The Fenix-Store
Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 30 of 40

Thread: CFL Ballast Fire

  1. #1
    Flashaholic* yuandrew's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2003
    Location
    Chino Hills, CA
    Posts
    1,285

    Default CFL Ballast Fire

    This just happened to a friend of mine on the Air Raid Sirens forum a few days ago. He lives on a ranch and was checking on some things in the barn after dark when he noticed that there was no light at one end of the building. When he went to check the bulb, he found this and a blackened fixture.


  2. #2
    Flashaholic*
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Northern NJ, USA
    Posts
    1,869

    Default Re: CFL Ballast Fire

    Wow...lucky he still had a barn to check.

    I wonder what caused that to happen? Voltage spike?

  3. #3
    Flashaholic* 65535's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    *Out There* (Irvine, CA)
    Posts
    3,320

    Default Re: CFL Ballast Fire

    Probably and old cheap magnetic ballast that shorted out due to old age, luckily now days failure is quite uncommon (at least failure that results in damage).
    Hobbyist LED information Website
    U2 work light
    Shaky Emergency Light
    The Mags
    engineer in the making

  4. #4
    Flashaholic*
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Location
    Indianapolis
    Posts
    635

    Default Re: CFL Ballast Fire

    Quote Originally Posted by 65535 View Post
    Probably an old cheap magnetic ballast...
    Looks like a newer cheap electronic ballast to me...

    What brand was the lamp?
    Jim

  5. #5
    Thread Killer Illum's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    Central Florida, USA
    Posts
    12,602

    Default Re: CFL Ballast Fire

    something tells me the flickering/zapping tube I have beside my bed needs to be replaced
    Should it decide to burn, the assembly will fall squarely onto my lithium stash

  6. #6
    Flashaholic*
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Location
    Yukon, Oklahoma
    Posts
    766

    Default Re: CFL Ballast Fire

    Just for the record, every CFL I have purchased over the past 6 to 8 years and that has failed....around 5 or so, have failed similar to this one, but not as bad.

    The last one in a bedroom had me in a panic because there was a definate smell of burning electrical in the air. As yours fail, you will notice that at the bottom on at least one tube, the plastic will be melted and you should also see discoloration. This has happened with most of the brands that I have purchased (inside the house and outside). That includes Sylvania, the store no-name brand from Home Depot, and GE brands all made in China. All of the failed units to repeat were over 3 years old with most being 4 years or older.

    TCP brand from 1000bulbs that are now also 4 years old or older have not failed nor have the Microbrite brand which are 3 years old.

    Bob E.
    TF 3W Lux,TF 3 W Cree,Fenix L2D-CE, Fenix L2T,Fenix P1D,Fenix P3D-CE w/3x123 tactical body,P3D-CE Q5 w/2x123 tact bdy,3D & 3C Mag w/Malkoff,Modded ROV Swivel Sportsman with KPR112 bulb & 3xCR123

  7. #7
    *Flashaholic* PhotonWrangler's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Location
    In a handbasket
    Posts
    11,079

    Default Re: CFL Ballast Fire

    My experience with CFLs has been similar; they've all failed because of the ballast, although not as dramatically as the one in yuandrew's friend's barn. We throw away a lot of perfectly good mercury-filled glass in the name of being "green."

  8. #8
    Flashaholic* Zelandeth's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Location
    Northeast Scotland (Aberdeenshire)
    Posts
    1,194

    Default Re: CFL Ballast Fire

    Looks to me like a ballast failure there.

    Magnetic ballasts tended (at least in the UK where they're simple due to our 230V mains - in the US, you'd need autotransformers to step the voltage up...so they're probably more complex and I imagine somewhat more temperamental), to be very reliable. The only failure mode was occasionally through overheating, which tended to lead to them going open circuit in a somewhat smelly but otherwise utterly undramatic manner.

    Two problem failure modes in modern electronic CFL's.

    Firstly being the ballast, which runs so hot (especially when run base up and/or in enclosed fixtures) that it usually ends up cooking one or more cheap electrolytic capacitors which aren't designed to take the heat - what happens then is hard to predict, varying from a dead lamp, to a flickering lamp, to a loud bang and potential flames. Decent lamps should have a casing made of flame retardant plastic that won't burn. I've TRIED to set fire to the casing of a decent Osram CFL with a blowtorch without success. A cheapo from Tesco (which I belive to be made by GE - don't quote me on that though as it's only a theory) however did burn, though it took a fair amount of starting. This tends to be a problem either in poorly designed higher power lamps, or very compact ones where no thought has been given to ballast cooling whatsoever. It's hard to get a sense of scale from that picture, but that looks like a 20W or so lamp there from the diameter of the spiral.

