I have two groups of 4 recessed lights in my kitchen (eight lights total). Each group is on a three-way circuit (i.e. can turn the group on/off from two different locations). The bulbs are Ecosmart 60W CFLs. They are on a 15A 120V circuit with no other loads on it (circuit has a few outlets that aren't being used). The breaker for the circuit has never tripped as far as I know.

The problem I have is that most of the bulbs eventually turn off. I've heard them make buzzing sounds when I turn on the light and sometimes they flicker. But eventually they all seem to turn off. I've unscrewed and re-screwed them in and they again will flicker as I jiggle it around but once completely seated it turns off. I've replaced all the bulbs. Right now only 1 of the 8 bulbs is on yet they are all new bulbs. I've checked each recessed lighting receptacle with my voltage pen and they are all getting voltage. I'll add that the lighting cans/canisters in the attic are mostly covered/surrounded by insulation (if that matters or makes a difference).

Does anyone have any idea why this might be happening or what else I can check? Could it be the wiring of the receptacles in the attic? Perhaps the bulbs are just bad bulbs for these type of receptacle?

  • Is this a new problem? Are the lights new construction?
    – JACK
    Nov 2, 2019 at 17:26
  • It is not new construction, however I believe the lights were installed by the previous owners when they remodeled the kitchen. I noticed this starting to happen probably two or three months ago.
    – Nukesub
    Nov 2, 2019 at 17:27
  • Do they come back on on their own? Nov 2, 2019 at 17:33
  • No - they do not. If I jiggle them around a bit they might flicker again but otherwise no they have not come back on their own.
    – Nukesub
    Nov 2, 2019 at 17:33
  • 1
    Try a few incandescent bulbs just for trouble shooting or try the CFL's in another single fixture.
    – JACK
    Nov 2, 2019 at 19:42

1 Answer 1


They're not going in the socket all the way

Because the wide base of the CFL is impacting the structure of the fixture.

It's very common for fixtures to be built with the socket recessed in a way that presumes the long neck of an incandescent bulb, particularly with PAR bulbs. On a CFL, they necessarily had that wide wedge-shaped base just above the socket (because the rest of the space must be fluorescent tube; fluorescent tubes take a LOT of space for the light they make).

LEDs have a great deal more flexibility about component placement, because the actual light emitter is the size of your fingernail. So you should be able to find LEDs with long necks (as the market anticipates this very problem; they just couldn't do anything about it with CFL).

It's also possible they're just old

Believe it or not, there was a time when light emitters actually wore out. That's the whole point of light bulb sockets. It's not uncommon for a bunch of things, all of the same design, production and batch, used in the same conditions same number of hours, to start popping off at (very coarsely) about the same time.

Obviously you wouldn't replace them with CFLs today, but LED would be the way to go. Failure rules are a little different for LED; the emitters will outlive all of us, but many builders chintz out on the electronic driver, and that fails.

  • Interesting. So the part that gets screwed into the socket isn't seating all the way? Because the male part of the bulb isn't sized correctly for these recessed sockets? Not something I think I would've noticed since it is all contained and you can't really see inside the recessed part while your hand is in it. I will give LEDs a try. I would note though these CFLs are cylindrical, including the base.
    – Nukesub
    Nov 3, 2019 at 17:45
  • This seems like a reasonable explanation. Are you suggesting that thermal expansion results in the delayed connection failure?
    – isherwood
    Dec 3, 2019 at 17:05

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