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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Are Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs a Fire Risk?

Update August 06 2008: Read comment section for response to this blog post. Apparently brown or melting plastic (see pictures) is relatively normal. I will definitely do more research into this.

If you’re like me you’ve already replaced most of the bulbs in your home with compact fluorescent bulbs. By switching over from 60W + 100W incandescent I’ve seen noticeable savings on my energy bill. There has been something occurring that’s got me concerned, so much so that I may switch back from compact fluorescents to standard bulbs. The bulbs in question are the SKU #292-460 Model EDXO-14 120V 60Hz 14W .200A V # 42836 manufactured by Commercial Electric also doing business as DuraBright. These 14W bulbs last a maximum of about 6 months even though they claim they will last for several years. The real issue I have with these bulbs manufactured by Commercial Electric is when the burn out they literally burn out. When I have gone to replace the bulbs around where the glass connects to the plastic base there is brown charring (see pictures). The bulb seems to be short circuiting, over heating, and nearly catching on fire. This isn’t a one time occurrence either, on every failed bulb I can see varying degrees of brown burn marks. On one bulb (see pictures) you can see that there is actually melted plastic around the edge of the light bulb! I did some research on Consumer Electric and some of their bulbs have been recalled in the past, specifically the ‘32-watt, 3-way (40-75-150 watt output) compact fluorescent bulbs,” but they did not recall the 14 W model that I purchased. I would stay away from this brand as it poses as a fire risk. From now on I’m sticking with name brand companies instead of the fly by night China operations with limited quality control. (Update: TCP, Inc. the company that manufacturers these bulbs is headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio.)

Light #1

Light #2

37 comments:

tricciardi said...

Hi Dan!

My name is Tina Ricciardi and I work for the company that manufactures these bulbs.

I would like to first assure you that we are not a “fly by night China operation”. TCP, Inc. (www.tcpi.com) is the company that manufacturers Commercial Electric and DurarBright CFLs, along with many other CFLs on the market. TCP is headquartered outside Cleveland, Ohio, the company manufactures nearly 1.4 million energy saving compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) every day, accounting for a majority of the CFLs sold in the United States.

Secondly, your CFLs are not a fire hazard. All of the plastic used in TCP, Inc. manufactured CFLs is UL listed to be flame resistant. The burn mark that you see in the CFL was most likely caused by a power surge or spike. Many consumers get frightened but this is one ways that CFLs burn out, it is very normal.

In regards to your CFLs burning out prematurely, here is the warranty information for your bulb:

This product is warranted for a period of 9 YEARS* from date of original purchase against defects in materials and workmanship. If this product should fail to operate due to defects in material or workmanship, simply call 1-877-202-8610 within 9 YEARS* of purchase. This product will be repaired or replaced, at TCP’s option. This warranty is expressly limited to repair or replacement of the product. This warranty gives the consumer specific legal rights, which vary from state to state. WARRANTY IS VOID IF PRODUCT IS NOT USED FOR THE PURPOSE FOR WHICH THIS PRODUCT IS MANUFACTURED.
* based on 3 hours average use per day
** based on 12 cents per kilowatt hour

If you have any additional questions you can feel free to contact me personal at tricciardi@tcpi.com

Thanks!

ladydelmd said...

I love these bulbs, They are bright and don't have that yellowish tint that most bulbs of this type have. I'm having a problem finding them ... I use to get them at Home Depot now they aren't there can anyone tell me where they are.

Caroline C. said...

I had the same problem with these bulbs burning out within a year and the base of the bulb is partially melted. I wrote an email to the company a week ago and have not received a response. Left voicemail as well, but no one has returned my call.

Anonymous said...

I have had 2 bulbs burnUP and smoke my house up in the past 3 months. All the same characteristics of the initial post. Now as soon as i smell that nitrogen fertilizer smell in my house and see a haze of smoke, I go looking for the light bulb that is trying to burn my house down. What a waste of an investment! My Bulbs were Sylvania 13w Y649.

Mike said...

I don't think this problem is limited to any one brand of CFL lights. I am here reading this because just a moment ago I heard an odd popping and sizzling noise, I looked up and smoke was coming out of a bulb. This one is a GE 20W, and like most it was made in China.

A few things to remember about CFLs:

They do best in applications where they are left on for a while. They will fail prematurely when they are turned on and off often. For instance, I no longer use them in my bathrooms.

Depending on where you live, they may be hazardous waste. Just like all fluorescent lights they contain mercury which is a neurological and reproductive hazard. In California they are Universal Hazardous Waste and it is illegal to throw them in the trash.

Anonymous said...

I too have had this happen. One night while in bed watching TV I literally saw a spark/glow of flame inside my ceiling fixtures glass globe. I immediately jumped up and shut off the power. It was charred black next to the plastic base. Now today I smelled a funny smell in my home while preparing my kids for bed that I couldn't identify luckily my 4 yr old pointed out that a bulb had burned out. Sure enough the base was charred and that was where the smell was coming from. I'm DONE! No more CFL bulbs in my house especially once I read this post and other articles about the UV radiation and mercury used to create the illumination that then creates a disposal problem for the environment in the long haul. Plus mine never seemed to last any longer than conventional bulbs for less initial cost, I guess I'll just have to pay a higher electric bill and not have my house burn down over my head.

Anonymous said...

I am an electrical engineer who first became aware of this supposed "normal" failure mode after one failed this way in a relative's home. I can tell you that smoking, burning, glowing with melting, charing plastic is NOT a normal failure mode for ANY electrical product. Those in government and industry who are saying this are doing so simply to prevent a consumer backlash and rejection of these products. The CPSC routinely fines companies and recalls products (other than CFLs) that do this. This is a safety "double standard" that must be recognized and stopped. The cause of many fires in homes and businesses are never determined. With the small mass of these products, in any fire of substantial proportions, it would be completely destroyed not leaving any evidence for the fire cause investigator to find. This is what is most likely behind the CPSC remark that they are "unaware of any fires" caused by these products. Property destruction and possible lost lives is not a valid compromise for energy savings. I urge everyone to stop using these products until such time that the government agencies whom we trust with our safety act responsibly on this issue.

Mark said...

When your house catches fire from these crappy Chinese bulbs, you will think twice about them...I like the energy efficiency, but don't want to burn my house down in the mean time...

Sam said...

I woke up smelling burned electricity and thought the A/C is on fire. After some search I found the SYLVANIA 13W Y525-1 to be the culprit. I wish I could post pictures here for you to see the burned marks showing. I am glad I woke up before this thing got on fire.

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