Wow! Exploding light bulb!

teresa_nc7January 2, 2011

Just had a strange and kind of scary thing happen 2 minutes ago while sitting right here at my computer: one of the light bulbs in the ceiling fan right over my head exploded and there was definitely smoke but no flame. I have never had this happen before in this house or any other house for that matter.

I cleaned up the one big piece of bulb and all the many little pieces just now. I feel very lucky that I didn't get hit by any glass.

Anyone know what might cause this?

Teresa

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goldgirl

If you Google "exploding light bulb," lots of possibilities come up, but I've never had it happen personally. I'd probably check the wiring, just in case?

Sue

    Bookmark   January 2, 2011 at 4:25PM
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trixietx

I've never had that happen either, it's a scary thought!
I'm glad you weren't hit.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2011 at 5:16PM
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dcarch7

It depends on what kind of bulb.

Normal incandescent bulb will not explode, it actually can implode, because it is under vacuum. Random stress or imperfection in the glass can cause it to crack.

Halogen bulbs can explode becasue it is pressurized with halogen gas. When you change halogen bulbs, you should not touch the bulb with your fingers. The finger oil on the quartz envelop is extremely hot when the bulb is on, and finger oil can carbonize and cause the heat to exceed the quartz melting point.

Mercury vapor and CFL bulds have other problems if cracked.

dcarch

    Bookmark   January 2, 2011 at 5:56PM
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cloudy_christine

Geez, dcarch, quartz won't be melting in anybody's house, at 3000 degrees Fahrenheit!
What happens with fingerprints is the creation of a hot spot, when the thin layer of skin oil absorbs more of the radiant energy from the filament. The uneven temperature weakens the quartz by changing its structure. It can leak gases and it can shatter; more likely it just wears out faster.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2011 at 8:41PM
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dcarch7

You are probably correct in saying that finger oil carbonizing may not normally cause the quartz bulb to melt; although it may cause it to fail and explode.

I think I was thinking more of the many experiments I have done with quartz-halogen bulbs.
Often I would overdrive the bulbs to beyond spec of 3,200 degrees Kelvin color temperature for photographic and other applications. This will create much high temperature to the quartz envelop. Since tungsten (the filament) melts a t around 3400 C, and carbon sublimes at around 3600 C, melting of the quartz, which is just below 1700 C, can in fact occur.

dcarch

    Bookmark   January 3, 2011 at 12:00AM
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dedtired

I have those little bitty PITA bulbs under my kitchen cabs. I was told never to touch them with my fingers. They are hard enough to install already but holding them with a (non-lotion) tissue makes it even harder.

Glad you didn't get showered with glass, Teresa, but I bet that made your heart jump!

    Bookmark   January 3, 2011 at 11:04AM
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dcarch7

"I have those little bitty PITA bulbs under my kitchen cabs---"

Those are probably bi-pin 10w or 20w halogen bulbs. They are not cheap, and PITA to replace. They last 2000 to 3000 hours.

I would replace them with under cabinet LED lights. They use very little power, cool to the touch. You can leave them on 24/7. They last 100,000 hours.

dcarch

    Bookmark   January 3, 2011 at 12:11PM
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cloudy_christine

Just think if it had been one of those curly-fry lightbulbs exploding near the ceiling!

    Bookmark   January 3, 2011 at 12:21PM
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dedtired

Dcarch, I started out with halogen puck lights. They got so hot they melted the food in the cabinet above them. I replaced them with the PITAs, although I am not happy with the, As you said, they are expensive. I'll look into the LEDs but I am tired of changing lights.

CC -- curly fries. Funny. I call them Dairy Queens. I don't like them.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2011 at 5:32PM
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dcarch7

"---Just think if it had been one of those curly-fry lightbulbs exploding near the ceiling! "

I wasn�t going to talk about CFL and mercury vapor (HID) bulbs, but I think I better:

Incandescent bulbs will not be made soon. You should do a search on how to clean up CFL bulbs if one breaks. They contain toxic mercury, and you need to know how to clean the debris up (for instance, do not use a vacuum, etc.)

