Light Bulb Life

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Just purchased a home that is ~ 8 years home in the midwest. Since we have moved in I have noticed that I am changing a lot of light bulbs in the house, evident in the basement and garage. These are standard 60W white bulbs from GE. For example the 2 in the garage were replaced in late Feb(with brand new bulbs) and they are both Blown already! The house has 200A service and these fixtures are wired with 14-2 Romex. The fixtures are the standard porcelain fixtures on a 3-way switch. Could I have a problem here? What should I look for?
Thanks, -Mike
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Vibration and heat are two of the most common causes of premature light bulb failure. The heat could be caused by a faulty lamp socket or loose wiring connections. Vibration could be from anywhere. You could try using rough service bulbs or bulbs rated for ceiling fans.
Also, the more a bulb is turned on and off the shorter the life.
John Grabowski http://www.mrelectrician.tv

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John Grabowski wrote:

agree with everything John has said and I will add one additional cause of heat. If the voltage it too high, that will also burn them out early. There are two common causes for high voltage. It may be due to a problem with the voltage being delivered by the power company, but more often it is do to a floating neutral.
With a floating neutral, the neutral (white) wire is not connected properly somewhere most often at the breaker box. That means two circuits are working as one. When both circuits have equal load the correct voltage is seen, however when one circuit has a greater load then it will have lower voltage and the other higher. This is a big problem with aluminum wire, but an 8 year old home should not have aluminum wire, however it can occur with copper wire.
A little detective work with a meter will pin this possibility down.
Good Luck

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Joseph E. Meehan

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On 4/26/04 8:08 AM, John Grabowski wrote:

This isn't really true for incandescent bulbs. The only exception is when it's already close to burning out; in this case, switching the bulb will often make it burn out right away.
Another thing that could be checked for is excessive voltage. Maybe try those 130-volt bulbs and see if they help.
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Travis
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Grabowski wrote:

Sometimes true, but usually not - explanation of how cold starts usually do nothing more than kill a bulb that is about to die anyway is in:
http://www.misty.com/~don/bulb1.html
- Don Klipstein ( snipped-for-privacy@misty.com)
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I put compact fluorescents in my garage 8 years ago, still working. As the others have mentioned there could be an issue with the neutral. When was the last time you had the connections checked in your service? I do it once a year. I just moved into a home that is ~5 years old. 30% of the wires were loose. Mostly neutrals and grounds. Found one screw on the neutral bar that was NEVER tightened down. The wires were just hanging about in the hole.
The other issue is the quality of the lamps. As an experiment check your lamps. Are they 120v rated or 130v? Try some 130 v rated or rough service in the garage door opener. They sometimes last longer.
As your neighbors if they are having the same problem. If they are as well then it MIGHT be an utility issue. Just wild ass guesses from the cheap seats.
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High voltage and vibration when powered-on will cause premature bulb failure. Power cycling does not cause premature failure despite contrarian myths based only upon speculation.
Some numbers. If the 120 VAC rises to about 127 volts, then bulb life expectancy (hours of operation) decreases to one-half. Joseph Meehan has correctly warned you that premature failure may be the symptom of a bad neutral wire. IOW bulbs only on one-half the circuits would be dying and other bulbs would be dimmer - last longer. If your lights tend to change intensity when something major is powered on, then have neutral wire inspected.
If voltage is just high, then a ubiquitous 3.5 digit multimeter is necessary to measure outlet voltages. Then you may have reason (supported by numbers) to complain to the electric company.
Should you have an electrician in to check the neutral, then also have him upgrade buildings earth ground system to post 1990 NEC requirements and install a $50 'whole house' protector in that breaker box. The most expensive part is getting him to and inside the building.
Mike Bittel wrote:

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What are the lower and upper limits on the voltage range generally considered to be "acceptable" ?
[I know power line voltage tends to vary with time-of-day, too]
I suspect that the PUC (e.g., state utility regulators, etc.) might have something to say about this too. As well as the individual utility company supplying the electricity.
Just need some guidance in case I measure what seems to be high line voltage, and call the power company only to be told by the telephone agent that it is 'normal'.
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I failed to record the person who deserves kudos for finding this citation. It most certainly will answer your question. Voltage limits per C84.1 American National Standard for Electric Power Systems and Equipment: http://www.pge.com/docs/pdfs/news/latest_topics/power_watch/power_quality_notes/voltage_tolerance.pdf
Bulb life expectancy can vary significantly because little voltage variations will notably change an incandescent bulb life expectancy.
As load changes, utilities will sometimes up voltages to compensate. Sometimes this 'upped' voltage can cause voltages still too low at the big load and voltage too high elsewhere. IOW the utility knows this and will eventually solve the transmissions system problem. In the meantime, one neighbor noted his morning voltages climbing near to 130 volts in the morning; until the local utility finally could install more distribution lines. Morning voltages would have been disastrous to life expectancy of any bulb he had burning in the morning.
NoSpam wrote:

