Causes and Solutions for Light Bulbs that Keep Burning Out

September 10, 2018

Are you wondering why your light bulbs burn out every few weeks or months, and what to do about it? Here are some common causes and solutions for light bulbs that keep burning out, most of which can be addressed without hiring an electrician.

Bad Light Bulbs

Sometimes the answer is as simple as a bad batch of light bulbs. If you bought a package of bulbs and installed them in different light fixtures but they’re all burning out after only a few weeks or months, this could be the case.

Solution: Return the bulbs and/or change to a different brand.

The Bulb is Screwed in too Tight

Ensuring good contact between the fixture and the light bulb is good, but tightening too much will ruin the fixture-to-bulb connection. You can check for this by looking at the small brass tab inside the light socket. The tab acts like a spring, and it should stick up at about a 30 degree angle.

Solution: If the tab is pressed all the way down into the base of the socket, you’ll need to either replace the fixture or possibly bend the tab back up. To fix the tab, turn off the power at the breaker and then use a pair of needle nose pliers to bend it upward. Caution: Don’t stick your finger or any other objects into the socket without turning off the breaker that gives it power first.

Note: To prevent the tab from bending again, replace light bulbs while the fixture is on, and only screw in the bulb 1/8th of a turn past the point that it lights up.

Wrong Kind of Light Bulbs

There’s a small dot of solder on the bottom of a light bulb where it makes contact with the fixture. This dot should always be about the same size, but some cheaper brands don’t have enough solder, which causes arcing that shortens the life of the bulb.

Solution: Try the bulb in a different light fixture, and if it has the same problem, simply switch to a different brand of light bulbs.

Too Much Vibration

Light bulbs in ceiling fans, near entry doors, or in garage door openers may burn out quickly because of vibrations that cause the filament to break in incandescent bulbs. It’s also a common issue for CFLs.

Solution: Reduce vibrations by making sure the fixture is secure, and then change to LED bulbs, which don’t have a filament, or “rough service” incandescents, which are made to withstand more vibration.

Bulbs Are Overheating

If the bulb’s wattage is higher than what’s recommended for the fixture, it can create too much heat inside the globe. This will reduce the life of the bulb and cause it to burn out prematurely.

Solution: When installing new bulbs, always make sure they have fewer watts than what’s recommended on the light fixture or socket. In the case of can or recessed lights, make sure there’s no insulation covering the fixture from above and blocking air flow.

Dimmer Switches that Aren’t Compatible with the Bulbs

If light bulbs burn out frequently in a fixture that has a dimmer switch, the switch itself could be the culprit. Older dimmer switches were made to use with incandescent bulbs, and they can damage the circuitry in the bottom of CFL and LED bulbs.

Solution: If you’ve recently changed to CFL or LED bulbs, installing a new dimmer switch that’s made to work with them should take care of the problem.

Turning Off and On Too Often

This can be an issue for CFL bulbs, because the electrodes get stressed every time the light is turned on, causing them to degrade over time. So a CFL bulb that’s rated for 10,000 hours of use might only last for 3,000 hours if it’s only turned on for a few minutes at a time.

Solution: Replace CFLs with LED bulbs in lights that are usually only on for a short time, such as the bathroom, motion-sensing light fixtures, and closets.

Loose or Improperly Connected Fixtures or Wiring

This is one problem that may require the expertise of a professional. Loose wiring in a light fixture or the junction box it’s connected to can cause the voltage going to the bulb to vary, which wears out bulbs quickly.

Solution: Shut off the power at the breaker, and then remove the fixture. The wires inside the junction box should all be connected tightly with wire nuts. Or, have an electrician inspect the wiring for you.

Voltage in the Home is Too High

If the problem with frequent burned out bulbs seems to be throughout your entire home, the problem could be with fluctuations in the electrical service to the house. The electrical current flowing into your house should be at a steady 120 volts. Even a small amount of variation can damage light bulbs, appliances, and other electrical components.

Solution: A licensed electrician can check your home’s electrical supply and come up with a solution if that’s determined to be the source of the problem. In the Wichita, Kansas, area, call Reddi Electric at 316-771-9699 for assistance.

Resources found on our website are provided as general guidelines, and Reddi Industries does not assume any liability resulting from the provided information.