    The second problematic failure mode is again down to the ballast. Even when an electrode has lost its emissive coating, a lot of modern electronic ballasts have the ability to provide sufficient voltage to still maintain a discharge. However the resulting higher voltage drop at the electrode in question means that there's a ridiculous amount of power being dissipated there compared to what it was designed to deal with. The vast majority of the time this will blow the filament open circuit, shutting down the lamp in pretty short order. Sometimes however that doesn't happen, resulting in tube end temperatures sufficiently high to soften or crack the glass. Or, theoretically melt the plastic around the base, though I've never seen it actually set fire to a lamp. It can however coax a ballast (which will be pretty well aged by that point) into failing, as it will be running at a higher tube voltage than it was designed for - the imbalance in electode voltage drops will also lead to a certain amount of rectification taking place, again - not good for the ballast.

    A decent ballast should be designed in such a way as to "see" electronically when the emissive coating on an electrode has been exhausted, and shut the lamp down, especially given the trend for ever narrower tube diameters these days.

    It's still scary to see things like this happening though! If that had been in a house, left on unattended and it fell onto a sofa or was next to a set of curtains, or even onto someone - the results just don't bear thinking about.

    I'd be getting in touch with the manufactuer of the lamp if I were you. Certain environments don't mix well with CFLs either, if the barn in question is at all damp, that could well play a part, electronics and water don't generally play well together, for that reason the lamp in my parents shed is still an incan - I got fed up of CFLs fizzling out in the winter due to condensation.

  9. #9
    Flashaholic
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    CA
    Posts
    291

    Default Re: CFL Ballast Fire

    It's happened to me before, we had a light blow up in use in a theater, and it burned happily for about a minute until the nice fire extinguisher put it to rest. Boy, what a pain to clean up after. Ours were running on 120v 60hz and the ballasts were all modern (I.E. 2007). Granted, these were not CFL's in the common sense, as ours were 8 compact flourescents minus ballasts in the base, and one big ballast on the top. I'll post a pic once my website starts working again.

    -Max
    Need a website? PM me or go to http://www.maxphstudios.com -Mention you're from CPF, and we'll work something out

  10. #10
    Flashaholic* yuandrew's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2003
    Location
    Chino Hills, CA
    Posts
    1,285

    Default Re: CFL Ballast Fire

    Update:

    Well, I found out the bulb he had which caught fire turned out to be a Lights of America.

  11. #11
    Flashaholic
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Location
    Waynesboro, Pa FM19es
    Posts
    366

    Default Re: CFL Ballast Fire

    Quote Originally Posted by yuandrew View Post
    Update:

    Well, I found out the bulb he had which caught fire turned out to be a Lights of America.
    The only name brand CFL I have had fail on me was a lights of America lamp. It was an A-Shaped lamp and it started flickering. At that point I determined the lamp unusable and I got a GE spiral. I was in dorm at the time and I'm glad it did not fail in the manner of the lamp above.

  12. #12
    Flashaholic* WildChild's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    Québec, Canada
    Posts
    1,424

    Default Re: CFL Ballast Fire

    Here in Canada, I've had three 9W and one 13W CFLs from Globe Electric fail suddenly within 2 years of use (and less then 2000h). I'm starting to believe they are not the solution at all with this high failure rate... It will cost more to replace them prematurately than the price of the electricity + incan bulb...

  13. #13
    Flashaholic*
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Location
    Yukon, Oklahoma
    Posts
    766

    Default Re: CFL Ballast Fire

    It is truly unfortunate that there appears to be no manufacturer that can make a descent, quality CFL for a reasonably low price.

    Our only solution it to keep a very close eye on the ones we own. Sooner or later, they will get very hot and give up, hopefully a fire will not ensue.

    Bob E.
    TF 3W Lux,TF 3 W Cree,Fenix L2D-CE, Fenix L2T,Fenix P1D,Fenix P3D-CE w/3x123 tactical body,P3D-CE Q5 w/2x123 tact bdy,3D & 3C Mag w/Malkoff,Modded ROV Swivel Sportsman with KPR112 bulb & 3xCR123

  14. #14

    Default Re: CFL Ballast Fire

    I've had several CFL's fail and found what looked like scorch marks on them post-failure. This has been worrisome. They were the cheap bulbs subsidized by my local electric utility but they appeared to be of reasonable quality, not the REALLY awful kind found in dollar stores. I then bought an expensive CFL ($12 or something) at the hardware store which the store guy said really does last a long time. That one went away when my landlord came in and replaced all the screwbase light fixtures in my building with fluorescent fixtures, so I never got to see how long it lasted. The landlord-installed fluorescents are still running ok after I think a year or so. I haven't opened up the fixture to see what kind of bulb base is used. I can see through the fixture that they are U-shaped tubes about 6 inches long.

