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Why do my CFL Lights Burn Out Fast

cfl light bulb

Summary: Electrical Lighting Question: I manage a retail store with both fluorescent and track lighting. I replaced all the track lighting with CFL floods 6 months ago and 90% have now burned out.

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Why Your CFL Lights Burn Out Fast

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Why CFL Lights Burn Out Fast.

I manage a retail store with both fluorescent and track lighting.
I replaced all the track lighting with CFL floods 6 months ago and 90% have now burned out. Do you know why?
I did notice many of the lights would flicker for a few days before they would go.
Thanks Doug

Hi Doug - Great Electrical Repair Question!
This is going to be a personal favorite of mine because I see this happen way too often.

First - lets get a little more information.
I'd like to know the specifications of the fixtures, as much as possible, or at least, what were the original specified lamps, and what you replaced them with - make/mfg and specs of the CFL's.
I know where your store is located and there shouldn't be a utility voltage problem in this area.
Was this CFL exchange a result of a Energy Rebate Program, i'm just curious.

We need to make sure that the track lights are not controlled by any type of dimmer switch - please verify this.
Did the track lights have any problems before with lamps burning out? Sometimes we have had a problems with vibrations from heating or cooling units which would cause filaments to wear out prematurely. Approximately how many hours per day do these fixtures operate?

I can appreciate your desire to reduce energy and maintain adequate illumination for the store merchandise, lets see if we can pin point the problem. Please make these checks and let me know what you find.
All the best,

Hi Dave,
Thanks for the fast response!
The original lights were normal flood lamps.
No, my change to CFL's had nothing to do with SMUD, the local utulity company.
Yes, the track lights are on dimmer switches. And yes, there seems to be significant vibration from the heating/cooling system on the roof.
The lights are on 10 hours a day. So, it appears my system failed all your questions. Is there any hope?
Thank you so much!

Hi Doug,
The first thing you need to do is remove the dimmer switch from the power feed to the track lights or anything that is providing power to the CFL lamps. The most common CFL should be on a straight 120 volt line with no dimming control, unless it specifies that you can, and in that case the mfg will specify the proper dimmer.

Your CFL's will tell you how many hours they should last, but this is under ideal conditions. One thing that reduces the life is several on/off switching. However with burning these CFL's 10 hours a day, with straight 120 volts, and no dimmer control should be the ideal environment.

The vibrations may be a factor, but more of the old incandescent floods where the filaments are longer, not so much with CFL's. When the HVAC units run, do you see a momentary surge in your light output? If so you may need to have the circuit that feeds your lighting switched to another buss back at the panel. It would depend on the circuit serving the HVAC unit(s).
If the HVAC units are 3-phase circuits, then switching the lighting circuit to another buss would not help, but a good line conditioner would - it would decrease line surges. Having said all this - bottom line from my end here is that if you remove the controlling dimmer off of the CFL line, you'll eliminate your problem.

Pass this on to corporate and let them know how your reduction is working out, I'm sure they would love to know. Better yet - if I can be of assistance, pass this info to corporate, and I can help advise them directly.

We have provided lighting solutions to retail stores which have produced great savings and ideal merchandise illumination.

Let me know how this works out. I will keep you informed on my results.
Thanks Again Doug.

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