recessed lights -- what's wrong?


Hi all,
I had recessed lighting installed in my family room a few month ago, and I have a few problems with them. The burnout rate is very high: I have 12 cans, and I already had to change about 10 bulbs in this few months.
The fixtures are 4'', bulbs -- 50W, and I have 2 dimmers -- each controlling 6 lights. The bulb goes in very deep -- almost all of it is above the reflector (is it normal?). Maybe I am bying wrong bulbs?
Maybe I have to use a socket extender?
Also what's the deal with energy-saving bulbs? Would you recommend them?
Thanks a lot for your help.
Arkadiy
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Hi Arkadiy,
You didn't mention the type of bulb. Are these 50-watt PAR20 halogens by chance? Are they a name brand (e.g., Sylvania, GE or Philips)?
At one time, I had used an off-name brand PAR20 (Globe) and found they burned out all too frequently. When I switched to Sylvania, the failure rate dropped appreciably. I can't explain the difference in service life, but it was unmistakable. These bulbs are exposed to intense heat due to the design of these fixtures and perhaps this has some bearing on their relative performance.
Energy saving compact fluorescents may be an alternative if they are compatible with your dimmers or, if not, provided you replace these dimmers with an on/off switch. Then again, heat build-up inside these fixtures may shorten their life as well. Unless you live in a cooling dominate climate and these lights operate several hours a day, I would probably stick with halogens. And if you do use halogens, make sure you run them at full brightness at least ten per cent of the time to allow the "halogen cycle" to do its thing; unlike incandescent lamps, constant dimming of halogens can actually shorten their life.
Cheers, Paul

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Paul M. Eldridge wrote:

It's Philips reflector 50R20. Any particular reason why halogen may be better?
Thanks, Arkadiy
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Hi Arkadiy,
Thanks for the additional info. A standard R20 has a rated life of 2,000 hours (the Philips DuraMax is 2,500 hours) and that's pretty much in line with most PAR20 halogens (a 120-volt Philips 50PAR20/HAL/FL25 is rated at 3,000 hours).
The big difference is in terms of light output. A 50-watt R20 bulb produces about 330 to 350 lumens whereas the equivalent halogen is in the order of 520 to 550 lumens; that's more than 1.5 times the amount of light of an incandescent reflector. This light is also cleaner and crisper in appearance due to its higher colour temperature.
The downside is that the light spread is narrower (tighter beam), so you'll have to determine for yourself if this would be a problem. However, if it were my call, I would opt for the halogen.
Cheers, Paul

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imho:
I found when I put in recessed lights in my house, I liked them so much I was using them more often. Especially since i put them on a dimmer. As a result, I was buring through bulbs. The life I was getting, was only about 3-4 months. It seems that the continous hour rating, is continous, and on/off operations seems to eat up hours.
What I did, I went to 'double life' bulbs. So far getting almost 6 months. With so many lights(9), it seems that twice a month I have a dead bulb. Just luck of the draw.
As for CFL's, there is warnings about not using them on dimmers. As for dimmible ones, I think the smallest is like a PR30 (for a 6" can?), that I've seen.
Good luck with your results, please post anything that might help.
tom @ www.Consolidated-Loans.info
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It would help to know the make and model of the fixture, as well as the lamp type, but a typical standard four inch recessed would use either a par or R lamp, which get pretty hot. I've found with "Halo" brand , which are non adjustable, a one inch porcelain socket extender brings the lamp closer to the plane of the ceiling where it gives more light, and the heat from the lamp is dissipated so the lamps last longer. I would also use GE lamps if you can afford them

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RBM (remove this) wrote:

The fixture is Halo. The bulbs are Philips DuraMax reflectors, 50W, 120V. I don't have a box, but I would guess it's 50R20

Which kind of GE? Are they much better than Philips? Are they much more expensive? Mine were at about $3 a bulb...
Thanks, Arkadiy
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I've had customers with the same complaint, using 50R 20 reflector floods in that same fixture. Usually with Sylvania lamps. Philips lamps are pretty good, and IMHO, second only to GE in quality, but the bottom line is that they solved the problem. I do recommend however using the one inch socket extension, as you'll get more light out of the fixture