  15. #15
    Flashaholic* Yoda4561's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Florida, U.S.A.
    Posts
    1,233

    Default Re: CFL Ballast Fire

    Well geez now ya'll got me worried. We have all CFL replacement bulbs in our house now, about 15 of them in total. and some of them are in enclosed fixtures. Now I did make sure to only use bulbs that said they were okay for use in those fixtures but stuff will inevitably fail. I figured they would just fail in the off state with an electronic ballast, not burst into a burning and charred lump of glass and plastic.

  16. #16
    Flashaholic* JohnR66's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    SW Ohio
    Posts
    1,052

    Default Re: CFL Ballast Fire

    Wow! Never seen one burn up like that. I've been using CFL's since 1991 and now have 20 some fixtures using them. The older tri U tube sylvanias I had from the mid 90s would give off an odor when they died. Autopsy revealed melted capacitors in the output (connected to the tube leads) part of the circuit.


    All the newer ones that have gone out just stop working. No outwardly visible damage. Lifetime in all but a couple cases has been satisfactory.


    If catastrophic failure has been an issue, you'd bet there would be recalls and reports on the evening news. The media has already attempted to bash CFLs for their mercury content even though the older linear tubes have much more raw Hg in them. CFLs have Hg stored in an amalgam that should reduce exposure if the lamp is broken.

  17. #17
    Enlightened
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    San Francisco, CA
    Posts
    37

    Default Re: CFL Ballast Fire

    Quote Originally Posted by yuandrew View Post
    Update:

    Well, I found out the bulb he had which caught fire turned out to be a Lights of America.
    I had 2 Lights of America cfl that failed on me. One of them made this loud pop sound and a bit of smoke came out, good thing no fire. The other bulb just quit working after a month.

  18. #18
    Flashaholic
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Location
    Florida
    Posts
    144

    Default Re: CFL Ballast Fire

    The only catastrophic CFL failures I've had were Lights of America bulbs. Very shoddy parts inside them. I did have a GE dimmable fluorescent torch lamp (that I loved) shoot its ballast one night, but it was less dramatic. Just a slight transistor burning smell then it went dark permanently.

    All of my other modern (electronic ballast) CFL failures have just been your typical fluorescent fail-to-arc where the bulb just doesn't come on. Not sure if this is an improvement over the old magnetic ballast fixtures where the bulb would eternally re-strike and flash over & over while the mag ballast would get up to high temperatures. Flashing bulbs tended to get replaced quickly.
    ========
    Current EDC: Quark Mini AA

  19. #19
    Flashaholic reptiles's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2001
    Location
    Philadelphia PA
    Posts
    357

    Default Re: CFL Ballast Fire

    I bought a few Phillips candelabra CF units. Although they didn't actually burn like the example in this thread; one did emit the "burning electronics" smell and promptly died.

    I actually followed up and sent it back to Phillips for a replacement (which they provided) but they also said it died because I must have dimming switches, three way switches, or illuminated neon switches in my house.

    While I do admit to having a few neon switches, I think it was an incompatibility with an X10 switch. I don't use dimable "lamp" modules but do use on/off appliance modules on my CF lamps. Maybe they are wacky with that combo??

    I should have saved all the old wall switches I upgraded years ago.

    Regards,

    Mark
    Carpe Noctuabundum ! (Seize the opportunity to travel by night!)

  20. #20
    Flashaholic
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Location
    Waynesboro, Pa FM19es
    Posts
    366

    Default Re: CFL Ballast Fire

    Quote Originally Posted by reptiles View Post
    I bought a few Phillips candelabra CF units. Although they didn't actually burn like the example in this thread; one did emit the "burning electronics" smell and promptly died.

    I actually followed up and sent it back to Phillips for a replacement (which they provided) but they also said it died because I must have dimming switches, three way switches, or illuminated neon switches in my house.

    While I do admit to having a few neon switches, I think it was an incompatibility with an X10 switch. I don't use dimable "lamp" modules but do use on/off appliance modules on my CF lamps. Maybe they are wacky with that combo??

    I should have saved all the old wall switches I upgraded years ago.

    Regards,

    Mark
    Hmm, using appliance switches should not be a problem. I believe these switches use a relay to switch the load on and off, not a triac as a regular lamp module uses.

  21. #21
    *Flashaholic* PhotonWrangler's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Location
    In a handbasket
    Posts
    11,079

    Default Re: CFL Ballast Fire

    Quote Originally Posted by jrmcferren View Post
    Hmm, using appliance switches should not be a problem. I believe these switches use a relay to switch the load on and off, not a triac as a regular lamp module uses.
    And the presence of the X10 carrier is negligible IMO in terms of potential effects on an electronically ballasted lamp.

