Frequent light bulb burn outs

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I have a home I moved into a year ago that has had a lot of burned out light bulbs. Many fixtures have had the bulbs changed twice since I've owned the house.
Are frequent bulb burn outs a symptom of a larger electrical problem or am simply buying cheap bulbs (the kind I buy are burning out ahead of the lifetime listed.)
Thanks
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Fred wrote:

Possibly (probably?) high distribution voltage and/or spiking....
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this question was raised a while back. One poster suggested a bad neutral at the panel box might be subjecting the lights to more voltage than their design.
I'm not totally sure the dynamics of how this works, but it sounded worth checking. Might want to call an electrician if you don't have a background in these things.
Before doing that expense, try a different brand. I've found Sylvania and GE work better than Phillips (for me). Or try compact fluorescents.
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Fred wrote:

What kind of fixtures are the bulbs installed in? If they are recessed (can) lights, you may have a heat-related problem. Otherwise, as others have mentioned it may be voltage spikes due to a bad neutral.
Try compact flourescents - they should outlast the incandescent bulbs and save energy at the same time.
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The fixtures vary. Some are recessed and others are not. The recessed fixtures have 40 watt bulbs and the others are 60.
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Fred wrote:

I had a problem with 60w incandescent bulb burning out quickly in my recessed can fixtures....even though the fixtures specify that as the maximum wattage. Once I changed to compact flourescents, the problem went away. Some of the flourescents have been in place for four years or more, and they are on about four hours a night (5000 hours or so to date).
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I tried a flourescent in a recessed bathroom fixture and it fried itself at the base. I read the package the flourescent came in and sure enough it said it wasn't designed for recessed fixtures. I only use the flourescents in "open" fixtures.
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snipped-for-privacy@optonline.net wrote:

Many manufacturers make CF bulbs that are approved for use in recessed fixtures.
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Fred wrote:

Three things can cause the burn outs.
Vibration. Typical of fan lights and garage door opener lights. Sometimes sound equipment etc as well.
Voltage. This generally comes from one of two sources.
The power to your home may be too high, and it may be high only part of the time. You can contact the electric company and they are usually good about checking and correcting the problem. Sometimes not so good. If you are nears some industrial users then this is more likely.
The other problem is a floating neutral. This can be dangerous and cause fires. Do any of your lights brighten or dim when you turn on something else? If so it is likely a poor connections somewhere in your wiring. One loose wire can cause it.
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Joseph Meehan wrote:

One more thing to add. This is part of that floating neutral thing.
How old is your home? Could it have aluminum wiring? This can be bad and dangerous. If that is it you really do need a professional evaluation and upgrade plan.
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The floating neutral problem is over my head.
The house was built in '79 and I'm fairly sure that I have copper wiring throughout.

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Fred wrote:

While it's possible, I'd suggest that w/ a problem throughout the house it is simply high voltage direct from the power company. Have you checked the voltage you have on various circuits?
We routinely buy 130V bulbs simply for the extra life and as we're well out in the country on long distribution lines we see more voltage fluctuation than is common in urban areas.
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Fred wrote:

You should have copper wire. Usually if you have a floating neutral problem you will notice the lights (not just the ones you are having a problem with) sometimes change brightness. If you see this have a professional check it out.
If you do not have aluminum wire, I would suspect high voltage coming in from the power company first.
BTW I missed the one about heat. Some fixtures just don't allow enough air circulation or you may use lamps that are larger than called for by the fixture.

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A floating neutral problem would be obvious. As other appliances (especially larger appliances) power cycle, then lights increase or decrease intensity noticeably.
Light bulbs fail for two reasons. Mechanic shock when powered on (ie people running heavily on floor above the light only when light is on), and high voltage. A light bulb rated for 120 volts will only last 1/2 as long if the voltage is 128 volts. Notice how little voltage increase so shortens light bulb life.
A neutral wire problem can cause voltages to vary within the house and therefore cause significant light intensity changes. Or the utility is providing too much AC volts. Many people now own 3.5 digit multimeters that are becoming as necessary as screwdrivers. So ubiquitous as to be sold in Sears, Lowes, Radio Shack, Home Depot, and Walmart.
You have numbers to work with. Do you have 120 volts or 128 volts? Once the meter provides those numbers, then you have something for the utility company to stay working on until it is fixed. No numbers, and you only hope they fix something.
Fred wrote:

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Voltage is the first thing to check. If it's over 120 volts at the socket consistently when you test it, bulb life will be less than rated. Depending upon your electrical utility, you can also ask the utility to install a recording volt meter and monitor your socket voltage for a week or so.
A simple volt meter (Radio Shack, Sears, etc.) is all that you need for a quick test. But check the voltage at different times of day. It will vary somewhat.
Maybe, however, something else is going on. You say that you moved into your home about a year ago.
Did you put a bunch of new bulbs in at that time?
If so, and you have operated the bulbs in a typical manner (a few hours a day), then it's simply time for many of them to reach end-of-life (a failure "spike"). Next year, the spike won't be as high (fewer bulbs will burn out over a short time period), since as you replace the bulbs one-by-one, you will gradually get a mixture of newer and older bulbs. In a few years, the failures will be evenly spread out in time.
The life of any lamp (incandescent, fluorescent, etc.) is statistically predictable. In commercial systems such as offices and streetlights, many bulbs are relamped all at once (group relamped) just before the failure spike starts at about 70% or rated life. That minimizes overall costs in installations where the labor cost to replace a bulb may well be many times the cost of the bulb itself.
TKM
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you also may have purchased a box or brand of cheap bulbs. spend some extra $$ for a more expensive bulb but has been stated it could point to a larger problem too!
Wayne

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I found that frequent ON and OFF wears out the bulbs faster than just leaving them ON for a longer period and later turning OFF.
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"Did you put a bunch of new bulbs in at that time?" Yes I did but only because they were burned out. Other strange thing with house is that it was full of 55 watt bulbs. I've never seen these for sale anywhere but I've got them here. Could this be a tip to a problem?

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Probably not -- 55 watt bulbs have been marketed as a way of saving electrical costs -- e.g. "about the same light as from a 60 watt bulb, but uses 10% less electricity --". You probably just had a thrifty prior owner.
-- Regards --
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World Traveler wrote:

Yeh, they probably saved a whole 5 cents every month Eric
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