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Thanks very much ! Very useful writeup.
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"Standard" 60 watt light bulbs have a rated average life expectancy of 1,000 hours. If you have 20 of them each running 3 hours a day, you will on an average blow them at a rate close to 2 per month. High shock/vibration environments are worse. If your garage lights are vibrated by the door, get rough duty bulbs or garage opener bulbs (NOTE - light output is compromised a little by the vibration resistant design). 130V bulbs are available at Lowes. Life expectancy is roughly 2.5 times higher than that of 120V bulbs, but light output is reduced by roughly 73% for only an 11% reduction in power consumption.
Use compact fluorescents where you can:
http://www.misty.com/~don/cfx.html
- Don Klipstein ( snipped-for-privacy@misty.com, http://www.misty.com/~don/index.html )
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Can someone explain what a 1000 hr light bulb really means? I once had it explained that bulbs fail in a poissant distribution as opposed to a normal (bell shaped) distribution. Therefore the 1000 hr is not the average life but represents the point where 95% of the bulbs are burnt out. Can someone explain this in english? of course I could have this completely wrong.
http://www.misty.com/~don/index.html )
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Good points by the others. In my case, it was bulb quality. I bought 2 four packs of GE Reveal bulbs. One pack was 60W and one was 40W. They were installed in two separate fixtures (4 bulbs per fixture) the same time. In 6-8 weeks 7 of the 8 bulbs have blown and the last one hung on for another three weeks. The bulk blew with around 200 hours of use. Far short of expected. The bulbs I have used prior to and after the GE ones have a normal life span. It is safe to say the GE Reveal bulbs are JUNK. The filament design is probably the same for standard GE bulbs. Try another brand. John

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On 4/27/04 9:23 PM, jriegle wrote:

I've heard several people complain about the life of GE Reveal. That's interesting, because I got a package of 100-watt Reveals back in August 2003 and haven't had any problems. I used one in my room, and it was used at least a few hours every day, and lasted about 7 months. It died a few weeks ago, and that was only because I dropped it while trying to move it to another fixture. (Well, maybe it was about to burn out anyway--it didn't land very hard, but the filament still broke.)
Two are used occasionally and still work today, but they aren't used as often (I use CFLs for the lights that are used regularly instead). I don't remember what happened to the last one.
Maybe we just got lucky?
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Travis
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I tried the Reveal bulbs three times, all three died within a week. Other brands of bulbs seem to work fine in the same fixture and last 6 months or more.
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John:
J > Good points by the others. In my case, it was bulb quality. I bought 2 four J > packs of GE Reveal bulbs. One pack was 60W and one was 40W. They were J > installed in two separate fixtures (4 bulbs per fixture) the same time. In J > 6-8 weeks 7 of the 8 bulbs have blown and the last one hung on for another J > three weeks. The bulk blew with around 200 hours of use. Far short of J > expected. The bulbs I have used prior to and after the GE ones have a norma
J > life span. It is safe to say the GE Reveal bulbs are JUNK. The filament J > design is probably the same for standard GE bulbs. Try another brand.
AFAIK the "1000 hours" means the bulb is designed to last one thousand hours being constantly on. Some time ago I guestimated when a certain bulb would blow, based on the stated lifespan. This bulb was in a fixture always on and powered by a UPS. IIRC two days after the expected 'die' date it had to be replaced.
Vibration, switching on and off, and I think positioning (base up, base to the side), and higher voltages will all affect bulb life. Not sure why your bulbs only got 1/5th of their lifespan. You might want to try bulbs rated at 130v (vs the normal 120v) in the fixture. You can also try to detemine the number of "hang points" (whatever they are really called) ==> the greater the number of filament supports the better it should hold up to vibration.
- barry.martinATthesafebbs.zeppole.com
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martin wrote:

Sometimes very true.

Usually only a something like a couple dozen hours for most bulbs. What usually happens is that an aging filament has a thin spot that would have a fatal temperature overshoot during a cold start, even though cold starts in most bulbs do not in anay other way damage the filament.

Will affect life slightly.

That one is major. Life expectancy is inversely proportional to voltage to the 12th power (varies somewhat from one model to another - I suspect can be anywhere from the 11th to 14th power. I have heard 13 a fair number of times and 14th once.)

They also have less energy efficiency due to more heat being conducted from the filament. The multisupport filament designs, in gas-filled bulbs, are also longer and have more heat conducted from them by the gas.
I would try compact fluorescents for bulbs in locations where compact fluorescents should be OK. That excludes places where they are on for only seconds or minutes, since they often need half a minute to warm up and fluorescents *do* suffer significant wear from starting. But they take vibration and minor overvoltages better than incandescents do.
- Don Klipstein ( snipped-for-privacy@misty.com, http://www.misty.com/~don/cfx.html )
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Were you running them all night?
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I found that temperature will effect bulb life if the garage is cold and you turn them on it will effect their life. I use compact fluorescent in the garage door opener and it works out well other than a little dim on startup when cold!
Wayne

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GE stands for Generally Erratic. High line voltage will shorten bulb life. So will vibrations, and a loose fit in the socket. I believe I've seen special bulbs designed for door openers.
Outsidelightson wrote:

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