    It seems that one of the emerging patterns here is that solid state devices and high voltage don't mix well, especially when component choices are made without consideration for thermal effects and breakdown voltage. File this under "why LEDs will eventually beat out CFLs." LEDs remove the need for a high striking voltage.

  22. #22
    Flashaholic*
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Northern NJ, USA
    Posts
    1,869

    Default Re: CFL Ballast Fire

    Quote Originally Posted by reptiles View Post
    ...I actually followed up and sent it back to Phillips for a replacement (which they provided) but they also said it died because I must have dimming switches, three way switches, or illuminated neon switches in my house...
    Was Phillips saying that using three-way switches to switch CFL's is detrimental to their life? Or are they saying that just having them [or illuminated switches or dimmers] on the same circuit is not good for them. It's hard for me to see why switching them with three-way switches would be bad for them. Even though there may be potential to them all the time, if it has no where to go I wouldn't think that would harm them.

  23. #23
    Flashaholic
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Location
    Waynesboro, Pa FM19es
    Posts
    366

    Default Re: CFL Ballast Fire

    I think they mean three way switches that do not take three way bulbs, such as those used in touch lamps. Those use a dimmer instead.

  24. #24
    Flashaholic* Timothybil's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    The great state of Iowa
    Posts
    569

    Default Re: CFL Ballast Fire

    I have been using CFLs for close to ten years now. For the most part, I have been very happy with them, especially when they switched to electronic ballasts and actually started right away and at almost full brightness. The only premature failures I have had have been Lights of Americas, which is why I will never buy another of those. Nothing catastrophic, just quit after a couple of months.

    Right now a large majority of the lights in the house are CFLs. except in a couple of places where the lights are not used very often/are in a place it is a real pain to get to (and reason one usually applies to them as well). I am even having good results with several enclosed fixtures down here in the basement. They are the 12" x 12" by 8" ones with the socket on the side of the box and a white glass cover. When I was using the usual 50 cent incans in them, they would last about 3 months of light usage and blow. Some of the CFLs have been in for over a year with no problems.
    We're not Mad Scientists! We're just overly enthusiastic!

  25. #25

    Default Re: CFL Ballast Fire

    I had a desk lamp CFL burn up right in front of me. Switched it on and tiny sparks were emanating like a Van de Graaff generator. Quickly switched it off; the plastic around the ballast was cracked and smoking. Had the lamp about five years.

  26. #26
    Flashaholic
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Location
    Waynesboro, Pa FM19es
    Posts
    366

    Default Re: CFL Ballast Fire

    My household has never had any trouble with GE CFLs, in fact we have three that are on 24/7 as we can't get photocell sensors to work in the lights with incandescent lamps. We have them on as an always on light. One we have had on for a few years and we changed the CFL a few times, the other two we switched over today. The other major CFL use we have in the house is a lamp on a Mechanical timer, again using GE bulbs we have never had any problem, not even a black mark on the CFL. I personally have used CFLs on and off since 1997. I still have the one from 1997 as I the light is not used that frequently, this one however is a Sylvania.

  27. #27
    Flashaholic dieselducy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    virginia
    Posts
    339

    Default Re: CFL Ballast Fire

    I just had one burn out and one side of it is somewhat melted...

  28. #28

    Default Re: CFL Ballast Fire

    I'd say 75%+ of the time 'burned' out CFLs are a result of using a CFL in a way that is not advised. Like mentioned above (back in MAY. LOL) they are used in BU applications, when they shouldn't be or in enclosed fixtures. MOST cfls (from the cheaper brands) are not rated for BU applications. BUt how many people look at the fine print? Consumers want to buy a CFL and screw it in and be fine (rightfully so) but the lower cost brands are cheaper for a reason. They cut corners where they can and minimize the applications.

    PLEASE double check the application script before installing.

    EOLP is pretty much industry standard now.

    And I NEVER buy LOA products.

  29. #29
    Flashaholic* Beamhead's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Location
    gone "Squatchin" :p
    Posts
    3,571

    Default Re: CFL Ballast Fire

    Quote Originally Posted by yuandrew View Post
    Update:

    Well, I found out the bulb he had which caught fire turned out to be a Lights of America.
    I avoid those at all costs. Philips and Feit are my choice.
    Quando Omni Flunkis Moritati

  30. #30

    Default Re: CFL Ballast Fire

    Quote Originally Posted by Beamhead View Post
    I avoid those at all costs. Philips and Feit are my choice.
    every one has a right to their opinion, but you couldn't pay me to buy a Feit lamp. Not even an Incand.

Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •