Tag: bulb

Should we stick with incandescent bulbs?

Should we stick with incandescent bulbs?

I had written before on those fluorescent curly Q bulbs that were the next end-all-be-all to saving the planet. We talked about the fact that they contain mercury and, if something goes wrong, there might be a fire.

LED bulbs seemed much more promising.

Well, not so fast. First off, there is the issue of different types of LED bulbs for circuits with dimmers vs. without. How many ‘users’ of these things truly understand the difference and, how many care?

To that end, all LED bulbs entering the US market should be designed to work in either situation.

I feel a little like Ralph Nader when I mention this fact, as it seems obvious but, they should at the very least be clearly labeled.

The last batch of ‘dimmable’ LED bulbs I purchased clearly was marked ‘dimmable’ on the box, but no place on the bulb itself did it distinguish itself as dimmable.

My next nit to pick is quality control.

Out of six regular LED non-dimmable bulbs, I had a 50% failure rate.

The bulbs would either flicker or just not work.

My curiosity got the best of me.

If you notice those two blobs of solder, they are situated by the plus and the minus terminals for the LEDs. That blob of solder in the middle does not belong. In my business, we call that a solder bridge. This is incredibly shoddy work, and while the bridge is not zero ohms, it is close enough to render the bulb useless.

I have not opened the other two failed bulbs but, I can guess what I might find.

Are these a fire hazard?

I would like to believe that because these circuits are housed in plastic-coated aluminized housing that a circuit breaker might blow before the thing catches on fire.

The companies that create and sell these things need to tighten up quality control and, all of them should be made to fit into either a dimmable socket or a regular socket.

Since Underwriters Laboratories turned into a for-profit company, one must wonder who is watching out for the American public. Someone should be testing this stuff independently of company sponsors. Currently, the FTC takes complaints and tips but, to my knowledge, does zero pro-active research on something as basic as substandard or hazardous products.

While I loath bloated government, there is a need for an Underwriters Laboratories to test, check the quality, and so forth of products imported into this country.

Are they safe?

Is there lead paint?

Are they going to catch on fire?

Are they labeled correctly?

If I take the time to open the other two failed products, what will I find?

I would think that the Chinese companies would be overly careful of this type of quality. Just possibly, they know they are the only game ‘in town’ and that people will just accept the lack of value for the dollar and lower their expectations.

Maybe the Chinese should offer repair kits for their poorly constructed bulbs so those of us with the skills and know-how can fix them.

Is it worth it? Knowing these bulbs should last years, would it be worth your time to ‘fix them?’

Stay safe until we meet again.

If there is nothing new, maybe I will tell you all how to make Banana Bread.


Repairable light bulbs?

Repairable light bulbs?

LED Bulb
Premature failed LED bulb
As an electronics guy, when something fails I like to figure out what failed and then why.

When lights fail, well they just fail!

Not so much with the CFL or LED variety.

led bulb taken by me
LED bulb with clear dome etched by some sort of out gassing from something.
Today I want to examine this bulb, an LED bulb that did not last the advertised amount of time by any stretch of the imagination.

The first thing to notice that there was some sort of out-gassing during its use which adhered to the inside of the plastic dome and actually etched the plastic in such a way that it is no longer translucent but rather opaque even after I cleaned it with 409.

The reason I pulled it apart is that it became dim.

Failed LED
Here you can see the electronics of the LED bulb and possibly you can see the loose leg of the electrolytic capacitor.
After disassembling it, I found that the electrolytic capacitor had become un-soldered on one of its legs.

Re-soldering it and re-assembling it, the bulb became bright again for about a minute until it flickered and quit.

Bulb working after repair

Same bulb flickering before second failure
Removing and testing the capacitors they were both in tolerance and I suspect OK.

LED Bulb
Testing electrolytic cap,
Checking the LED’s one by one, I found one that was dead.  As I tested each with a DVM the good LEDS would slightly illuminate.  98% of these when biased correctly would illuminate properly.  One of them was much dimmer than the rest, and one of them would not light at all.

Failed LED bulb
Dead LED at the end of my thumb
If I were of the mind to, I could replace the dead LED and the dim LED and I would guess I would obtain more hours of life out of the collective bunch of LED’s

LED lights being in series to me says that when one fails, the light is dead and trashed.  Much like that lousy string of Christmas lights that are a real bugger to keep going.

Dead LED
Dead bulb from another angle

Failed LED
IF you look carefully you can see some brown substance near the end of the last LED, I think that is the chemical that is responsible for the out-gassing and subsequent pitting of the plastic dome.

  • Does it make financial sense to “repair” light bulbs?
  • Will dead LED bulbs fill the garbage dumps with the same frequency of regular light bulbs or CFL bulbs?
  • The good news about LED bulbs is that there is no lead in the solder as it is Tin.

