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Why Do My Light Bulbs Keep Burning Out?

a burnt out light bulb

It’s frustrating when your light bulbs keep burning out, and it can be expensive to keep replacing bulb after bulb. But what’s really going on? If your light bulbs keep burning out in the same fixtures, it’s a sign that there’s an issue that needs fixing. It may even be a problem for a licensed electrician.

The issue might be with:

  • the electrical wiring or power supply in your home,
  • the bulbs you’re using,
  • the insulation that surrounds recessed lighting or
  • something else altogether.

Some of these issues are simple ones to address. Others present real danger in the form of a fire hazard. So, if your light bulbs keep burning out, it’s a good idea to figure out what’s going on so you can get it fixed.

Using the Wrong Type of Bulb

Sometimes, the reason why a light bulb keeps burning out is as simple as using the wrong type of bulb for the fixture. If you have a lamp that calls for a 60-watt bulb, for example, it’s important to use a bulb of that wattage (or less) and no higher. A higher-wattage bulb will burn too hot, shortening the life of the bulb. It could even cause a fire. This is why it’s important to use the right wattage for the particular fixture. This isn’t an issue with LED light bulbs, which are a good alternative to incandescent bulbs. LED light bulbs burn cooler and last thousands of hours longer.

A Bad Batch of Bulbs

Another simple issue is that you may have wound up with a bad package of light bulbs. If you’ve had multiple bulbs burn out in different fixtures in your house that all came from the same package, it’s possible that it was a bad batch. This happens sometimes, and though it’s annoying, the fix is simple. Buy a new package of bulbs, maybe of a different brand.

An Old Dimmer Switch

Still another issue that’s simple to fix is if you’re using an older dimmer switch designed for incandescent light bulbs with an LED light. There are newer dimmer switches designed for use with LED light bulbs. So make sure you’re using the right switch as well as an LED bulb that was designed to be dimmable.

There Is Vibration Nearby That Wears Out the Bulb

If the light bulb that keeps burning out is an incandescent bulb, it might burn out due to vibration. This could be due to a wobbly ceiling fan or a rumbling garage door going up and down. The tiny filaments inside incandescent bulbs are fragile. So, strong or repeated vibrations can cause them to break, burning out the bulb. If this is your issue, you can switch to LED bulbs, which don’t have fragile filaments, but the cause of the vibration should also be addressed.

The Bulb Is Overheating

If the light bulb that keeps burning out is a recessed light in the ceiling (also known as can lights), it may be that the insulation surrounding the bulb is too close. This can cause the bulb to overheat and is more of a problem with older homes and fixtures. Overheating can cause the system to shut off, if the lighting fixture has this feature. It can also cause the bulb to burn out. This type of issue is also a fire hazard, so it’s a good idea to have it looked at by a professional who can diagnose the issue and fix it.

There Is an Internal Wiring Problem

Another possibility for light bulbs that keep burning out is a problem with the internal electrical wiring in the lamp or light fixture. Loose wiring leading to the fixture or corroded contacts within the light socket can both cause an irregular flow of power to the bulb. If you’re using LED bulbs, this can cause the light to flicker. On the other hand, if you’re using incandescent bulbs, it can cause the bulb to burn out prematurely.

If there’s an internal wiring problem or an issue with the light socket, these are potentially dangerous issues to fix yourself. Any work with electrical wiring introduces the risk of electric shock. It’s a good idea to contact a licensed electrician to diagnose this issue and fix it safely.

The same is true if there’s an issue with your home’s power supply that’s causing changes in the flow of electricity coming into your home. This is another more complicated issue that’s not safe for do-it-yourself homeowners to tackle on their own. Licensed professional electricians have specialized knowledge and safety protocols that enable them to find and fix power supply problems safely. It’s wise to have this issue addressed quickly, as internal wiring issues can also cause power surges.

