How light bulbs work and why the need replacing

There are 4 types of light bulbs, incandescent bulbs, halogen bulbs, compact fluorescent lamps (CFL’s) and Light-Emitting Diodes (LED’s).

Traditional incandescent light globes are basically a controlled fire on display.  When electricity contacts the base of the bulb, the electricity enters the bulb and heats up the filament inside. This filament is made of tungsten, which when heated up creates incandescence (light produced by heat). Incandescent lighting not only produces light, it also produces heat, just like light created by a burning log or coal, except a light bulb is a highly contained environment. As the tungsten filament burns, particles fly off the filament, leaving less to light up. When there are no more particles left to burn, a bulb fails to light up. For most bulbs this process takes between 800 and 1,200 hours of light.

Halogen bulbs are an adaptation of incandescent bulbs, but instead of running off a tungsten filament, they instead run off halogen gas. This helps them to last 2 to 3 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs.

CFL’s are a more energy efficient and low-cost style light globe that doesn’t need to be replaced as often as halogen or incandescent bulbs. This type of bulb has a white powder coating inside of a glass tube that contains a fluorescent coating. When electricity enters the lamp, mercury and argon fumes from inside the bulb produce UV light. This light reacts with the fluorescent coating and this reaction produces a white visible light. Whilst CFL’s last from 6000-15,000 hours, they aren’t the most appealing choice when choosing light bulbs as they take a while to light up and they need to be discarded of safely due to the mercury vapour that they contain.

The last type of light globe is the most recent to be introduced into the market – LED’s. Light-Emitting Diode bulbs first came onto the market in 2008 and are very appealing as they use 80% less electricity than incandescent bulbs and last for 25 times longer. Add to this that LED lighting is dimmable (but it can flicker) and it becomes a popular choice, but they don’t always provide a statement look that incandescent or halogens can provide to a retail space.

Why do light bulbs need replacing?

Each type of bulb will need replacing over time, the style of bulb will dictate when. Incandescent, halogen and Fluorescent lighting will ‘burn out’ and simply stop working completely – and this is when you know that you need to change them. Often in retail and commercial spaces we find that when one bulb is out there will be others near by that will need to be changed very soon.

LED lighting doesn’t necessarily just stop working. This type of bulb tends to fade over time until they no longer produce enough light to suit the environment that they are in. Basically, when the light becomes too dim it’s time to replace your light bulbs.

What if your light bulbs keep ‘blowing’?

If you keep changing your light bulbs and they keep failing on you too soon, there are a few things that could be happening.

Using low quality bulbs

Cheap bulbs are the simplest cause. Cheaper bulbs mean cheaper filaments and decreased quality. See if upgrading to a higher quality bulb fixes the issue.

Having a loose connection

Light bulbs require a consistent connection to electricity to work. If your bulb is not correctly screwed in or affixed to it’s bracket it can cause a loose connection. This can in turn cause flickering and wear and tea on the bulb, causing it to fail.

Electrical Arcing

Electrical arcing is the process of electricity jumping from one place to another, often producing an odd buzzing sound. If you hear this sound it can be caused by a poor fit between the bulb and its fixture. Electrical arcing can cause a bulb blowout and can even cause a fire – if you hear this give us a call.

Voltage spikes or installing the wrong wattage

Even a minor spike in electricity voltage can cause your bulbs to blow out. If your bulbs keep blowing, it may be worth having an electrician come out to have a look at your electrical wiring to check that there isn’t an issue. The same goes for using bulbs that don’t the wattage of your fixture. Too much electricity will cause more heat, and therefore increased risk of failure and in the worst case, fire.

If your bulbs need replacing and you need some assistance from the experts, give us a call and we’ll come out and assess your space. We can not only replace your bulbs but protect you from having to replace them sooner than necessary!

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