I would be interested in knowing what actually out-gassed from the light during its use?

What actually pitted or etched the plastic?

Looking closely you will see what looks like flux, that suggest that there is heat generated with use.

Failed LED
Here is a closer look at the dead LED and the brown substance.
I am thinking about holding on to this bulb and when another like it fails, making one out of two, just because.  Is my time worth more than this, of course it is!  Does this interest me enough to prove a point? Yes.  

While LED bulbs will save you cost in operation, will that cost be offset by the cost and reliability of the bulb?  Even though there is a warranty on these bulbs as well as CFL bulbs, do you know anyone that puts a date on them when installed and then keeps up with the sales slip in case they don’t last the warranty?
I don’t think that you can prove much, and it would really be up to the benevolence of the store where you purchased them from to replace your product..


(c) All rights Reserved 2015

The CFL, Good idea or Bad

The CFL, Good idea or Bad


The CFL Good idea or Bad


I have spoken about this bulb before and how we as Americans have been duped into paying for expensive bulbs to replace the .25bulb with one that cost several dollars.  Today I had one of these bulbs fail and it was not a normal failure.


Seated inside base of the CFL bulb is this circuit board with a couple of dozen components on it.  Fluorescent bulbs work by ionizing the gas inside the tube where it interacts with the phosphor coating the inside of the tube making light.


Let me stop here for a moment and say that I am a large fan of folks who think outside the box.  Huge fan!  I like it when people don’t accept status quo and look for a better way to do something.  The fluorescent bulb is one such invention.  LED bulbs are another.  I think we can do better and we should.

Having said that I have issues with the government forcing it down our throats by doing away with the incandescent bulb forcing us to adapt “pay for “much more expensive technology.

These CFL bulbs have mercury in them which is bad.  These bulbs if broken have special cleanup procedures that just about require a hazmat suite.


CFL bulbs are expensive. Researching the issue I think that they have finally come out with models that work in dimmers but that was not the case with my failure, it was a simple on-off lamp.

  • The pluses are that these things are supposed to last much longer than a normal incandescent bulb.
  • They uses about a 4th the wattage of an incandescent. 

When an incandescent bulb goes out there is typically a flash associated with the energizing current hitting the filament and poof, you are groping around in the dark looking for a flashlight or other lamp to find a new bulb and replace it.

CFL bulbs start out much dimmer than a normal bulb and while they may get to a brightness that is acceptable, most need that brightness when they flip the switch, not 10 minutes later after it warms up.


CFL bulbs should never be used in places where the light needed is just for a few moments i.e. closets or bathrooms.  CFL bulbs should not be turned off before they are allowed to reach operating temperature as doing so shortens their life.

LED bulbs start out bright and as they age lose their intensity or luminance as they age so, a bright bulb will eventually turn into a very dim bulb.

The prices of the alternatives are still higher than they need to be to rationalize an ROI on the product.  The average house does not use enough electricity on bulbs to generate an ROI to justify using expensive bulbs.  Stores and office building do but, the average home does not.

Typical government thinking is that one house, no, two houses no, a neighborhood full of houses all using $6 bulbs vs .25 bulbs, and you save some energy and the bulb companies make a hell of a lot more money than on a few $0.25 bulbs.

The energy company then has to raise their rates to make up the difference in the losses of lower usage, so everybody wins!  Everybody except you the consumer.

Because larger incandescent bulbs are being removed from the market, we are forced to buy an alternative whether we want to or not.

When a CFL bulb just stops working instead of dimly glowing or flickering before its time, why?  What happens to it if it simply stops!

The circuit board which I alluded to earlier produces the voltages necessary to make the bulb work.  As I have done with the Wall wart in an earlier post,  I have also done with the bulb.  In my job, I have to determine the “root cause analysis!”  What failed and why.  In this case it is a design flaw.

Scott's Bulb Look at the dark area on the board you can see where it has gotten plenty hot!
Scott’s Bulb
Look at the dark area on the board you can see where it has gotten plenty hot!

Scott 100 watt CFL that died prematurely.
I am not sure if you can tell but, the solder joints that hold on that three legged component which I think is an SCR of some sort (guess) has become much too hot and actually melted the solder away from the pins. This part should have a heat-sink on it. Using the rule of thumb method of engineering. If you cant put your thumb on it because of the heat, better re-engineer it. This is the 100 watt model of the CFL which uses 23 watts.

Here you will see the circuit board and its associated components.  You can see where the board has gotten hot, so hot in fact that the solder connection to this part have come loose causing the failure of the bulb.

Failed bulb found on the internet. There are many such stories out there but I am trying to determine why.

One cannot help but wonder how much of a fire hazard that these bulbs are.

I would not leave my house with these things on, as I don’t think that they are that trustworthy.

I would certainly make sure that my smoke detectors had good batteries as well.


© All rights reserved 2015