I've found a couple answers to this question. This generally revolve around the scenario where it's bulbs in a general area such as a fan.

My issue is that light bulbs all over the house burn out pretty fast. They don't last more than a year and this includes long life kinds, ones warrantied for 7+ years and such. I've tried a variety, but they all seem to burn out within a year or sooner. Places include living room ceiling fan, living room lamps, light fixtures in master & guest bathrooms, office, guest room, and kitchen. Pretty much any where you can put a bulb.

I've noticed that the LED bulbs have been recommended on this Q&A site but I have no idea which ones to get, how much light they put out, or how reliable they are.

Why would my light bulbs burn out so fast, and what can I do to fix the situation?

  • 1
    Are you using incandesant(regular type) or flourescent lamps.
    – mikes
    Mar 3, 2013 at 21:59
  • 1
    There are factors that may have an impact on the expected lifetime of incandescent bulbs resulting in a shorter usage life than published on the box. These would include: Number of times turned on and off, ambient temperature, in fixture temperature, over wattage applications in fixtures, hours per month of usage, exposure to over voltage surges on power mains and exposure to shock and vibration.
    – Michael Karas
    Mar 3, 2013 at 22:19
  • bulbs that are installed base up burn out a lot faster then base down. Mar 3, 2013 at 23:36

5 Answers 5


One reason bulbs can burn out quickly is if the voltage applied to them is higher than the expected voltage (120V in The USA). Wiring problems and bad transformers can cause the voltage to be out of spec. Another reason is if there is a loose connection somewhere, and the light flickers (causing unnecessary heating/cooling cycles). A third reason is if the light is in a confined space, and overheats.

In order to check the line voltage, you will need to use a voltmeter. The Kill-A-Watt is a very safe product to use to check the line voltage. Note that you should try a few different outlets, since there are generally two different phases of power (not really phases, but opposite polarities, 180 degrees apart) going into a typical house, and you need to check both of them.

Identifying a bad connection is trickier. Generally, you would see flickering lights, but to be sure you would want to use an oscilloscope or spectrum analyzer (expensive equipment). Sometimes a bad switch will cause a short flicker when the light is turned on. Replacing the light switches with new high quality switches could help.

Finally, have you noticed that the bulbs go out more quickly in certain places? Are those places more confined, causing the bulbs to heat up more? If so, you need to use lower wattage lights (such as CFL, halogen, or less bright incandescents) so that the bulb is less hot.

LED lights, halogens, and CFLs are all more efficient than incandescent lights. For the same amount of light output, they use less electricity, and generate less waste heat (keeping them cooler). In order to check if they meet your needs, compare the light output (in lumens) to that of the bulbs you are currently using. Don't go by the "equivalent" rating (such as 60W equivalent).... The amount of heat generated is nearly proportional to the wattage of the bulb (generally between 10 and 25 W). Another thing to look at is the color temperature, as measured in Kelvins. More orange lights will be around 2700 K, while more blue (daylight) bulbs will be around 5000 K.

PS: Advertised bulb lifetimes are usually assuming use of perhaps four hours per day. So, a seven year bulb may only last a bit over a year if it is left turned on continuously.

  • Thanks for the detailed response. I'll research this and get back to you. It gives me a great place to start. Again, thank you!
    – jason
    Mar 3, 2013 at 22:58

CFL placed in unvented cans with the base up will have a very short lifespan. Heat rises, the electronics in the built-in ballast cannot take the heat, so the 7-year promised lifespan can be as short as 6-months. Despite their lower power consumption, heat builds up and the ballast cannot take the temperature rise.

Recessed can fluorescent lighting needs to be the type with replaceable tubes and separate ballast. The manufacturer knows the heat environment and these are built to function. Retrofitting incandescent screw-in lighting with CFL screw-in doesn't work that well.


I'v had 2 cases with such problems and for both the answer was the bulb wattage. I found them both putting in bulbs with more watts then the limit saying on the fixture. See if you have these problems in the plain plastic sockets like those installed in new homes when installing the plugs. If this is the problem and you still need more light then look for a sticker in the fixture saying the highest bulb wattage permitted and then look for LED bulbs at or below that number (look for actual number of watts consumed not the equivalent).

  • Is there some way to measure this with a device? Sometimes it's lamps that are plugged into a wall socket or the bulbs in the bathroom that generally go over the mirror that burn out. Still, most of the time, the bulbs are the ones that go in fans or lights overhead. Honestly there's not a single place in the house that I can think of where bulbs don't blow out suspiciously fast.
    – jason
    Mar 10, 2016 at 20:07
  • There should typically be a sticker somewhere near the bulb saying the max watts allowed. You could try changing one fixture to these white sockets and see over time if the problem is persisting there too. Good luck
    – aofkj
    Mar 10, 2016 at 20:58

When we bought our house, we had it inspected and he said that the electrical wiring in the living room didn't have some kind of reset attached to it. He said this would cause light bulbs to burn out quickly. Sometimes they burn out within a few weeks. I hope that is not your problem and I'm not sure if all the wiring has to be replaced.

  • 2
    Can you be more specific about what was missing from your house wiring that caused the problem and how you fixed it?
    – BMitch
    Nov 9, 2013 at 23:00

Back in the early 20th century, light bulbs (incandescent of course) were lasting so long that companies started losing money. So they monkeyed around with the amperage that the bulbs drew and Voila! short life bulbs. I'm convinced that companies have started monkeying around again and they are pulling too much amperage. I don't have an answer, but if I could figure out how to reduce the amperage the bulbs are pulling, or find low-amp bulbs, I think they'd last longer.

  • 1
    Do you have any citations or references for this remarkable history lesson? Sep 6, 2016 at 23:16

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