Light bulbs burn out too fast

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This apartment has strange problems. Incandescent bulbs burn out too fast, usually when a switch is turned on. I monitored line voltage with a plug-in meter that displays voltages in the range of 90 to 130. The needle stays pointing in the green zone (110 to 125 volts). I don't live there, but I left the meter there and the renter says it stays in the green zone.
Aside from that problem, the kitchen has a ceiling fan with three light bulbs (standard base). The bulb in one position burns out, again when power is switched on, much more often than the other two.
I've tried using bulbs rated at 130V. Seem to give better life, but there is still a definite problem that I can't blame on simple high voltage. There is no flicker that could indicate that the bulb isn't fully screwed into the socket.
This is an "illegal" apartment, which means that there can be many code violations.
Thanks for you suggestions/comments.
R1
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You don't say if the "meter" is an analog meter with a needle/pointer or an electronic meter that displays line voltage with a digital readout. A short sudden burst of high voltage, just for one or two cycles, 30 milliseconds or so, might be happeneing on a semi-regular basis without being visible, but would strain the bulbs.
A check of the voltage when a heavy user of electricity is plugged in, such as an electric iron turned to the highest heat, should indicate if there is a general distribution problem, plug the iron in to outlets on the same phase and on the other phase of the 230V lines coming into the unit, and tell us what you find.
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On 10/18/2011 9:34 PM, hr(bob) snipped-for-privacy@att.net wrote:

This is the meter. http://www.lightinguniverse.com/additional-accessories/i-plug-in-line-voltage-monitor-plug-in-line-voltage-monitor_g920371.html&linkLoc ¬cess
Clearly, it will miss short spikes. (BTW, I only paid about $20 for it.)

I won't be back in the apartment until the weekend. I don't know if I can access the circuit breakers to get at the other phase. They may not even be located in her apartment. As I said, these are illegal units in the sense that they don't have permits and inspections, and I don't know how knowledgeable the workers were.
R1
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I wouldnt worry too much about the spikes but tighten down the neutrals in your breaker box. Loose neutrlas can cause some interesting problems, like when my wife complained of her portable radio not working then it smoked when she used the toaster. Im glad we were living in an apartment when that happened. Kitchen outlets were on shared neutral circuits... this can put 240 at a 120 outlet
Jimmie
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wrote:

Two things you need. First is an accurate meter. The other is the recording at various hours.
I had a similar problem and checked voltage. It seems that at about 6 AM, it would spike 130 to 140, then settle down to 120. Once call to the power company solved the problem. They were increasing power in the morning for industry coming on line, but our feed was going too high.
I'd also check for proper grounding.
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On Wed, 19 Oct 2011 08:59:38 -0400, "Stormin Mormon"

He measured the voltage, no? That's all that should be required. With a missing neutral, if one side is high, the other leg should be equally low.

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Yes. Light bulbs always burn out when the switch is turned on. That is when the stress on a filament is the highest.
I have not seen a case where voltage swings caused incandescent bulbs to burn out. Not saying there couldn't be, but I haven't run into it.
What I've seen cause it was mainly two things: screwing the bulb in too hard, and vibration.
If you screw the bulb in too tight, you flatten the contact at the bottom and then you have to always screw the bulbs in too tight. The connection between base and bulb is easily compromised. Bulbs should be inserted with the power on, and tightened ONLY 1/8 turn past contact. If the contact is flattened, bend it out (with the power OFF).
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On 10/18/2011 10:12 PM, TimR wrote:

Thanks for the good tip.
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Rebel1 wrote:

Hmmm, Is it an old building? Aluminum wiring? There could be many loose connections throughout the building from main power entry point and on.
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On 10/18/2011 10:18 PM, Tony Hwang wrote:

The work for this apartment unit was done within the last 10 years or so, so not likely to be aluminum wiring. There may be aluminum in the older parts of the building. I'll check this Saturday or Sunday. Thanks.
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Call the county inspecter & OSHA & have the place comdemed !
Jerry
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*Replace the socket on the light fixture or replace the light fixture. If the rivets in the base of the socket loosen, there is some additional heat being generated from the arcing. That heat will conduct to the filament and cause the bulb to burn out prematurely. Vibration can also cause premature bulb failure. Use fan bulbs in the ceiling fan if you aren't already.
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On 10/19/2011 7:29 AM, John Grabowski wrote:

Excellent suggestion, about the rivets. I'll investigate next time I'm there (this weekend). I didn't know there were such things as fan bulbs, especially for standard base sockets. I don't think she uses the fan very much, but its three light bulbs are the main source of illumination for the kitchen.
Thanks,
R1
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Rebel1 wrote:

Replace the switch(es) with dimmer(s). The half-second or so to twist a dimmer to full power should put less strain on the filaments.
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On 10/19/2011 7:37 AM, HeyBub wrote:

That would certainly reduce the stress on the kitchen bulbs, but at least two of the other lights are controlled by 3-way switches.
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On 10/19/2011 6:09 AM, Rebel1 wrote:

they make 3 way dimmers
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Andy comments: After trying the voltage related solutions suggested by the other posters, there is another item that may not have been covered.... (I haven't read every reply)
Vibration puts stress on the bulb filament . Bulbs in ceiling fans and utility lights are especially susceptible to the "subtle" vibrations they see. Who among us hasn't dropped a utility light on the ground only to see the bulb fizzle out ?
On additional solution is to buy bulbs classified as "rough service" bulbs, which are designed to be used in areas where shocks and vibrations may occur. They cost a little more, but may be a solution to your problem......
Also, CFL and LEDs don't have the problem with filament stress, and are usually more tolerant of voltage variations......
Andy in Eureka, PE
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On Oct 19, 10:06 am, "Stormin Mormon"

use CFLs they are now pretty cheap and not only save energy but last forever.......
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Andy writes: Yeah, I get them at Home Depot for about $5 for a pack of four (60w) I haven't had one go out yet, tho a couple I've gotten from Dollar Stores long ago have failed..... CFLs may have a filament to start the ionization, but it isn't the primary light source, and doesn't have to be kept near melting temperature for more than an instant....
I really really like LEDs, but they are just too damn expensive now. I only use them for flashlights and nite lights....
Andy in Eureka, Texas
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On 10/18/2011 9:01 PM, Rebel1 wrote:

Up until 9 years ago, the entire apartment was a single room in a large building with 3 other rental units in it. The owner divided this room into an apartment for a fourth tenant, my friend.
It turns out that the bulbs in the bathroom, bedroom, and closet do NOT burn out prematurely. The problem is confined to the kitchen, dining nook and hallway. As far as my friend knows, the bulbs in any of the other rental units do not burn out prematurely.
My friend's apartment is on the second floor, along with one other rental unit. A circuit breaker panel in the common hallway controls power to the two rentals. I now suspect that one of the breakers feeds the circuits that have the short-lived bulbs, even though I can't figure how a defective breaker could do this. I asked her to turn off each breaker and map out which breakers control the various outlets and lights in the apartment. I may not hear from her for a few days.
R1
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