With mercury vapor (H.I.D., High Intensity Discharge) type of bulbs, which are mostly used for outdoor fixtures, can be very dangerous if one breaks. Depending on the design, the bulb may still be operable if the bulb is broken. The outer envelop may be just be for UV shield and general protection of the inner arc tube. If the outer bulb is broken, the arc tube can still operate just the same. When that happens, dangerous UV rays can be very harmful.

dcarch

    Bookmark   January 3, 2011 at 5:57PM
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dedtired

Sounds like I better beware of my neighbor's spotlight.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2011 at 9:37AM
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fearlessem

Teresa --

Sorry you had such a scary experience! I have no idea if this might be relevant, but is it possible that the bulb in the ceiling fan exceeded the wattage max for the fixture?

Em

    Bookmark   January 4, 2011 at 2:24PM
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teresa_nc7

Em, that is the only conclusion I can come up with since I've been in the house 13 years and have my sons put in new bulbs for me whenever they burn out and this is the first time this has ever happened in any of the 3 ceiling fans that I have. If I used the wrong bulb, it is my fault and not the fault of my boys. I'll be more careful in he future.

Teresa

    Bookmark   January 4, 2011 at 5:53PM
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foodonastump

Come on, Teresa, we all knew you were overdriving the bulbs to beyond spec of 3,200 degrees Kelvin color temperature!

    Bookmark   January 4, 2011 at 6:15PM
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teresa_nc7

Say what???? FOAS?

    Bookmark   January 4, 2011 at 7:28PM
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dcarch7

Posted by foodonastump "Come on, Teresa, we all knew you were overdriving the bulbs to beyond spec of 3,200 degrees Kelvin color temperature!"

LOL! You will need an auto-transformer to do that.

Posted by goldgirl "If you Google "exploding light bulb," lots of possibilities come up, but I've never had it happen personally. I'd probably check the wiring, just in case? "

So I did, and I am totally amazed at all the misinformation out there!
Some possible causes in your case, Teresa:
1. The light socket might be aluminum. Aluminum forms thin oxide instantly, and prevents good conductance and generates excess heat which can crack the glass. Aluminum has been outlawed in the use of electric wiring because it has caused many fires.
2. The vibration from the fan motor or the unbalanced fan blades causes the bulb base coming loose from the socket gradually, creating arcing and heat at the base/socket and cracked the glass.

dcarch

    Bookmark   January 4, 2011 at 7:30PM
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publickman

Incandescent light bulbs have been filled with inert gas for over 130 years and do not have vacuums.

Incandescents are being phased out slowly with the higher wattage ones first. I believe they will continue to make candelabra base bulbs with up to 35 or 40 watts for some time, but I need to find out for sure since I am currently working on a new chandelier design and want to make sure it can be lamped. Some of my designs can handle CFLs, but not all of them.

Glad you were not hurt during your explosion - I think I would have been quite frightened for a good deal of time. I had a wall sconce commit suicide in our NYC showroom window, taking a granite console top with it, in 1992. The window is completely enclosed, and so no persons were in danger. I have since redesigned the sconce, and it is safe now.

Lars

    Bookmark   January 4, 2011 at 7:50PM
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dcarch7

Posted by publickman "Incandescent light bulbs have been filled with inert gas for over 130 years and do not have vacuums.----"

It depends on wattages of the bulbs. Even the ones filled with inert gas(es), they are only partially filled. This is because the gas(es) conducts heat away from the filament and making the bulbs generate less light.

Are your designs commercial or residential? Sconce design's need to comply with ADA requirements must be limiting to you.
I can't see high-design fixtures with high wattage CFL bulbs. I see high power LEDs taking over fixture design. I have done high-power LED work. I suppose you can also consider metal halide with remote electronic ballasts. They generate a great deal of light in a small package.

I would love to check out your NY showroom.

dcarch

    Bookmark   January 4, 2011 at 8:44PM
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