Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Fire hazard alert

In the previous thread, reader Gabby alerted me to that fact that she almost had a fire in her home yesterday due to the new style lightbulbs:

I apologize, Joanne, I'm going completely off topic, but I think your readers should be warned about those twirly lightbulbs.

One I bought (@ about $7.95, not in a dollar store) almost burned yesterday after only a year and a half (?) of usage.
If I had not been home to turn it off immediately, who knows what could have happened to the lampshade?
Whenever I'm out in the evening, that lamp is left on. It did get regular usage.
Maybe it's not such a good idea to ban incandescent lightbulbs?

Wed Mar 05, 10:38:00 AM EST

Has anyone else experienced similar problems?


Reid said...

Please read the following article and confirm if this is what your bulb did.

Supposedly it's not a fire hazard.

Anne said...

I had the same thing happen to me last summer, smoke was coming right out of the socket.

I still have this scorched bulb, saved it so when people don't believe me I can just show it to them. An electrician had to replace the assembly on my ceiling, it was ruined.

I feel it was fortunate that I was home othewise my home could have burned down. Aside from possesions I would have lost two pets.

Swift said...

There is a complete rundown of the problems with compact fluorescent bulbs at I have fairly small two bedroom place with 33 fixtures that are not recommended or are considered a fire hazard for the compacts, not including floor and table lamps. That doesn't include the outside lights that won't work on cold winter nights. I'm already stocking up on the old fashioned kind.

Reid said...


"An electrician had to replace the assembly on my ceiling, it was ruined."

You're not supposed to use CFL's in "closed" fixtures. What kind of fixture did you have the bulb in?

Swift said...

Oops typing error. The link in my last post should be or just google sound westhost.

Ruth said...

What are we supposed to use in closed fixtures when the other bulbs are all going to be banned in Ontario.

Reid said...


Just FLICK off!

Ruth said...

yeah, I guess we're back to the good old days with our lamps and candles.

Swift said...

Good question, Ruth. McWimpy forgot to mention that you are going to have to replace all those fixtures or risk having an emergency visit from the fire department. Did you ever hear what the cost will be for replacing all the unusable fixtures? Didn't think so. Have you seen an estimate of all the energy used and CO2 released to make and deliver and install new fixtures to replace all your old? No? CFL's are not going to save you money and are not going to result in lower CO2 emissions for a long time.

Swift said...

What? Oil lamps and and candles. They give off CO2. Ban them.

Gabby in QC said...

Sorry, Reid, the link you provided seems to be incomplete.

I had the lightbulb in a table lamp. It flickered repeatedly. I thought we were about to have a brownout. Then the lightbulb went off and I smelled a strange odor. I immediately went to remove the lightbulb; the metal holding the lampshade in place was very hot, as was the base of the lightbulb, which was beginning to scorch.

And Joanne, I didn't mean to hijack your previous post. I just thought your readers should be alerted.

Matt said...

Not only that, but if one of these bulbs breaks, you nearly have to call a hazmat team to clean up the chemicals.

I've already started to stockpile a few boxes of incandescents in preparation for Harper's brilliant ban on selling them.

Anonymous said...

has also happened to us. Tell me wasn't it part of McGuinty's enviro-friendly plan to replace the old style bulbs with these hazards?

I forget.

Reid said...


The link works fine for me. Weird.

Try this link:

Joanne (True Blue) said...

And Joanne, I didn't mean to hijack your previous post. I just thought your readers should be alerted.

No problem, Gabby! Highjack a post anytime you like. You always have great ideas.

I learned something here. I didn't know about not using those bulbs in closed fixtures. Yike! I'm going to have to check all my lights now.

I'd like to blame this on McGuinty but I guess John Baird signed onto the ban too. I feel like dropping them both a line.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Reid, yeah tiny URL's are better because sometimes a link will run off the page if it's too long.

From the article:

"they need to be used in an open-light fixture rather than a closed-light fixture since they generate heat, the authority said."

Now, I thought part of the appeal of the new bulbs was that they wouldn't generate heat - especially in the summer!

Ruth said...

Thanks for reminding me about this. I just made a trip to Canadian Tire to stock up on some light bulbs. We have to buy them fast while we can still find them.

Swift said...

For those of you who don't want to wade through the some what technical link I gave you, here are some highlights.

When CFLs fail there is often a short circuit in the base of the lamp. This can cause an actual fire in the electronics in the lamp base. depending on the fixture this fire can spread. Enclosed fixtures are definite fire hazards with these lamps: ceiling pot lights are out. Track lights and other semi-enclosed lights are less dangerous but possible hazards. The other problem with semi-enclosed fixtures is that you should expect a much shorter CFL life span than in a completely open fixture because of the extra heat buildup.

