Compact Fluorescent Warning - Overheating




Compact Fluorescent Overheating


No elaborate scientific setups here. No special laboratory equipment. Just honest in use every day setups that my friends or I use, or have used in our every day computing activities.


Many places are banning the sale of incandescent light bulbs or are about to, and are making Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFL) mandatory. Energy saving has been proven beyond any doubt, although there are some CFL things to be aware of. I have been using Compact Fluorescent replacements since they first came on the market. Here are some unofficial observations. (Fluorescent or florescent spelling? Both are used extensively.)

Why Use Compact Fluorescent

* Energy saving - they use much less electricity compared to conventional bulbs. There is a noticable reduction on your electrical bill if you use a number of them.

* Environmentally friendly - producing less electricity means a smaller carbon footprint in our world.

* Colour Temperature - as with normal bulbs there are a variety of output colours available. For example, I particularly like the 'daylight' or cool white CFLs in my kitchen, while prefering the so called normal warm white in the living room.

* They run cooler - for those who live in areas where air conditioners are required, this can be an important consideration.



Remember to use compact fluorescent bulbs only in open or well ventilated sockets. The base gets warm from the electronics inside. If overheating occurs, this can happen.

These pictures may be from early models and are presented as an awareness only.

Find more information on the links page under lighting.






Burned Compact FluorescentThis site provides some interesting facts on compact florescent light bulbs.


Will the base of the Compact Fluorescent fit the socket? Prior to purchasing you may want to check the type of socket you have.

Compact Fluorescent Characteristics

These are characteristics I have personally observed, and are not the results of any official tests.

Compact Fluorescent Life span

I have found the spiral style compact fluorescent do not last anywhere near their advertised 7 year life span. In fact for some the life span is about the same as for normal light bulbs.

Indication of failure: When you first turn it on, it glows much more dimmer than usual, then reaches full brightness in about one to two minutes. Finally it will quit altogether and not come on.

CFLs Last Longer If Used In Situations Where Lights Are Left On For Longer Periods

It is said these bulbs last longer if they are turned on and left on for an extended time (at least 15 minutes or more). On / off cycles may shorten their life span to a degree. The failures I experienced were in settings where the lights were turned on and off as you would with normal bulbs, such as in a bathroom.

Flashing On and Off

I am finding as some of these bulbs age and get near the end of their life span there is a constant on again, off again, cycle that continues after the bulb warms up. This happens particularly if the bulb is in any sort of socket that contains a shade which effectively increases the temperature slightly.

I was told by an electrician that the electronics in the base includes a thermistor circuit for protection in case of overheating. With aging, this can cause the on-off cycling of the compact fluorescent bulb. In any event this can be very irritating if you are doing something that requires a constant even light.

Compact Fluorescent Overheating

Overheating can still be a concern in 2010 although not necessarily dangerous as most authoritative agencies indicate no actual fires have been caused by CFLs. It was brought to my attention by an engineer who manages energy efficiency programs that an email with picture circulating the caution, should be regarded as suspicious as the facts and location have not been verified.

Burning Electrical Smell, Possibly With Smoke - Normal

Many manufacturers and agencies indicate that although rare, an electical burning smell, possibly with minor smoke with perhaps even some smouldering is normal at the end of their lifespan.

Install or Remove By Touching Only The Base, Not The Tube or Spiral

This is a procedure that makes sense, but may not be practical with many fixtures since there is rarely room for fingers around the base due to the shade or style of the fixture itself. In most situations shades have to be installed before the bulb.CFL Fixture








The fixtures above have no room for fingers to grasp the base of the bulb, and are common in many homes.

Most of us out of habit as well as necessity in some cases screw the CF bulb in by the top increasing the risk of breakage.

Balanced View

After further research I decide to present some urls that were given to me, plus some from other sources.

This should allow you to obtain a balanced view of the advantages of compact fluorescents along with an awareness of what is considered normal by the industry, that may alarm or upset you,should you not be aware of certain factors.

Form your own opinion from the links below.

Fire Prevention Comments re: CFl

General Information from the Fire Services Division in Halifax, NS. (PDF document from the url above.)

CFLs Pose No Fire Hazard, Despite Recent Claims

Energy Star FAQ - CFLs should never catch on fire.

Lots of information from GE Lighting.

CFL bulbs do not pose a fire hazard.

End of Life Incident Forum.

Google on Compact Fluorescent Heating.

Underwriters Laboratory – UL sets the record straight on CFL safety.


January 2013 Update - additional information

Although it has been delayed slightly in Canada, there will come a time when CFLs will be the only type of bulb we are able to buy for replacement. (Realizing LED products are continually being improved and are or soon will be a contender.)


Mercury Disposal

This article from our local newspaper again reflects on one of the negative aspects of the CFL variety of bulbs. Mercury and mercury disposal.

One possible solution, "might be just like a bottle-return system, some type of deposit you might pay" as the Chronicle Herald article suggests. That means we are again paying a premium price for something that 'might' improve the environment through higher efficiency.

So, users will be expected to save these expired bulbs, and take them to a disposal place to be disposed of properly. We pay more for the hazardous CFL bulbs, which have a shorter life span under some conditions, have to keep them once they are burned out, then transport them to a disposal facility, where we might get a few pennies back. 


Increased Cost

That means increased costs somewhere because these disposal facilities will require funds and personnel to run them.

Or as the article suggests, "It is anticipated that the proposed regulations would require manufacturers and importers of mercury-containing lamps to establish or join a program that would collect lamps and recover the mercury in an environmentally sound manner..."

We would still have to save and transport the expired bulbs back to the disposal point where ever that may be. The mercury still has to be recycled or disposed of in a safe manner. Will that cost be absorbed by manufacturers or passed on to consumers? You fill in the blank.

For the most part I like compact fluorescent bulbs. But I still wonder why in this technological age everything designed to save the environment or go green always generates added income for some and much higher costs for us.


(Last Update January 2013)


About Us | Top | Contact Us | ©2006