, look in smaller hardware stores for the bulbs marked "130v". If you can't find that, use double-life or rugged service bulbs.

Low voltage caused by a high power draw on the circuit should not cause short bulb life. In fact, it should extend the life of the bulbs. I suspect that your laser printer is somehow putting voltage spikes on the circuit.
Old 02-27-06, 09:34 PM
Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: Indianapolis, IN
Posts: 278
I don't think I would want my computer plugged into the same circuit as that printer.
Old 02-28-06, 05:45 AM
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Owen Sound Ontario Canada
Posts: 541
"but why would this cause the bulbs to burn out so quickly?"
Sort of like the same reason why an electrical motor burns out if it is turned off and on repeatedlly.
The electric motor has no or low counter electromotive force when it is turning slow and can draw as much as 8 times its running current. ie. Running current=10amps Start current - 80 amps (very short).
With a light bulb, the filliment is white hot and therefore has a lot of resistance. A high resistance brings down the maximum current draw (ohms law). When the voltage lowers THEN goes up to 120 volts again , the amperage jumps up high because you are again at 120vac with a cooler bulb with less resistance and high amperage.. There is a large temperature change with the filiment and a large contraction and expansion that happens. All the slip planes of the metal are used up.That is hard on the filliment and it burns out. Sort of like washing a glass too many times. Or bending a paper clip too many times.
There can be other reasons why this could be happening (poor neutral, power spikes from printer, likely more things I know about) and I think the problem should be investigated and not taken as acceptable. I recommend getting a power source that can handle the printer or getting rid of the printer. Remember that electrical fires are the most common fire.

Last edited by frankiee; 02-28-06 at 06:32 PM.
Old 02-28-06, 07:45 AM
Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: CA
Posts: 2,041
I agree with Frankiee that this should not be taken as normal, and should be looked into. The flickering probably does contribute to short bulb life. It is possible that some connection problem in the circuit causes this flickering during printer operation, and could be fixed.

Now, the manufacturers stated bulb life determined by running a thousand bulbs continuously. At the point where 1/2 the bulbs are still lit, that is the "bulb life" for that model.

The box stores generally warrant light bulbs and will take back burnt out bulbs without question. This could ease the strain on the pocket book.
Old 02-28-06, 08:19 AM
Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: USA
Posts: 3,188
No comments on $600 for a half day job w/ probably $50 in material? I don't know if there are any special circumstances, but running a dedicated circuit where you can open the wall (no fishing) is a pretty easy job.
Old 02-28-06, 10:26 AM
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The only special circumstance as far as I know is the need to run MC cable. The walls are not open, i.e. the electrician will have to cut holes in the drywall. Since it seems like I will have to get a new circuit for this, as everyone is suggesting (thx for the explanation frankiee), does this quote seem unreasonable?
Old 02-28-06, 02:57 PM
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Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Near Lansing, Michigan
Posts: 10,335
It's really hard to gauge if your quote is reasonable without actually seeing the location. If you do not have an open attic above or unfinished basement below then there could be considerable labor involved in adding a new circuit. Electricians have a lot of tricks when it comes to getting cables into tricky locations, but you could just have a tough spot.

As with any contracted work, it is always a good idea to get three written estimates before choosing a contractor. Make sure that the estimates include all applicable permit and inspection fees also.
Old 02-28-06, 07:15 PM
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Owen Sound Ontario Canada
Posts: 541
Your welcome. I updated my expaination a bit more after thinking of it today.
Also,when I came home my wife asked me if I could smell anything.
I walked around and smelled burnt wire.
She pointed at a small fan (12inch) that our daughter uses upstairs.
She came home today and smelt smoke and ran upstairs to find the fan plugged in, not revolving, and very, very hot.
Ironic that just this morning that I was typing out on this forum that a stalled motor can draw 8 times the current it does running and also it has no cooling.
All is well as the house is still up and we are all a bit wiser.
The thing is, my daughter knew that the fan did not turn sometimes for the past week and did not think much of it. She just gave it a hit and it worked again.
I have got to do more safety lessons to my kids and wife.
We had a family meeting and we came up with that "if any electrical appliance or system acts other than it should, it gets disconected until a reason can be found why it is not working properly".

I am not saying that you have to get a new dedicated line in, but I am saying that the lights flickering because the printer is working is something you dont see every day. Yes the laser printers are known to cause brown outs. And normally the lights are not wired with the wall recepticals so the brown outs are not apparent. But, it does not look right.
Did you take a look around the bedroom for another circuit? There just might be one. Maybe by the window if some one thought of putting an air conditioner in some day.
If there is only one circuit for all the kitchen lights and the whole bedroom then maybe it would be a good idea to put another circuit in. A modern family has more and more electric appliences every year.
A thing to note. I did a bed room last year and I had to put a "Arc Fault Circuit Interupter" to meet code. Apparentlly, most fires in a home lately are coming from the sparks from a plug/ wall receptical when a bed hits it. It then catches the bed on fire. I looked at my house and sure enough, all bedrooms had the bed in such a place where movement can hit the plug.
We have kids and we all know how much they bounce around on furniture.
I think the AFI is a good idea although I dont have one yet. They are about $90 Canadian.
They go in the main box and repace the breaker.
So the bedroom if fed from the kitchen light. Hmmm. Interesting.

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