Monday, January 30, 2012

Sylvania Failure

A few years ago, when the former state of my residence South Carolina began to push legislation to "fight Obama" and federal regulations that promoted compact fluorescent light bulb sales were in the news, I purchased a pack of CFLs at my local hardware store.  I had several light bulbs failing around the Arizona home we'd recently moved into, and the CFLs were touted as being so awesome, I bought an 8 pack of them from my local hardware store, and went around installing them in the lights of ceiling fans, outdoors for the garage and entry way, and various lamps around the house as the incandescent bulbs burnt out.

Selling points like "Tremendous Energy Savings!" and "10X the life!" made paying the more expensive CFLs price less odious.  Sadly, Sylvania chose to manufacture their 13W CFLs in China, probably to 'save manufacturing costs', but what they really did was aggravate this vocal consumer who has also been to China, has experience with getting Chinese mass manufacturing to produce repeatable, reliable, consistent quality, and who has a blog that gets 1000s of hits on selected topics.  So what they might have saved in manufacturing costs, they've lost in reputation and in bad publicity in selling sub-standard products that have demonstrated poor quality by failing to perform to even significantly lowered expectations. 

10X the life? No, the bed room ceiling fan's light runs less than 500 hours a year.  The light above shows that the CFL burnt out.  The 'sister' CFL lamp on the other side ceiling fan is still burning brightly, but it no longer shares the fixture with another Sylvania CFL.  No, there's a 65W GE Soft White incandescent bulb lighting my bed room.

When you examine the failed bulb closely, you can see the darkened tube where it enters the base just above the word "caution" which indicates that the ballast failed, and produced a pulse of voltage that through the bulb that the cheaply assemble Chinese circuit could not handle.  This arced, and failed - gratefully without leading to an electrical fire - at a -4 or -5 sigma below the predicted B1 life.  Dissatisfied?  No, I sort of expected it.  I am disappointed though that the "promising technology" or CFLs have performed SO POORLY in my experiences.  One of the bulbs I've installed outside has a pathetic pink glow as it struggles to put out less than a 1/10th the lumens it is supposed it - from the same "value pack".  It should have been called "value less".


  1. CFLs drive me batty. Same experience as yours. Lots of failures. I really just want my incandescents back.

  2. Edison had a very simple idea, and it obviously caught on. Took him a while to figure out the tungsten filament, sure, but the basic premise lasted more than a 100 years. CFLs are inherently more complex. Yes, they're SUPPOSED to be more efficient, but they're also full of mercury & much harder to manufacture. They're SUPPOSED to be longer lasting, but with 1/4 of them fail out-of-the-box, how am I saving anything?


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