Now let’s look at a couple of common issues people sometimes have with their LED light bulbs.

a ceiling fan with three flickering LED bulbs

Common Issue: Ceiling Fan Light Flickers with LED Bulbs

If your ceiling fan light flickers with LED bulbs, this might be a problem that needs to be fixed by an electrician. But, you can always try the simplest fixes first. In this case, the first and simplest things to try are screwing in the fan’s light bulbs more tightly. But, not too tightly, as that can actually cause the bulbs to burn out. You can also try replacing your light bulbs. Though it isn’t as common with other types of bulbs, older LED bulbs can sometimes start to flicker as their life span comes to an end. Replacing older bulbs with brand-new ones could solve your flickering bulb issue.

If your ceiling fan lights are connected to a dimmer switch, it’s also possible that the switch was designed for use with incandescent bulbs instead of LED ones. This can be fixed by switching out your LED lights for incandescent bulbs. But, many people prefer to use LED light bulbs since they are so much more energy-efficient. They don’t get as hot as incandescent bulbs, and they last significantly longer. It may be a better idea to have a professional electrician switch out your dimmer switch for a new one that is compatible with LED lights.

Similarly, old or faulty wiring connected to regular flip switches can sometimes cause ceiling fan light bulbs to flicker. While this isn’t a major issue, it is another issue that is best diagnosed and fixed by a licensed electrician who can do so both safely and accurately.

If older bulbs or switches aren’t the problem, it’s time to look at more involved electrical issues and fixes. Flickering LED lights in a ceiling fan fixture can occur due to an irregular flow of electricity to the fan. This might be due to bad internal wiring, overloaded circuits or a power supply issue that affects your entire home. Any of these possibilities is a problem for a licensed electrician to tackle. Electrical issues can be tough to diagnose and are dangerous since they bring the risk of electric shock.

It may also be that your ceiling fan itself is older and it’s simply time to replace it. This is a job some do-it-yourselfers can safely tackle on their own. Others are more comfortable with hiring a professional to do the heavy lifting. A professional can also diagnose any possible problems with the wiring to the fan, its switches or other components, and fix those while installing the new unit.

a wooden ceiling fan with LED bulbs

Common Issue: LED Light Bulb Keeps Going Out and Coming Back On

If the LED light bulb keeps going out and coming back on in a light fixture in your home or garage, this could be due to something simple. For example, a loose connection within the fixture that can be fixed by screwing in the light bulb more securely. Just be sure not to over-tighten the bulb, since that can actually cause the bulb to fail. Bulbs that are screwed in too tightly can actually go on and off as well. As a general rule, bulbs should be screwed in firmly but not overtightened.

If that’s not the issue causing the bulb to keep going out and coming back on, it may be that excess heat is causing the LED bulb to go off and on. If the light bulb is in a recessed lighting fixture and is too close to insulation, for example, it could overheat. This overheating can cause flickering problems with the bulb. This is a problem that is best diagnosed and fixed by a professional.

Another possibility is that there’s an issue with loose wiring within the light fixture or an irregular flow of electricity coming to it. Loose wiring happens over time and can be fixed by a licensed electrician. An electrician can also address power supply issues to your home, which are probably affecting other lights, switches, outlets and appliances in the home. And, while they’re at it, they can address any GFCI outlet issues you may be experiencing.

Insulation, wiring and power supply issues are all more involved problems and repairs, and should always be addressed by a professional. They should also be addressed as soon as possible, since these types of problems can be a potential safety hazard.

ABC Can Fix Your Lighting Problems

It can be annoying and expensive to continuously replace your light bulbs. Instead of dealing with lighting issues, contact ABC Home & Commercial Services. Our pros will diagnose the cause of the problem and then make all needed repairs. We will also give you electrical safety tips to protect your home.

Tom Riggs

Tom Riggs is the Division Manager for Mechanical Services, overseeing sales and operations for HVAC, Plumbing, Electrical, Appliance Repair and Water Quality for all ABC Austin branches. He joined ABC in 2014. Before ABC, he was an HVAC Service Technician, HVAC Comfort Advisor/Sales and Operations Manager. Tom attended Universal Technical Institute. He's an avid outdoorsman and enjoys country living with his wife and two sons.

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