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Issues That Can Cause Your Light Bulbs to Burn Out Frequently

Updated: April 2024

The majority of American homes have made the switch from incandescent light bulbs to more energy-efficient options like LED or compact fluorescent (CFL) light bulbs. If you haven’t yet made the switch, you’ll soon be forced to since the US banned the sale of incandescent light bulbs in August 2023. Both LEDs and CFLs have a much longer lifespan than incandescent bulbs, making them more eco-friendly choices.

CFLs typically last anywhere from 8,000 to 20,000 hours. The lifespan of LED bulbs is even better and most are rated for somewhere between 50,000 and 100,000 hours. If you leave a light on for 10 hours a day, a CFL should last for around two to five years and an LED should last for anywhere from 10 to 25+ years. If you find that your light bulbs keep burning out and you have to replace them much more often than this, several factors could be to blame.

Using the Wrong Type of Light Bulb or Switch

First, you need to use the right type of light bulb for each light fixture. Many homes have at least some of their lights on a dimmer switch. Dimmer switches work by controlling and restricting how much electricity flows to the light fixture to adjust and decrease the amount of light the bulb produces. The problem is that not all LED or CFL bulbs are dimmable. Dimmable light bulbs are designed to handle the fluctuations in current that result when the light is dimmed. Non-dimmable bulbs generally can’t handle these fluctuations, which will cause them to burn out more quickly. 

This is an especially big problem with non-dimmable CFLs. When you use a non-dimmable CFL with a dimmer switch, the bulb will often draw up to five times as much power as it normally would in a non-dimmable fixture. This extra power draw causes the bulb to become much hotter, and this heat can greatly shorten its lifespan. The light bulb could also heat up so much that it starts a fire, which is why you should never use non-dimmable CFLs with a dimmer switch. 

Dimmable CFLs and LEDs will also burn out much sooner if you don’t have the right type of dimmer switch. Traditional dimmer switches were designed for use with incandescent bulbs and supply a much higher wattage to the light fixture. The wattage that these dimmer switches supply is much higher than CFLs and LEDs need to work and will almost always cause these types of bulbs to burn out much more quickly. Newer dimmer switches are specifically made to be compatible with LEDs and CFLs and don’t send nearly as many watts. If you have an older dimmer switch and the CFL or LED bulbs in the fixture the switch controls keep burning out, the solution is to replace it with a new switch. 

Finally, light bulbs will burn out more quickly if they have a higher wattage than the rating of the fixture. This is an especially common issue with incandescent lights, but it can also happen with LEDs and CFLs. For instance, if you use a much brighter, high-powered bulb in a lamp or smaller light fixture, the bulb can heat up more than it should and burn out more quickly. 


While LEDs are designed to have an extremely long life, they are very susceptible to heat. LED light bulbs produce very little heat on their own. The problem is that some types of light fixtures, especially recessed can lights, can still get quite hot on their own. Heat can damage the internal circuitry in an LED and cause it to burn out quickly. This issue is why you often need to retrofit existing can lights to accommodate LED bulbs or else the bulbs lifespan will be greatly reduced. 

Damaged Light Socket

Light bulbs need to fit securely inside the light socket to work properly. If the socket is damaged and the bulb doesn’t make a proper connection, the electrical current could arc between the socket and the bulb. Arcing creates lots of extra heat and can again lead to the bulbs burning out quickly. This issue is typically easy to identify since arcing will usually lead to pitting or dark spots on the bottom of the base of the bulb. If you suspect that you have a light fixture that is arcing, contact an electrician immediately since arcing is an extreme fire hazard. 

Screw-in sockets have a brass tab inside them, which is what makes contact with the bulb so that electricity can flow to it. If you screw a bulb in too tightly, the tab can get flattened so that it no longer makes a full connection with the bulb and leads to arcing. This issue is usually something an electrician can easily fix by bending the tab back in place. However, they might instead need to replace the entire socket. Luckily, the socket in many fixtures can be replaced without having to replace the entire fixture. 

Loose Electrical Connection or Damaged Wiring

A loose electrical connection or damaged wiring in a light fixture or switch can also lead to light bulbs burning out much sooner. It can also happen if there is a loose connection or damaged wire anywhere in the circuit that the light fixture is wired to. These issues typically lead to fluctuating voltage, which shortens the lifespan of the light bulb. 

Loose connections or damaged wiring are a more serious problem since they can lead to a short circuit or cause the current to arc and produce sparks that could start a fire. Both short-circuiting and arc faults can allow the electricity to flow unrestricted. This means that the current suddenly spikes and much more electricity flows than the wires and fixtures can safely handle. A spike in current leads to the wires quickly becoming much hotter, which can lead to them melting or overheating and catching fire.  

High Voltage

If you have light bulbs in different parts of the house that keep burning out quickly, the voltage in your electrical system could be too high. The issue is that high voltage generates excess heat that can damage LEDs or even potentially cause incandescent or CFL bulbs to blow out. In this situation, an electrician will first need to measure the voltage in your home. If the voltage is too high, they’ll then need to determine the specific cause. Sometimes, high voltage issues can be due to the electrical grid, but the problem could also lie with your electrical system. 

If you have any issues with your lighting or electrical system, you can count on the electricians at Lightfoot Plumbing, Heating, Air & Electrical for help. We specialize in electrical inspections and all types of electrical repairs as well as installations. With four decades of experience, we’re also the top choice in the Weatherford area for heating, air conditioning, and plumbing. Give us a call today if you need an electrical inspection or to schedule any other home service.

Meet the Author
Gary Lightfoot

With over 30 years of experience in the industry, Gary Lightfoot took over his family business and continues to run it with the values and standards set 35 years ago

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