# CFL's: Are they dangerous???

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#### ben7

##### Member
I always wonder what makes things break. So, I very carefully took apart some CFL's that had failed after a year or two. They are sooooooo cheap inside!!! 2mm air gap between some of the traces and parts-NOT THAT GOOD!!!!! A 105C capacitor cooked . I even was playing around with my flyback transformer and a burned out cfl bulb, and I found that the plastic will burn! There are 250volt fim caps connected to live 120 volts, not a big safety margin!!! I even found some arcing marks on the bottom of a cfl circuit board. That same circuit board also had a burned out 10-ohm resistor. Black "green caps". WOW, yeah, I'd call CFL's dangerous!!! It is amazing how china gets away with selling this crap to the US! Fortunately, none of these cfl's have put up a nice show for us so far. I read on the internet about people having their's pop, smoke, and sparkle. Check out the pixs! I always would like to hear anybody else's stories of Cfl's going up in smoke! Oh, and all those bad headaches, skin and eye damage they give you!

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#### cr0sh

##### Member
I think you're being a "fear-monger" here. While it is true that yes, they are cheap inside, and yes, they are made in China (hint: just about everything cheap and electronic is); I'm not seeing anything that would indicate saying "OMG YOUR HOUSE WILL BURNZ!". All such production go through extensive UL testing (here in the USA) to make sure that when they fail, they fail in a safe manner. Spacing of the components doesn't seem that bad to me; we're not talking about extremely high-voltage that can arc-over a 2mm gap. I've seen CFLs fail; yes, they buzz, arc, and eventually "bzzt" and quit. Normal consumers can't get at the PCB, so your fears on that regard are misfounded. Do I think they should be made more robust? Yes, I do. Lasting for only a year seems wrong; you should get much longer run times from such a bulb. I have several in my house that have lasted 5+ years, but then again I didn't go for the cheapest brand, either; you get what you pay for. One of my bulbs has been running "open" in a socket outside, where it gets rained on, for about 4 years now; it's lasted longer than the incandescent floodlight it replaced (its under an eave, but otherwise exposed - simple curled CFL like you have - not a "floodlight" CFL). Then again, we have a bare incandescent clear light bulb in our closet that's been there since we moved in 8+ years ago, and it has yet to burn out (after being switched on and off probably thousands of times)...

#### spicydeath82

##### New Member
i've had one pop and smoke on me(smelled like a burning circuit board). also these bulbs aren't supposed to be run upside down(the coil pointing down) or used in enclosed light fixtures.... lame but that's the price one pays saving the world by increasing mercury being tossed in landfills... lol. if it bugs you, you could start making some LED replacements, just an idea.

#### ben7

##### Member
i've had one pop and smoke on me(smelled like a burning circuit board). also these bulbs aren't supposed to be run upside down(the coil pointing down) or used in enclosed light fixtures.... lame but that's the price one pays saving the world by increasing mercury being tossed in landfills... lol. if it bugs you, you could start making some LED replacements, just an idea.
I actaully am working on a led light project that uses an old cfl base. We have some running upside down, some burn out fast and some are still working!!!!

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#### Dean Huster

##### Well-Known Member
I have yet to have a CFL fail other than one that simply quit putting out light. No sparks. No fires. No explosions. No pops. Just no light. How many CFLs do I have in use? 45. The only lights that I have that are still incandescent or quartz are the ones on dimmers (6) and the weird-based ones in the refrigerator and sewing machine.

#### Blueteeth

##### Well-Known Member
In my limited experience, they're more reliable than filiment bulbs. When they DO 'pop', given the parts used, and of course the 'FR-2' board, I seriously doubt it would pose a danger. Cracking the tube itself would be more dangerous, sharp glass, mercury vapour (which disapates quickly) and nasty phosphorous.

As for 'electrical' safety. Remember, almost all domestic electrical systems are fitted with breakers, in most countries by law. Even the old ones use fuses, which will happily cut supply if a CFL energy saver starts eating current to feed its arcs. Any arcs that do occur, will no doubt be high voltage, low current.

