100 watt bulbs and the problems with CFLs

January 1, 2012 was to have been the death knell for the use of 100-watt bulbs Photo: Brandon Heyer (Flickr)

MILLINOCKET, Maine, December 19, 2011 ― Now that the 100-watt light bulb has been given a reprieve, we’ll all have a little more time to stock up. January 1, 2012 was to have been the death knell for the use of 100-watt bulbs, but Congress in its wisdom of hindsight has delayed that action for a while.

But do not expect the CFL police to go away. Soon we will once again have the prospect of losing the 100-watt bulb forever.


CFL end-of-life issues

The manufacturer’s rep says, “When these things start to go, you’ll have a burning electrical smell, you’ll see smoke, the plastic housing will start to melt and, oh, yeah… you may have a blow-torch-like flame shooting from the base. How many of these babies do ya want?” 

If you were buying fireworks, you might get a case or two, they sound pretty exciting, but we are talking about LIGHT BULBS, people!

Can you believe that so-called professionals are telling us this is a normal occurrence? (Photo: cflimpact.com)

From Toronto’s BlogTO website, March 22, 2007: 

According to Stuart Hickox of One Change/Project Porchlight (an organization giving free CFL bulbs out in Ottawa, Thunder Bay and Yellowknife), “Bulbs burn out when the ballast overheats and an electronic component, the Voltage Dependent Resister (VDR), opens up like a fuse in your home’s fuse box, shutting off the circuit and generating heat and possibly a small amount of smoke. This might sound dangerous, but the VDR is a cut-off switch that prevents any hazards. The melted plastic you’re seeing where the glass coil connects to the ballast is simply a sign that the heat is escaping as intended in the design of the bulb.”

“So, the burny (sic) smell coming from your CFL bulb when it dies is normal, as is the melting/overheating. Your house will not explode if you use these lights.”

“Ontario’s Electrical Safety Authority released a warning, notifying the public of the normal, yet understandably alarming, CFL bulb expiration process.”

From no less an authority than Underwriter’s Laboratories website:

“With CFLs, everything consumers know about a bulb burning out changes.”

John Drengenberg, consumer affairs manager, Underwriters Laboratories (UL): “…the burn out of a CFL is different. The light dims over time and might produce a more dramatic pop, emit a distinct odor, and maybe even release some smoke …the plastic at the base of a CFL can turn black, but … this is also normal in most cases, as safety standards require the use of special flame retardant plastics in the base that do not burn or drop particles.”

“Any popping sounds or smoke that a consumer might see when a CFL burns out means that the bulb’s end-of-life mechanism worked as it should have.” 

Maybe I’m just dumb, but it sure looks and sounds like a fire hazard to me. What do you think?


Tweet Jim @JimBozeman, or contact him on Facebook, and read his blogs You can find early examples of his cartoons and commentary there.

You can order his book Pithanthropy, The Human Conditioner, in print and on Kindle from Amazon.com


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Jim Bozeman

Jim Bozeman spent most of his working years in the printing business. Much of his work involved copy writing and proof reading. Born and raised in the Deep South, Jim is now retired and living in central Maine. 



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