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CFL lights pulsating in one fixture only

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Nov 20, 2013, 03:32 AM
Allan Carhart
CFL lights pulsating in one fixture only
Hi folks.

I recently had a light fixture + ceiling fan replaced. I had a handyman do the installation. He is not a licensed electrician, but has a lot more experience doing this sort of work than I do.

The new fixture has candelabra sockets, so we didn't use the bulbs from the old ceiling fan. It came with three incandescent bulbs, so we used those. However, after under a month, all 3 new bulbs had burned out.

I didn't know why the burned out, but thought perhaps bulbs included for free with a light fixture might be especially low quality - no big deal.

I had one CFL with the candelabra screw size so I used it, but my wife complained it pulsated when she turned it on - made her feel like she was "in a dance club."

So I bought two new bulbs - also CFLs. When I tried them, I found they pulsated very badly. Probably turning on/off about once a second

So I ultimately moved the new CFL bulbs to a bathroom fixture with the same sockets, and moved the bathroom's incandescents up to the ceiling fan's fixture.

The brand new CFLs worked fine in the bathroom, and the incandescents appeared to work fine in the ceiling fan.

But now I'm concerned that the ceiling fan's light fixture has something wrong with it -- that it is somehow interfering with the current flow, which results in CFLs to pulsate and causes incandescents to be unusually stressed to the point of burning out prematurely.

I suppose my theory will be proven within a month if the ceiling fan's incandescent bulbs also burn out.

I can tell you that all light fixtures in the house are on one 15A circuit, and I have never had a problem with pulsating light before.

I would like to know if these observations ring a bell with anybody - if this is something anyone has seen before and whether there is an easy explanation.

I know ultimately the answer is to have the light fixture and wiring inspected by a licensed electrician. But I would like to at least try understanding the problem first.

Thank you,

Allan Carhart
Nov 20, 2013, 07:19 AM
Since you have a handle on your possible problem you also hold the key to fix the problem. If you feel confident in your abilities try this. Turn the power off on that circuit. Drop the cover that hides the wiring at the box holding the fixture in place. Remove each wire nut, inspect the wiring and the carefully make up the connections. Stranded wire pigtailed to solid copper improperly could be the culprit. Good luck.

Popeye only reached for the Spinach can as a last resort...
Nov 20, 2013, 08:58 AM
Any chance that there is a dimmer switch on that fan light circuit?

Nov 20, 2013, 11:13 AM
CFLs don't like being in an enclosed space, the ballast circuit (cheap electronics) overheat and funny things happen. we have had horrible results with CFL candelabra bulbs, and long ago sent them all to recycling.

candelabra filament bulbs don't fare much better, they get hot, very hot. touch one with a damp rag and they shatter.

my solution is to not use them in any sort of enclosed space. if your fan assembly does not have room for standard Edison sockets in replacement, try and get LED bulbs. otherwise, install a different bathroom fan. IMPHO weasels saw you coming when the put that unit on the market.

sig: if this is a new economy, how come they still want my old-fashioned money?