Ben: You're right. The supply filtering isn't great in those cheap things, plus their power factor is frankly, dreadful. Far lower than even cheap SMPS plug-in PSU's. So, the consumer is charged for the power they are rated for, but the energy companies foots the bill for extra loses their high-crrent spikes incur. So for all you folks who use these to 'save the planet', you're not You're just paying a lower electricity bill.

All that said, they provide light, they're cheap, last longer, and cheaper to run that filament bulbs. You get what you pay for. As always, any added hype is from the salemen, not the engineers. The same goes for 'dangers'.

#### spicydeath82

##### New Member
All that said, they provide light, they're cheap, last longer, and cheaper to run that filament bulbs. You get what you pay for. As always, any added hype is from the salemen, not the engineers. The same goes for 'dangers'.
agreed. never understood the idea of energy conservation. it's not like they have big batteries some place to store it, so if your not using it then it's just gonna dissipate eventually... i guess if people really wanna do something they could invest in some solar panels and batteries and make there own power.

#### Nigel Goodwin

##### Super Moderator
agreed. never understood the idea of energy conservation. it's not like they have big batteries some place to store it, so if your not using it then it's just gonna dissipate eventually.
You're rather missing the point - energy doesn't just 'dissipate', the generating companies only generate enough to meet demand, with power stations been turned UP and DOWN, or ON and OFF accordingly.

In periods of 'low demand' they also store the spare energy in 'big batteries', in the form of pumped storage stations.

##### Well-Known Member
Personally I don't think CFL bulbs are all that dangerous, well no more dangerous that other household electrical products from a safety standpoint. I don't think they are as friendly to landfills as conventional incandescent bulbs either.

I do have issues here in the US with the governments decision to shove them down my throat because they seem to feel they are good for me.

I live in NE Ohio here in the US. Actually the Cleveland, OH. area. Our power needs are served by First Energy for the power company. So here is a humorous story of CFL bulbs and First Energy.

Last year First Energy had this great idea (they thought it was great) and they contracted with a Chinese company to manufacture and ship 3 million CFL bulbs over here to them. They contracted with another Chinese company to manufacture a few thousand bright yellow T shirts. Their plan was to have teams of employees dress in the yellow T shirts and deliver two CFL bulbs to every customer. Every First Energy customer would get two CFL bulbs and with those bulbs there would be a pamphlet explaining all the merits and power savings of these wonderful bulbs. Now the funny part...

