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Thread: CFL Bulbs that really last for 5 Years

  1. #1
    Jack of all trades DonL's Avatar
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    Default CFL Bulbs that really last for 5 Years

    It seems to me that the CFL replacements are not all they are made up to be.

    I was using 130V Commercial Service Incandescent bulbs rated for 15,000 hours when operated at 120 Volts.

    I have had many CFL failures , just to find out that the CFLs are only rated for 8000 hours.

    In what way can these be called Longer Lasting. Compared to what ?

    I have yet to see a CFL last as long as the Commercial Service Incandescent.

    I have yet to see a CFL last more than 2 years. I know that I have not exceeded the 8000 hour limit.


    Is it just me having issues ?


    I would like to know what Brand and type to buy that could come close to the Commercial Service Incandescent bulbs. I have seen them last 5 Years.


    Or is it time to go LED ?
    Theory only works perfect in a vacuum.

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    DIY Senior Member BobL43's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DonL View Post
    It seems to me that the CFL replacements are not all they are made up to be.

    I was using 130V Commercial Service Incandescent bulbs rated for 15,000 hours when operated at 120 Volts.

    I have had many CFL failures , just to find out that the CFLs are only rated for 8000 hours.

    In what way can these be called Longer Lasting. Compared to what ?

    I have yet to see a CFL last as long as the Commercial Service Incandescent.

    I have yet to see a CFL last more than 2 years. I know that I have not exceeded the 8000 hour limit.


    Is it just me having issues ?


    I would like to know what Brand and type to buy that could come close to the Commercial Service Incandescent bulbs. I have seen them last 5 Years.


    Or is it time to go LED ?
    To me, the whole CFL long life bulbs save money thing is a big scam. Most, but not all CFL bulbs I buy and use, particularly the R30 reflector floods that burn with the base up in Hi Hat ceiling fixtures, burn out faster than the incandescant ones did that I used before hand. It is particularly irritating when one of those bulbs fail that when I go to unscrew it from the fixture, the glass envelope unscrews from the base and I cannot grasp the spiral bulb. That makes me have to remove the lamp socket insert from the can or have to apply glue to the threads on the envelope and rescrew it back together so after the glue dries, I can unscrew the bulb the way it is supposed to be. Is that only my experience??? AARGh!
    and theose bulbs seem to alway fail when they first smell like the electronic ballast unit it the base is burning (must be, as they look somewhat charred). The LED units I bought several months ago at a very high price seem OK yet, but hopefully, it'll be years before I know how long they will last. I will say that most R30 CFL bulbs I use fail within less than one and a half years, being lit for about 5 hours a day. some fal quickly because I have them installed in applications not suited for them like bathrooms, where they are turned on and off too frequently, but most are on continuously from dusk to about midnight, which right now is about 7 hours because of the season we are in, but less normally.
    I am definitely not a pro plumber, but I am a pro crastinator

  3. #3
    Jack of all trades DonL's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BobL43 View Post
    To me, the whole CFL long life bulbs save money thing is a big scam. and those bulbs seem to always fail when they first smell like the electronic ballast unit it the base is burning (must be, as they look somewhat charred). some fail quickly because I have them installed in applications not suited for them like bathrooms, where they are turned on and off too frequently.
    That is interesting. Thanks for the Info.

    Most my failures were in a Bathroom. I did not know you could not turn them ON and OFF. Bad Me.

    When this last one quit, I did smell something, but never knew where that smell was coming from, Smoke alarm never went off.

    Now I have a collection of bad Lamps that contain Mercury, too dispose of.
    Most have been in Warranty, but I hate returning stuff.

    They look to be made in China sold under the GEŽ name.


    Ge where did I go wrong...
    Theory only works perfect in a vacuum.

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    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    Some bulbs are not rated to be installed base up, some are. If you install one base up and it isn't rated for it, it overheats and doesn't last anywhere near as long. Also, some are not designed to be installed in a restricted airflow area. While a FL, regardless of the type, works in an on/off situation, they achieve their rated color temperature and brightness after being on for a bit, and the ballast doesn't really like the on/off cycles...they'll all work longer if they aren't cycled as often.

    The vast majority of my fixtures are on dimmers, and dimmable cfl don't have much range, and are yet more expensive. So, I don't have that many places where a cfl would be a viable alternative. I've shied away from LED, but will likely end up going that way as the price competition drops the costs.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

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    Plumber jimbo's Avatar
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    There is no free lunch. The lumen output of the 'decade' incandescent was probably about 30 to 40 % LESS than a bulb of same wattage, 120 volt rating. That's how they make it last longer.

    Most CFL bulbs I look at are rated 10,000 to 12,000 hours. As jad mentioned, many situations like dimmers, heat, photocells, or off/on will shorten the life. And these days, there is such a rampant demand for CFL bulbs that china can't maintain consistent quality on them.

  6. #6
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jimbo View Post
    And these days, there is such a rampant demand for CFL bulbs that china can't maintain consistent quality on them.
    My feeling is, this is a generic problem, not specific to CFLs!
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

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    Jack of all trades DonL's Avatar
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    My CFLs are mounted horizontal and plenty of air flow.

    I remember when we used a diode to reduce the Voltage in order to make the old incandescent last longer. (Maybe DC helped ?)

    I buy the 130V Commercial Service Incandescent bulbs like the ones in Traffic Lights. (Before LEDs. and a lot of them burn out)

    I have to buy a case (100) of Commercial Service 15000 hour Incandescent, When I only need a few.

    I have seen LEDs in Traffic Lights, And I am not impressed, many segments seem to be burnt out.


    What is the expected Life / Hours for the LED lights ?
    Last edited by DonL; 12-12-2011 at 04:07 PM.
    Theory only works perfect in a vacuum.

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  8. #8
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    LED bulbs tend to range from 50K to over 100K hours. Too early to tell if those are realistic, or only available in a lab under controlled conditions. They've gotten a lot better over the years, and while on those older cars that had them where they often failed, you don't see failed ones very often on the newer ones, and, they are a lot brighter than they used to be as well, so you can use fewer of them for the same output.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

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    In the Trades mtcummins's Avatar
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    I haven't had many troubles with CFLs like you guys are describing. I don't find that they meet their rated life consistently, but I've had bulbs last a good long time. I put all CFLs (almost) in my house when I rewired it a few years ago, and haven't replaced a bulb yet, other than a couple that got broken. I don't generally use them in bathrooms, where the lights have too many on/off cycles, or in motion floods, but I do use them in can lights, etc.

    They also aren't great with cold temperatures, so outdoor lights often burn out faster.

    They do save money... if you buy them well. I pay at most $1.50/bulb for regular bulbs (and lately the utility companies have been subsidizing them, so I'm often paying about 50 cents each), and at less than 25% of the energy consumption, they'll pay for themselves just in energy savings. The floods/etc are a bit more, but I've had relatively good experience with them lasting a fairly long time as well. Again, not generally their stated life, but far longer than standard incandescents. All of that time, they're using 1/4 of the energy.

    LED is the way of the future, but there have been many bugs to work out, and many more things need to be addressed before they're totally viable, in my opinion. Such as a standardized, consistent way to rate their light output... its a crapshoot right now. Best I can say is get the CREE driven ones if you're looking into them, as they seem to be the better ones on the market right now. For now, I use them in a few specific applications for accent lighting mostly, but look forward to the day when they can replace CFLs completely.

  10. #10
    DIY Senior Member Runs with bison's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DonL View Post
    It seems to me that the CFL replacements are not all they are made up to be.

    I was using 130V Commercial Service Incandescent bulbs rated for 15,000 hours when operated at 120 Volts.

    I have had many CFL failures , just to find out that the CFLs are only rated for 8000 hours.

    In what way can these be called Longer Lasting. Compared to what ?

    I have yet to see a CFL last as long as the Commercial Service Incandescent.

    I have yet to see a CFL last more than 2 years. I know that I have not exceeded the 8000 hour limit.


    Is it just me having issues ?
    Perhaps...unless you are using GE's. When I lived in Houston I bought some GE's and they tended to fail early. The Home Depot store brand has been very reliable by comparison--were Consumer Electric, then n:Vision, now EcoSmart. Even the GE's blew a standard incandescent out of the water in terms of service life though! Seemed like a standard incandescent was always burning out. My in-laws do have one incandescent in a closet that has been around since the 1930's though...really low lumen output, but made to last.

    Another thing I like about the Home Depot variety, they are shorter and fit better into most fixtures (the GE's are really awful in this regard.)


    I would like to know what Brand and type to buy that could come close to the Commercial Service Incandescent bulbs. I have seen them last 5 Years.
    My Home Depot brand bulbs (brand changes, model number/bulb stayed the same) have been lasting more than 5 years. I still have most of the originals I bought 7 years ago and they've been in the highest use services because unlike the crappy GE's they are instant on.

    I have well over 100 CFL's in my home, having eliminated incandescent only fixtures 3 years ago. I replace 1-2 CFL's per year normally. I did have to replace 4 this past year...but two of those were 7 years old. I send the crappy older remaining GE's to a range hood to die...it is a hot, tough service and they last about a year (after already having a few years on them.)

    I use CFL's in bathrooms without problems. I know I had at least one fail in a bathroom in the past few years...out of over two dozen installed in three baths. I even put them in garage door openers (had to retrofit using a Dremel grinder head) where folks told me they would never last--haven't lost one of the four yet.

    Money saving wise this is a no brainer compared to incandescents. I was replacing incandescents at 10x the rate so even with the $1.50/bulb price of a CFL I come out ahead. And energy use wise I've cut my electric bill by more each year than I spent on all those CFL's combined. I wish I could find more opportunity for investments with a return like this.

    Or is it time to go LED ?
    Only for specific applications--particularly low lumens directional (task) lighting where they excel. Their lumens/watt is roughly the same as a CFL when I've calculated it. And the cost is an order of magnitude more than a CFL. But they work great for specific things that CFL's aren't good at. What LED's aren't good at is general area lighting.

    p.s. Enclosed CFL's like R30's are awful. They are slow to fully illuminate, have relatively low luminous efficiency for a CFL, and often are not instant on. Additionally they tend to project farther physically. On the other hand, the few I have are still plugging along with nary a failure.

  11. #11
    DIY Senior Member BobL43's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jadnashua View Post
    Some bulbs are not rated to be installed base up, some are. If you install one base up and it isn't rated for it, it overheats and doesn't last anywhere near as long. Also, some are not designed to be installed in a restricted airflow area. While a FL, regardless of the type, works in an on/off situation, they achieve their rated color temperature and brightness after being on for a bit, and the ballast doesn't really like the on/off cycles...they'll all work longer if they aren't cycled as often.

    The vast majority of my fixtures are on dimmers, and dimmable cfl don't have much range, and are yet more expensive. So, I don't have that many places where a cfl would be a viable alternative. I've shied away from LED, but will likely end up going that way as the price competition drops the costs.
    My post was mostly about the R30 reflector floods that fail so soon. Reflector floods (indoor ones anyway) are intended mostly for ceiling mounted applications, meaning their bases will be up. The regulat spiral bulbs that I have around the house that have replaced incandescant bulbs in table lamps, etc. are not frequently used in my house, so I have no info on them. I do have about 10 spiral CFLs in outdoor post lamps, wall brackets, etc. thet last for several years, but no longer than the incandescents they've replaced in those apps. They do save power, but if they have to be replaced often as they do in my R30's, they cost more than the electricity they save.
    I am definitely not a pro plumber, but I am a pro crastinator

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    DIY Senior Member BobL43's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jimbo View Post
    There is no free lunch. The lumen output of the 'decade' incandescent was probably about 30 to 40 % LESS than a bulb of same wattage, 120 volt rating. That's how they make it last longer.

    Most CFL bulbs I look at are rated 10,000 to 12,000 hours. As jad mentioned, many situations like dimmers, heat, photocells, or off/on will shorten the life. And these days, there is such a rampant demand for CFL bulbs that china can't maintain consistent quality on them.
    I gave up on dimmable CFL's for the reason Jim stated: too little range, and the apps I've had with incandescant R30's, I've removed the dimmers when I replaced with CFLs
    I am definitely not a pro plumber, but I am a pro crastinator

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    DIY Senior Member BobL43's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jadnashua View Post
    LED bulbs tend to range from 50K to over 100K hours. Too early to tell if those are realistic, or only available in a lab under controlled conditions. They've gotten a lot better over the years, and while on those older cars that had them where they often failed, you don't see failed ones very often on the newer ones, and, they are a lot brighter than they used to be as well, so you can use fewer of them for the same output.
    Those 2 Dimmable LED R30 units I bought from HD have a 3 year written warranty, and for what I paid for them, you can be sure I am saving all the recceipts and packaging from them. I like their light color, dimming range, but the price I paid, 35 bucks each was ridiculous. Price for them at HD has dropped 10 bucks each so far to 25 bucks in the store. I bought them only on a whim, if you know what I mean?
    I am definitely not a pro plumber, but I am a pro crastinator

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    DIY Senior Member Chad Schloss's Avatar
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    I've had some CFL's fail. The best ones were from Home Depot, Commercial Electric brand from years ago. had 2 or 3 fail in the bathroom, have them in a fixture over the mirror. The moisture gets to the glue that holds the glass in the housing and the glue has broken down and the bulb was loose on 2 of them, one actually caught on fire internally and was smoking one day. caught it before it got out of hand. the ones that hang down from can lights are the worst. slow starts, cheap glass housings break if you look at them funny. my father in law has them in his house. He shuts them on and off every time he enters the room. if he is going to the bathroom, he shuts them off, turns them on when he returns. they have broken on him due to the short cycling more than anything. I have had them in my garage door opener too. The cold seems to get to them there and have broken a few of them too. I like the idea of them, not having to change them, etc. but all the eco freaks are making us buy them and banning regular bulbs... How they think throwing a bulb of mercury away with each light is saving the enviornment, i will never know. Most people are not going to recycle them and dispose of them in a proper manner.

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    Electrical Contractor/Instructor jwelectric's Avatar
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    For what it’s worth, China is the only country on this planet that allows the manufacture of CFLs so no matter what the brand name it was made in China.

    Incandescent bulbs waste about 95% of their energy to heat or a 100 watt bulb will produce 5 watts of light and 95 watts of heat. It is this wasted heat energy that Green America is hoping to stop with the other types of lighting.

    Personally I think that we should go back to candles for lighting and stop all this waste of our electrical energy.

    I have two lights in my barn, 100 watt incandescent bulbs that have been in operation from their installation in 1998 and neither of the two has burned out. They are 100 watt 240 volt rough service bulbs that are supplied from a 120 volt photo cell controlled switch. I have replaced the photo cell twice in this time period.

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