Thursday, March 18, 2010

My Compact Fluorescent Bulb Burned a Hole in Itself Today

Bulb Burned
Originally uploaded by Mully410

I try to do my part in running a green household. I have a super efficient washing machine, furnace and water heater. This has saved me some nice money over the years. I've even replaced most of my old light bulbs with compact fluorescent.

Today, while I was moving my clean cloths from the washer to the dryer, I smelled something burning. There was smoke coming from my compact fluorescent bulb. I quickly turned off the switch. It stopped smoldering after about a minute so I uninstalled it. Here is the result (click on the pic to go to the Flickr page and then "all sizes" to get a close-up. It looks like it burned right through the ceramic like housing. Luckily I was home and noticed it right away. It only left a nasty burnt plasticy smell throughout the house. No telling what would have happened if wasn't around to notice it.

Fascinating. I wonder how many of these do this. I bought the GE brand, not some knock-off cheapo brand, because I felt safer going with a well known company. When an energy inefficient incandescent burns out, the circuit is simply broken and things don't start on fire. Now I'm wondering if the risk is worth the reward in having these new energy friendly bulbs...not to mention that they are toxic and can't go into the normal garbage can.

I plan to contact GE about this and will likely send it in to them. Stay tuned.

Here are the specs of the bulb:

Bulb ID

Here is the caution label and UL listing:

Bulb Caution

This is what it was plugged into (different bulb in this pic):

Bulb Socket

Here is an update with the conclusion.


  1. This piqued my interest as I have many CFLs. I found a document that seems to indicate this is not a problem even though it sure looks like one:

    (from the document)

    "Why do CFL bulbs sometimes smoke when they burn out?
    It is normal for some CFL bulbs to smoke a little and even show signs of melted plastic on the ballast at the
    end of their lives. When CFL bulbs burn out, heat builds up in the ballast (the plastic base of the lamp). As this
    occurs, the bulb’s safety feature kicks in: the Voltage Dependent Resistor (VDR) is an electronic component
    contained in the base of the bulb that acts like a circuit breaker and shuts off electrical current when the
    ballast heats up. In the nanoseconds it takes for the VDR to do its job, both it and the ballast might smoke a
    little. This is absolutely normal, and part of the lamp’s design. The Underwriter’s Laboratory only certifies CFL
    bulbs (including their VDRs) that are constructed with plastics that do not pose a fire hazard when

    Link to document (PDF)

  2. Thanks, Jim. It sure seemed like it was going to keep burning but I didn't leave it on long enough to find out. I just emailed GE and will update the blog if they get back to me.

  3. It is obviously essential to go green as much as possible because of the present pollution levels on the earth.I always thought that these lights helped...what is the summary now?

  4. GE sent me a coupon and I sent them the burned bulb. See the link above.

  5. I had the same thing happen except it was at the bottom of the light bulb in the part that attaches to the fixture. There is a very small hole in the metal and smoke around it. Any one ever hear of that happening


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