exploding light bulb issue

20 Replies

So a renter said a light bulb in a chandelier exploded and caught on fire (I'm sure this is an exaggeration) so I did some research on the internet and sent her an email saying it's no big deal with the following explanation which I think cleared it up pretty well:

The reason is simple. Just before they burn out, incandescent bulbs get a surge of current as the tungsten filament loses its resistance just prior to burning away. That surge raises the energy going across the filament as E = IV > iV = e where I > i is the surge in current, V is the voltage across the filament. So E > e and that surge in energy converts immediately into heat energy E = Q which stresses the glass in the bulb so it pops.

319‑213‑7458 | Podcast Guest on Show #110

Originally posted by @Glenn McCrorey :

So a renter said a light bulb in a chandelier exploded and caught on fire (I'm sure this is an exaggeration) so I did some research on the internet and sent her an email saying it's no big deal with the following explanation which I think cleared it up pretty well:

The reason is simple. Just before they burn out, incandescent bulbs get a surge of current as the tungsten filament loses its resistance just prior to burning away. That surge raises the energy going across the filament as E = IV > iV = e where I > i is the surge in current, V is the voltage across the filament. So E > e and that surge in energy converts immediately into heat energy E = Q which stresses the glass in the bulb so it pops.

I can't tell if this post is a joke.  If you sent that message to a tenant after they said the light bulb caught fire, I'm thinking you didn't clear up anything.  E = IV >iV is not tenant speak. It's didactic speak.  

It's also crap.  Light bulbs, as we all know, do not typically explode.

Having received a message from a tenant about a possible fire hazard, the landlord's response should be:

1.  Take a drive over, assess the situation, and possibly have an electrician go over the wiring. Or have his property manager do the same;

or, 2.  Sit on his butt and look up some stuff on the internet to justify not doing anything more?

Anyone selecting option #1 should get out of landlording before they kill someone.

If that explanation doesn't work, you can tell them that you think the building is haunted but that you've only seen this kind of activity with tenants who don't pay their rent

Tenant speak would be:  

Just before they burn out, lightbulbs get a surge which often causes a popping sound, and sometimes causes the glass to break or explode.  

"And you must have been imagining the fire.  I know, because I have Google."

@Glenn McCrorey is the tenant an engineer or something? I think you need to use the tenant speak version. Just call her and say  what Marie said, if  they are still uncomfortable you may need to look at it to reassure them.   Smoke and fire are probably the same thing descriptively to the tenant and popping bulbs sometimes smoke. You don't want her to not call you if something goes on fire right?

Originally posted by @Account Closed :

@Glenn McCrorey  Shirley, you jest...

I know, right.  Makes me wonder if we missed the joke.  Commentary with math or physics formulas?  That can't be a real thing.

The only way that could happen would be if the tenant happened to spray some liquid on a very HOT glass bulb. So if it was on & very hot it could possibly explode due to the phenomenon of sudden cooling but I seriously doubt it caught fire unless the fluid sprayed happened to inflammable.

During our drive control trials we tested this & observed the same phenomenon (but no ignition) in the Lab at GE because of water spray infiltration on incandescents in a hot toxic environment. We redesigned the lighting required using LED's.  

Originally posted by @Colleen F. :

@Glenn McCrorey is the tenant an engineer or something? I think you need to use the tenant speak version. Just call her and say  what Marie said, if  they are still uncomfortable you may need to look at it to reassure them.   Smoke and fire are probably the same thing descriptively to the tenant and popping bulbs sometimes smoke. You don't want her to not call you if something goes on fire right?

Exactly.  Smoke and fire are probably the same thing as a blown lightbulb to a tenant where the the bulb broke and glass flew.  That tungsten flash is usually brief, but it definitely makes a noise, there is definitely a flash.  With a broken bulb there might be a smell too.  Regardless, I'd not ask the tenant to test the socket at this point.  A blown bulb that breaks is an anomaly, the tenant called with concern. Indeed you want them to call again if another bulb ends up blowing on that chandelier.  Sending messages with formulas that I can't understand doesn't clarify anything.  Customer service fail.  :)

Originally posted by @Pat L. :

The only way that could happen would be if the tenant happened to spray some liquid on a very HOT glass bulb. So if it was on & very hot it could possibly explode due to the phenomenon of sudden cooling but I seriously doubt it caught fire unless the fluid sprayed happened to inflammable.

During our drive control trials we tested this & observed the same phenomenon (but no ignition) in the Lab at GE because of water spray infiltration on incandescents in a hot toxic environment. We redesigned the lighting required using LED's.  

OK, true confession.  I've been known to clean my chandeliers with windex spray and a cloth....while the lamps are on.  They're not hot when I start out, but the 60 watt flame bulbs do get very hot by the time I'm on the 6th and last bulb.  I know that I risk seeing a flash and smoke and broken glass if I spray a hot bulb.  Windex is ammonia and would  contribute to the fireworks,  But I know not to call a landlord about it.  

I have a very good relationship with the tenant and they know my sense of humor.  I did send exactly that email so it wasn't exactly a joke.  I will go look at it tomorrow so lighten up (no pun intended)  @Richard C.   If you want to call an electrician every time a light bulbs goes out then go ahead.   You gotta' enjoy this business and have a little fun.  That's why I shared the story.  Just trying to add some jocularity to what can be a boring business.  Thanks for your inputs @K. marie P.

319‑213‑7458 | Podcast Guest on Show #110

I've never seen a bulb explode (break) that didn't have liquid sprayed on it. I've had plenty of them "flash" as they burn out but explode? I have my doubts.

Originally posted by @Jassem A. :

If that explanation doesn't work, you can tell them that you think the building is haunted but that you've only seen this kind of activity with tenants who don't pay their rent

 Good one, Jassem! Gave me a much-needed laugh.

Originally posted by @Glenn McCrorey :

So a renter said a light bulb in a chandelier exploded and caught on fire (I'm sure this is an exaggeration) so I did some research on the internet and sent her an email saying it's no big deal with the following explanation which I think cleared it up pretty well:

The reason is simple. Just before they burn out, incandescent bulbs get a surge of current as the tungsten filament loses its resistance just prior to burning away. That surge raises the energy going across the filament as E = IV > iV = e where I > i is the surge in current, V is the voltage across the filament. So E > e and that surge in energy converts immediately into heat energy E = Q which stresses the glass in the bulb so it pops.

 I often tell tenants: If the house catches fire, call 911; I don't own a firetruck. Hope this helps.

Update... this just in.....  I replaced the light bulb and everything is fine.  No shrapnel or fire damage to report. 

319‑213‑7458 | Podcast Guest on Show #110

@Glenn McCrorey I love the email. LED bulbs are getting pretty affordable. They don't have these sorts of problems, and they have many other benefits.

Good thinking @Loren Thomas   I was over there the other day and they said the light on the detached garage wasn't working but it was probably just the bulb.  Apparently it's bee that way a while.  I had an electrician run wiring to the garage and install the light because they thought it was a safety issue and they were afraid someone would fall down in the dark.  To be fair, one of the individuals has mobility issues.  So, it was important I pay hundreds of dollars to install the light but not important enough to replace the bulb..... Things that make you go Hmmm......?

319‑213‑7458 | Podcast Guest on Show #110

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