Join Login Search
For Electric Cooperative Members
For Electric Cooperative Members
Energy Efficiency

Get the Most Life Out of Lightbulbs

Many conditions can shorten the life span of lights

Does it seem like your lightbulbs are not lasting as long as they should? After all, CFLs and LEDs are supposed to last longer than incandescent bulbs, right?

Not always.

Many conditions affect the life span of a lightbulb, and some situations can cause lightbulbs to burn out prematurely.

Here are nine ways to get the most life out of your bulbs.

1. Ensure that your voltage is at the right level. Residential voltage is typically 125 volts. Anything higher can cause your lightbulbs to burn brighter and die sooner.

2. Reduce vibrations in light fixtures. Ceiling fans with lights can become off balance, causing them to shake and put strain on the delicate filaments in incandescent bulbs. Fixing the imbalance should improve the life of the lights.

3. Make sure lightbulbs are tight in their sockets and that wire connections are well fitted to the fixture. Loose connections can cause lights to flicker and eventually burn out.

4. Consider a change of bulb. CFLs claim to have long life spans but will burn out more quickly if they are switched on and off frequently. Switching to an LED is optimal.

5. Check the socket tab. There is a metal tab at the bottom of a light socket that delivers electrical current to the lightbulb. If the tab is tamped down, a good connection might not be possible anymore. To fix it, unplug the light fixture or turn off the power and bend the tab upward again with a utensil such as a wooden popsicle stick.

6. Make sure it’s not a short circuit. If a light goes out suddenly but not because of a burned-out bulb, there could be a short circuit in the wiring. A short occurs when electricity flows outside the wiring path, causing excess current. The sudden flow of current can make the breaker trip. The fix is to check for bad wiring or defective parts on the fixture.

7. Use the right bulb. Check the fixture for instructions on what wattage bulb to use. Especially with incandescent lights, it can be easy to insert a bulb with higher wattage than the fixture requires, generating excess heat that can wear a bulb out faster—and possibly start a fire.

8. Don’t let fixtures overheat. When it comes to recessed lights, check the manufacturer’s directions to determine whether insulation can be used above them. Using attic insulation can cause some recessed lights to overheat. This not only wears out the bulb but could also start a fire.

9. Verify that dimmers are right for the job. Older dimmer switches were designed to work with incandescent lightbulbs and may not function with LEDs or CFLs. If the bulbs on a dimmer switch burn out quickly, consider upgrading the rheostat to a modern design that accommodates newer bulbs.