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About 2 years ago, I replaced all incandescent bulbs in my house with CFLs. One light in particular worked fine for a while but later began behaving strangely. Over the past year or so, the light would show normal intensity for the first couple of minutes and then suddenly step down to a lower intensity, where it would remain. Since the light was still bright enough, I ignored it. Last night, I noticed that the light no longer works. When I turn the wall switch on, the light will sometimes go on for about 15-30 seconds, but then the light goes off and remains off. Other times, when I turn the wall switch on, the light does not go on at all.

Is this issue likely related to the CFL bulb, the bulb wattage, or the wiring? Or is there likely another, more serious problem? Should I go back to an incandescent bulb? Any assistance would be greatly appreciated.

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CFL and LED bulbs differ from the classic incandescent bulbs because they both have electronics inside them to make them work. If they behave odd at all, those electronics should be the first thing to suspect. Just replace the bulb and see if the problem goes away - no need to jump to conclusions of faulty wiring.

I've had CFL bulbs die in a few days, and I've also had them last years (still working now!).

  • I think you are correct. I replaced the bulb with a new CFL and the light now appears to be operating normally. I had no idea that CFLs may have such a short lifecycle. – ryp Oct 17 '17 at 22:45
  • Electronics failure rates (especially for bulk-produced items like CFL bulbs) tend to be high at first, then last a long time, then the failure rate starts increasing when they start reaching their rated life. Not sure why it took 2 years for this to fail, but as with any electronics, some just have internal failures after a while. – Milwrdfan Oct 18 '17 at 4:57
  • Plus CFLs are a dying technology, so vendors are not exactly bringing their "A-game". It's pretty much private-label Cheese junk now. Even LED "bulbs" are being abandoned by the bigs, GE is one of the few really still in the game. No future in a 20 year bulb. – Harper Oct 18 '17 at 5:10
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I suggest starting by checking to make sure the bulb is tight in the socket. If it's loose, it won't make good contact as the fixture warms up from the heat of the bulb and might cause the issue you're seeing. If that's not your problem, I would then try replacing the bulb with another CFL and see if the problem remains. If not, you know it was the bulb and your problem is solved. I assume this is not on a dimmer switch, as those require special CFL (or LED) bulbs to function properly.

  • Thanks very much. I’ll follow your suggestions, check the bulb, and report back. You are correct. The wall switch does not include a dimmer. – ryp Oct 17 '17 at 20:49
  • I checked the CFL light bulb and noticed that, when initially turning the light switch on, the entire CFL coil would illuminate. After a few seconds, however, the first couple of turns of the coil at the tip of the light bulb would go out, while the turns at the base of the coil remain illuminated. After a few seconds more, the entire coil went dark. I replaced the bulb with a new CFL bulb & this bulb appears to be working. So, as you suggested, it may have been a problem with the bulb. Thanks for your help. – ryp Oct 17 '17 at 22:43

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