By December 20, 2010

Smoldering CFL Bulb Supposedly Normal, Safe

“Does this smell funny to you?”

Normally I crack a smile when someone says this to me, but this time it sounded serious.

Apparently one of the lamps in the dining room was blinking on and off, and the room smelled like melted plastic. I immediately unplugged the lamp. After waiting for the bulb to cool off, I unscrewed it.

http://gallery.drfaulken.com/d/10008-2/IMG_1366.JPG

Sure enough, the CFL bulb had died. The plastic base — where the ballast is — had melted and turned black. I expected this to be an uncommon event, but apparently this is how CFL bulbs are supposed to die. Not with a big pop and flash of light like an incandescent bulb, but with gradually dimming light and … apparently … a bunch of nasty smelling smoke and melted plastic.

Snopes has an interesting bit about how CFL bulbs end their life, and cites several sources as stating that this is safe. I also read a story on the Monterey County, California newspaper Web site with a discussion from Underwriters Laboratory consumer safety director John Drengenberg.

Here’s to hoping that these folks are actually right.

Has anyone else had this happen to them?

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2 Comments on "Smoldering CFL Bulb Supposedly Normal, Safe"

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  1. roclar says:

    I had one of my CFL reflector bulbs die like this. It smelled pretty bad but the house didn’t burn down. I couldn’t observe the damage to the ballast since it was inside the reflector part.

  2. red says:

    We had one crackle and smoke out of the plastic housing. I watched it for a bit and saw the plastic begin to melt.

    I have no doubt that it could have caused a house fire if it went undetected.

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