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Compact Fluorescent Lamps/Bulbs: Early Burn Out
Compact fluorescent lamps/lightbulbs (CFLs) are typically rated for 8,000 to 10,000 hours of operation or 5 to 13 times longer than that for incandescent lamps. However, lamp life varies considerably by manufacturer and is sensitive to how often the lamp is switched on and off, and correct selection for the use. If you are experiencing early burn out of CFLs, it may be the CFL bulb selected and used that is causing the problem.
The life of CFLs can be affected by:
• Wrong CFL size
• Excessive heat or vibration
• Fluctuations in power
• Improper contact of bulb base to fixture
• Fixture enclosures and heat buildup
• Incorrect bulb selected for dimmers and sensors
• Appropriate air temperatures for exterior use
• Whether the bulb is for a downward or an upward position
• Frequent switching on and off
To ensure you get the most out of the CFLs, choose the correct bulb for the fixture and situation. Look for the ENERGY STAR® label. Carefully read the labels to determine the CFL you need for the fixture, use, and environment.
• The wrong bulb size for the fixture may result in early burn out. Using a larger bulb than recommended in a fixture will cause excessive heat inside the globe or fixture, cause overheating, and is dangerous. Due to the excessive heat, the bulb life will be much less, and will likely show signs of trouble.
• Lack of air circulation to reduce the heat in fixtures may shorten the bulb life. CFLs are sensitive to extreme temperatures, so place your CFLs in open fixtures indoors. Using them in enclosed fixtures indoors can create a hot environment that reduces the lifetime of your bulbs.
• Screw in your CFL by holding the ballast or base, not the glass tubing. The bulb should make contact to the fixture base.
• When leaving the room or area for a short time, such as less than 15 minutes, leave the light on. Use in fixtures on motion sensors that are activated often may cause early burn out.
• CFLs used in overhead fans or near other vibration sources may have reduced life. There are now some CFLs bulbs made to be more durable.
• Only use bulbs labeled as three-way for three-way sockets.
• Select bulbs labeled as dimmable for dimmer switches.
• Many photocells, motion sensors, and electric timers are not designed to work with CFLs. Always check with the manufacturer of the control for compatibility, and select the CFLs intended for use in these types of fixtures. The information may be in the fine print.
• Select bulbs intended for exterior use for exterior fixtures. Protect bulbs from the elements by placing them inside protected fixtures outdoors. For colder climates, look at the packaging for optimal operating temperatures.
• If you are buying fluorescent tubes and your fixture says use T-8 tubes only, be sure to buy the correct tubes, which are thinner than the old T-12 tubes. Make sure the tubes are seated in the sockets correctly to operate efficiently.
• If you continue to have problems and have selected the correct CFLs for the fixtures, use, and environment, you may want to check the voltage. When the supply voltage in a home is too great, bulbs will generally burn brighter and burn out faster. To find out, use a volt meter and check the voltage in an outlet or ask a professional electrician to check. Typically, the voltage is between 115 to 125 volts. Contact the utility company to discuss the problem if the voltage is higher.
• Write the date you bought the lamp or bulb and where you installed the bulb on the package. If it burns out early, contact the retailer or manufacturer and ask about their return policy.
Buy the longest-life bulb, typically ENERGY STAR-rated bulbs. Although CFLs may cost a little more initially, savings will occur from using less watts and having a longer lifespan. For example, a compact fluorescent bulb uses 13 watts of power and gives off the same amount of light or lumens as an incandescent 60-watt bulb. They also have a longer bulb life than the incandescent bulb.
To take advantage of their potential savings, select the correct CFL bulbs for the uses, fixtures, and environment.