Monday, December 07, 2009

Fire Bulbs

Last night as I was working at my desk my olfactory senses detected an alarming smell. It was the smell of electrical smouldering.

This is not something to be ignored. I began sniffing throughout the house and looking for any signs of smoke.

I spent an hour or more searching. I checked every electrical outlet, looking for browning discoloration and touching each one to feel for heat. I brought the stepladder in so as to enter the attic. I checked every ceiling fan and light. I checked the extension cords and the Bunn coffee maker. I checked the stove and microwave and the refrigerators. I checked the breaker box, the power line entrance and the meter.

Finally, I commended the matter to the Lord and went to bed, trusting with the men of old who faced the fiery furnace that the Lord would keep us safe from fire, or that He would take us home.

This morning I noticed that one of our wonderful “green” fluorescent bulbs made in China had burned out. This term is not usually used literally, but in this case, as the photos below show, it was quite literal.

Notice the browned areas in the base of the bulb. An olfactory test verified that the burning smell originated with this bulb.

I have encountered this experience in our house before, but never found the culprit. The smell went away and I never identified the cause.

While it is a relief to know that our electrical circuits have all been checked and found to be in safe working order, it is nevertheless disconcerting to know that these bulbs manifest such a dangerous malfunction.

Thankfully, the locations of all of the bulbs that we use are in fixtures that are extremely unlikely to catch fire. Yet this is still a dangerous malfunction. Moreover, what toxins are emitted into the household air when this happens? The house still reeks with the odor. My fingers still reek with the smokey odor that my fingers absorbed while removing the “burned” out bulb. This time of year, with the windows all closed tightly, such toxins do not depart quickly from the house, which means that we will be breathing them for some time to come.

With the season’s advent of Christmas lights both indoors and outdoors in many homes, this is a good time for every head of house to check the electrical circuits and outlets throughout the house. The extra load placed on the circuitry and wiring by the additional lights makes this a very important and necessary activity. After the lines overheat and cause damage is not the best time to perform this safety procedure. But this often is the pattern in family life. Perhaps my experience will serve to motivate a few readers to take the safety precautions. Checking of smoke alarms/detectors is also a worthy precaution.

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