There have been reports of explosive failure so even a "safe" fixture may be the cause of a fire in this case. CFLs should not be used in wet areas. This obviously rules out bathrooms and kitchens and some basements might also be poor places for them. Turning a still warm CFL on may cause it to fail. Turning an ordinary light bulb on shortens its life. This is shortening expected to be much greater with CFLs. Don't turn out the lights when you leave the room or you will be buying another much sooner than you thought.

When you look at a package of CFLs you will see that they use, and you will pay for much less energy than normal bulbs. However the CFL only uses half the electricity. So they electric utility has to generate twice the electricity that they sell. Can you say hydro rate increases to make up the difference? These are some of the little surprises hidden in that little twsted bulb.

Gabby in QC said...

OK, thanks for the TinyUrl, Reid. Now I got it. Thanks again.
And mine did as described in the article, although it didn't quite reach the charcoal stage ;-)

Yes, Joanne, emitting or not emitting heat was one of the advantages or disadvantages, depending on one's perspective.

According to McGill's U. Dr. Joe Schwarcz, the incandescent lightbulbs had the advantage of emitting more heat than the fluorescent ones, so that changing to the fl.s would mean turning up the thermostats.

Yet as you pointed out, according to that article, the fl.s also emit heat. So, whom to believe?

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Swift and Gabby, thanks so much for this information. I had no idea how unsafe these bulbs were in older fixtures and in enclosed ones.

I'll be taking corrective action asap and alerting some family members.

If anyone has a chance to email any politicians or manufacturers about this, please let me know if you get a response. Thanks.

maryT said...

Joanne, is there a way to fwd this post, including comments to Bairds office, and maybe Suzuki.
There have also been stories in the US media over the past year about this, especialy what to do if one breaks.
Everyone should write to their MP and also to Baird.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Joanne, is there a way to fwd this post, including comments to Bairds office, and maybe Suzuki.

All you would need to do is send an email with a link to this post.

Just start googling this stuff and all kinds of horror stories come up.

Hard to know what's an urban legend, and what's a real concern.

Dave said...

I saw something on television, maybe a month ago on this subject. They were interviewing people who had experienced catastrophic failure of these type of bulbs. I can't remember if it was a W5, Marketplace or a special News report?? Did anyone catch it, and if so do you remember the source?

Anyway, it caught my attention cause I have several of these bulbs in use in my home. The closing point on that show was to "buy only brand name bulbs" ... well at least one person, who commented on this tread did just that, and KABOOOOOM!!

This one could get real ugly, real fast, if more examples surface.

You can bet with all the dollars invested to manufacture these bulbs, there will be aggressive and endless denial ads and reassurances ... not to mention what the reaction of the 'David (we must save the world) Sadzooki' types will be! Yikes! Absolutely 'No Backward Steps Allowed' by those Green-Machine folks!

You can bet that as soon as I finish this post ... ok I'm done ... that I will be changing back to the old reliable bulbs. Oh well, seemed like a good idea at the time.

Anonymous said...

I doubt Suzuki gives a rip if all our houses burn down. Wouldn't that remove a lot of carbon footprints?

Joanne (True Blue) said...

I doubt Suzuki gives a rip if all our houses burn down. Wouldn't that remove a lot of carbon footprints?

Actually, that thought did cross my mind. It could be a plot.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Did anyone catch it, and if so do you remember the source?

I don't remember that one Dave, but it sounds interesting. I wish I had seen it.

What concerns me is the general lack of information on what appears to be a pretty serious safety issue.

Steph said...

Wow, this is shocking information. I didn't know that there were restrictions on where you should be using those compact fluorescent light bulbs.

One thing I'd like to know, is how safe is it to be inhaling those gases when the bulb comes to the end of life. That article said, "The bulbs come to an end by charring around the base, producing smoke and emitting a bad smell". What exactly is that "bad smell" and what are the health risks of inhaling it?

Joanne (True Blue) said...

More good questions, Steph.

It seems to me that Thomas Edison had it right after all.

arctic_front said...

In addition to the fire hazard issue, I have seen somebody here comment on the toxic chemicals inside. People need to realize that the most toxic of these chemicals is mercury!

I was in the store the other day and specifically looked on the package for any hint whatsoever that it contained ANY hazards. Not a word on the three different brands sold in this store. They were 'name-brand' bulbs.

First they force us to buy them, then we find out they are a fire hazard, contain mercury, can't be used in the most common fixtures and then certain rooms in our homes can't use them, ie: bathroom.

Something either stupid or fish is going on here!

I refuse to have them in my house on ideological reasons... now I have 5 other reasons.

Good going, politicians and junk-science advocates!

Steph said...

Yeah, when I looked up "fluorescent lamp" on Wikipedia it said that they contain mercury vapour and argon or neon gas.

I'm amazed that they don't have to put any warnings on the packages. Surely they should have to warn people about the health risks associated with mercury and also give people a head's up about what to expect when the end-of-life is reached.