Nothing is free and these bulbs weren't free to customers. First Energy planned to charge each customer $7.50 USD per bulb and add$15 to every customers electric bill over a few month period. People aren't that stupid and it wasn't long before a million customers were asking why they were paying $7.50 for a bulb they can but at any Home Depot or Lowes home improvement center for less that$3.50, or matter of fact I can buy a 10 pack of these bulbs for about $2.00 a bulb. Now this entire scam needed approval of PUCO (The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio). The logic was that since these bulbs would save power and First Energy is in the business of selling power they would lose money when people used these bulbs. Therefore to recoup their loss they could overcharge for the bulbs. Go figure. Following massive public outcry the whole stupid idea was scrapped and I have no clue what they will do with 3 million CFL bulbs and a few thousand T shirts. Ron #### Nigel Goodwin ##### Super Moderator Most Helpful Member In the UK both Electricity and Gas (??) providers have sent out free CCFL's to customers, no charge at all. I presume there's some government scheme (tax fiddle! ) which makes it profitable for them?. #### ben7 ##### Member We have Nvision and GE helical cfls, which I think are the best. I have a "noname" cfl that stopped working from a family member, it doesn't have brand name, or a part number on it! The 5 or so cfls in my dining room make our switches ZAP every time we turn them on from the inrush current. I heard that on a dimmer one cfl can draw a couple of amps!!! #### Nigel Goodwin ##### Super Moderator Most Helpful Member I heard that on a dimmer one cfl can draw a couple of amps!!! You can't use a dimmer on CCFL's - although supposedly there are special (expensive ones) available where you can. #### ben7 ##### Member In the UK both Electricity and Gas (??) providers have sent out free CCFL's to customers, no charge at all. I presume there's some government scheme (tax fiddle! ) which makes it profitable for them?. Hey, we haven't gotten free ones! We have a utility provider called Public Service Electric and Gas(PSE&G)-they haven't sent anyone "free" cfls. BUT, what they have done is to put some 2,000 small solar panels on the telephone poles around our area!!! #### ben7 ##### Member You can't use a dimmer on CCFL's - although supposedly there are special (expensive ones) available where you can. I just don't understand how it could be dimmable though!?? #### Reloadron ##### Well-Known Member Most Helpful Member For those curious about dimmable CFLs they are gaining in popularity but still seem plagued by problems. This is an example of a dimmable CFL bulb along with some data: * FLE26HT3/2/DV/CD * 26 watt = 100 watt equivalence * 1700 lumens * 2700 kelvin * 10,000 hours life * Dimmable to 20% of maximum light output * Lead free glass * Soft white * Energy star rated * Spiral T3 Note the dimmable range. Now here are a few user comments on this bulb: I am looking forward to dimmable CFLs - and was excited to find this "Dimmable" CFL on the local ACE light bulb rack. I am still looking forward to dimmable CFLs, but this CFL does not qualify. The performance of this bulb is well short of expectations. 1) The dimmable range is very small - the bulb dims, but not to the extent implied. 2) The transition from "dim" to "off" is abrupt, making it impossible to take advantage of the already limited dimming range. 3) When set close to the maximum dimming, the bulb is unstable - frequently shutting itself off. 4) These problems occurred even though the bulb was first turned on at full power, and allowed to warm up fully (at least 30 minutes) before attempts to dim. 5) This is NOT an instant on CFL; the delay is noticeable. Since GE claims this is compatible with standard incandescent dimmers, I can't fault the dimmer, which works very well with incandescent bulbs. The problem always seems to go back to a dimmer used and made for use with an incandescent bulb. This Washingto State University PDF is a pretty good read on the subject for anyone interested. I would guess the trick to a good dimmable CFL would be a suitable ballast. Just a guess. Ron #### lilimike ##### Member At one point I wanted to convert all bulbs to CFLs in my house but most of my lighting is controlled by X10 and a CFLs don't work on an X10 switch, only on an X10 plug and even those are generating massive noise in the main which makes X10 controls unreliable. Plus they generate poor lighting quality and I doubt a full house conversion to CFLs can save more than$20 to \$30 per year considering its price vs incandescent bulbs.

Edit: Based on the fact that we get our electricity from water dams which is probably cheaper than coal.

Also if these are supposed to be efficient and save energy I would be curious to evaluate how much energy is involved in fabricating these things compared to simple incandescent bulbs.

Mike

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##### Banned
The light quality is HIGHLY maker dependant, I've tried 3-4 different brands and even within the same brand there's a drastic difference in light quality between models and very little consistency.
One thing to consider is that say in hotter climates CFL's will decrease air conditioning bills because of the lower heat generation, where as in a colder climate the waste heat of an incandescent means they're much more efficient overall if the building is properly insulated, the waste heat takes load off the main heating system so the total overall efficiency is HIGHLY variable depending on location, incandescent lightbulbs are material wise less of an impact on the environment as far as total materials required. The mercury in the bulb itself is one problem, the phosphor chemicals, the semi conductor materials themselves aren't exactly a benefit to the final environmental impact either.

We're using some instant on warm CFLs from Phillips that substitute for smaller reading lamps quiet nicely. I'm flicker sensitive and they don't bother me.

##### Banned
Oh, and all those bad headaches, skin and eye damage they give you!
Bad headaches? Maybe if the circuit is poorly designed, even modest quality drivers won't cause headaches. Skin and eye damage? Again with even a half sane phosphor blend not enough UV escapes to worry about so that's definitely paranoid thinking.

You think CFLS are a problem? Keep in mind the bulk majority of all LCD monitors are all backlit via by CFL tubes, no one's complained about them so far!

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#### ben7

##### Member
Bad headaches? Maybe if the circuit is poorly designed, even modest quality drivers won't cause headaches. Skin and eye damage? Again with even a half sane phosphor blend not enough UV escapes to worry about so that's definitely paranoid thinking.
Look on the internet! Many people say they get headaches from them!

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