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Thread: Dim Glow in Incandescent Bulb When Touched

  1. #1

    Unhappy Dim Glow in Incandescent Bulb When Touched

    Hi There,
    I'm completely new here and have no experience in electrical work. I have a front porch light where the bulb burnt out. I went to replace it with the light switch turned on and nothing initially happened until I touched the bulb. It had a faint glow in the filament. What's going on? I'm scared that I did something very dangerous and certainly won't be touching it again. Thanks. -- Alexsis

  2. #2
    DIYer, not in the trades LLigetfa's Avatar
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    There is a small current leaking to earth through your body.

  3. #3

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    Fabulous... Scary stuff. Thanks for letting me know. I appreciate the response.

  4. #4
    Plumber jimbo's Avatar
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    I am guessing you have an open neutral on the bulb circuit

  5. #5

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    What does that mean in newbie terms? Sorry, forgive me and I appreciate your patience.

  6. #6
    Electrician ActionDave's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LLigetfa View Post
    There is a small current leaking to earth through your body.
    Really. How is the current getting through the bulb, through him, through his footwear, and to the earth in enough quantity to make a filament glow?

  7. #7
    Electrician ActionDave's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alexsis Miller Veal View Post
    What does that mean in newbie terms? Sorry, forgive me and I appreciate your patience.
    There is a method of wiring circuits that if there is a problem, can cause dimming of light bulbs. I don't think we need to go there yet.

    How old and what is the condition of the light fixture? What you are describing could be a poor connection between the light bulb and the socket.

  8. #8
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    There might be a loose or corroded connection and when you screwed the bulb in, you applied a little force, moved things, enough to make the partial connection. If there is corrosion, it can act like a resistor - effectively like putting a bunch of light bulbs together in series (most stuff in a house is wired in parallel so that power doesn't have to go through one thing before it gets to another, which is series - think putting two batteries in a flashlight - they are in series - if one is bad, the bulb may still light, but it won't get as much voltage and be dim).

    A porch light will see lots more moisture and corrosion than a fixture installed in the house. There could be rust, too.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

  9. #9

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    Try another bulb.

  10. #10
    Plumber jimbo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ActionDave View Post
    Really. How is the current getting through the bulb, through him, through his footwear, and to the earth in enough quantity to make a filament glow?
    My thought was that in the absence of a neutral connection, capacitance thru his body MIGHT allow enough current. We don't know how he touched the bulb, was the glass damp, dirty, etc,

  11. #11
    Electrical Contractor/Instructor jwelectric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LLigetfa View Post
    There is a small current leaking to earth through your body.
    Current does not leak to earth so this is not it

  12. #12
    Electrical Contractor/Instructor jwelectric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jimbo View Post
    My thought was that in the absence of a neutral connection, capacitance thru his body MIGHT allow enough current. We don't know how he touched the bulb, was the glass damp, dirty, etc,
    If there was no neutral then no path and nothing would happen. If there was enough capacitance between the body and the bulb to cause it to glow then they are dead

  13. #13
    Electrical Contractor/Instructor jwelectric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ActionDave View Post
    What you are describing could be a poor connection between the light bulb and the socket.
    We have a winner

  14. #14
    DIY Senior Member BobL43's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alexsis Miller Veal View Post
    Hi There,
    I'm completely new here and have no experience in electrical work. I have a front porch light where the bulb burnt out. I went to replace it with the light switch turned on and nothing initially happened until I touched the bulb. It had a faint glow in the filament. What's going on? I'm scared that I did something very dangerous and certainly won't be touching it again. Thanks. -- Alexsis
    Alexis, I know you said it is an incandescant bulb, and that is has a filament, but are you SURE it is incandescent and NOT a Compact Flourescent bulb? I personally know several people who call CFL's incandescant. And the other answers of a Neutral connection being bad "might" make more sense if your bulb is a CFL. Maybe

    By the way, what is the wattage of this bulb?
    I am definitely not a pro plumber, but I am a pro crastinator

  15. #15
    DIY Senior Member BobL43's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cookie View Post
    Try another bulb.
    And if that does not work try another. Rinse, lather, repeat. when to stop? could not resist. Sorry Cookie!
    I am definitely not a pro plumber, but I am a pro crastinator

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