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Thank you everybody.
For now I installed socket extensions, and continue using Philips DuraMax 50R20. There is definitely more light in the room. I'll see how it goes with the burnout rate.
I also bought one PAR20, just to try. It does claim much more lumen, but frankly, I can't see much difference... Maybe it's because it's shorter, and sits deeper in the fixture, even with the socket extension? Anyway, for now I am OK with R20, unless they continue burn out like before.
Thanks again,
Arkadiy
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Arkadiy wrote:

Why would you need a socket extender on a new Halo recessed light? If you use the right bulbs for the fixture no extender is required.
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snipped-for-privacy@optonline.net wrote:

Mostly because there is much more light. When I don't use socket extender, the lower part of the bulb is at the upper edge of the reflector. Maybe this *is* the right setup, but I have some problems with it: first, it's very difficult to screw the bulbs in and out... I mean *very* difficult. Sometimes I need to first remove the reflector to be able to unscrew the bulb. Second, there is much less light than if the bulb is closer to the ceiling level, as with the socket extender. And third, despite the reflector, most of light goes down, so the upper part of the walls is very dark... This also is better with the socket extenders.
I also hope that getting bulbs lower might put them in easier condition in terms of heating, and they may burn out not so often.
Maybe I am doing something wrong, but this is my first experience with the recessed lights, and so far I am not very happy :-( I imagine the total of 600W of light would make the 250 feet room very bright if it were a regular fixture. But until I used socket extenders, there was not much light at all...
BTW, does the quality of the reflector makes much difference?
Regards,
Arkadiy
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Hi Arkadiy,
Recessed incandescent lighting is not an efficient nor cost-effective way to light a room. I have a dozen Halo H99RTfixtures equipped with specular reflector cones in my living room. I had previously used 50-watt PAR20 halogen lamps but about two years ago swapped them out for GE's 21-watt Diamond Precise product.
The Diamond Precise is basically a low-voltage MR16 lamp with an internal 120 to 12-volt transformer and standard Edison screw base (meaning that they will work with this type of fixture). It has a rated service life of 5,000 hours and produces 260 lumens. Although this is about half the light output of a standard halogen PAR20, less light is lost inside the fixture housing so the difference in light levels is perhaps not as great as you might think (and compared to a 50-watt incandescent R20 at 330 lumens, there should be little or no appreciable difference). They run much cooler than a 50-watt halogen and are easy to insert and remove due to their smaller size. Most importantly, power demand dropped from 600-watts to just 252-watts.
This is a picture of the Halo fixture with the Diamond Precise lamp:
http://server4.pictiger.com/img/846606/other/halo-fixture.jpg
This is a close-up of the lamp itself:
http://server4.pictiger.com/img/846607/other/diamond-precise.jpg
You should be able to purchase these lamps at any lighting distributor that sells GE products.
Cheers, Paul

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The new energy saving bulbs are great but...
They seem to take a while to reach full brightness which in many applications is a real bonus but not in all. I have one over the kitchen sink and in both bathrooms. It is great when you first get up in the morning and go to the bathroom or kitchen to start the coffee. Turn on the light and it comes up slowly. Not near the shock to my old eyes in the darkness.
Most will NOT work on a dimmer circuit. I have yet to find any of the energy saving bulbs that will work on the dimmer.
Arkadiy wrote:

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Hi Bob,
I know Home Depot sells a dimmable version of the Philips Marathon.
Cheers, Paul
wrote:

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Arkadiy wrote in part:

Most compact fluorescents should not be used here because:
1) Most are not rated for use with dimmers. A few are.
2) Most that are not specifically rated for use in recessed ceiling fixtures are likely to overheat in such fixtures.
- Don Klipstein ( snipped-for-privacy@misty.com)
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Beg to differ with you don. CFL's throw less heat and are recommended for recessed lighting. Below is a quote from a mfgr.
Versatile: CFL's can be applied nearly anywhere that incandescent lights are used. Energy-efficient CFL's can be used in recessed fixtures, table lamps, ceiling fixtures and porchlights. 3-way CFL's are also now available for lamps with 3-way settings.
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