Dim Glow in Incandescent Bulb When Touched

Discussion in 'Electrical Forum discussion & Blog' started by Alexsis Miller Veal, Sep 27, 2012.

  1. Alexsis Miller Veal

    Alexsis Miller Veal New Member

    Messages:
    5
    Location:
    CA
    Hi There,
    I'm completely new here and have no experience in electrical work. I have a front porch light where the bulb burnt out. I went to replace it with the light switch turned on and nothing initially happened until I touched the bulb. It had a faint glow in the filament. What's going on? I'm scared that I did something very dangerous and certainly won't be touching it again. Thanks. -- Alexsis
  2. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa DIYer, not in the trades

    Messages:
    4,050
    Location:
    NW Ontario, Canada
    There is a small current leaking to earth through your body.
  3. Alexsis Miller Veal

    Alexsis Miller Veal New Member

    Messages:
    5
    Location:
    CA
    Fabulous... Scary stuff. Thanks for letting me know. I appreciate the response.
  4. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

    Messages:
    8,997
    Location:
    San Diego
    I am guessing you have an open neutral on the bulb circuit
  5. Alexsis Miller Veal

    Alexsis Miller Veal New Member

    Messages:
    5
    Location:
    CA
    What does that mean in newbie terms? Sorry, forgive me and I appreciate your patience.
  6. ActionDave

    ActionDave Electrician

    Messages:
    351
    Location:
    Colorado
    Really. How is the current getting through the bulb, through him, through his footwear, and to the earth in enough quantity to make a filament glow?
  7. ActionDave

    ActionDave Electrician

    Messages:
    351
    Location:
    Colorado
    There is a method of wiring circuits that if there is a problem, can cause dimming of light bulbs. I don't think we need to go there yet.

    How old and what is the condition of the light fixture? What you are describing could be a poor connection between the light bulb and the socket.
  8. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,126
    Location:
    New England
    There might be a loose or corroded connection and when you screwed the bulb in, you applied a little force, moved things, enough to make the partial connection. If there is corrosion, it can act like a resistor - effectively like putting a bunch of light bulbs together in series (most stuff in a house is wired in parallel so that power doesn't have to go through one thing before it gets to another, which is series - think putting two batteries in a flashlight - they are in series - if one is bad, the bulb may still light, but it won't get as much voltage and be dim).

    A porch light will see lots more moisture and corrosion than a fixture installed in the house. There could be rust, too.
  9. Cookie

    Cookie .

    Messages:
    5,658
    Location:
    .
    Try another bulb.
  10. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

    Messages:
    8,997
    Location:
    San Diego
    My thought was that in the absence of a neutral connection, capacitance thru his body MIGHT allow enough current. We don't know how he touched the bulb, was the glass damp, dirty, etc,
  11. jwelectric

    jwelectric Electrical Contractor/Instructor

    Messages:
    2,540
    Location:
    North Carolina
    Current does not leak to earth so this is not it
  12. jwelectric

    jwelectric Electrical Contractor/Instructor

    Messages:
    2,540
    Location:
    North Carolina
    If there was no neutral then no path and nothing would happen. If there was enough capacitance between the body and the bulb to cause it to glow then they are dead
  13. jwelectric

    jwelectric Electrical Contractor/Instructor

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    2,540
    Location:
    North Carolina
    We have a winner
  14. BobL43

    BobL43 DIY Senior Member

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    1,793
    Location:
    Long Island, NY
    Alexis, I know you said it is an incandescant bulb, and that is has a filament, but are you SURE it is incandescent and NOT a Compact Flourescent bulb? I personally know several people who call CFL's incandescant. And the other answers of a Neutral connection being bad "might" make more sense if your bulb is a CFL. Maybe:D

    By the way, what is the wattage of this bulb?
  15. BobL43

    BobL43 DIY Senior Member

    Messages:
    1,793
    Location:
    Long Island, NY
    And if that does not work try another. Rinse, lather, repeat. when to stop? could not resist. Sorry Cookie!
  16. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,126
    Location:
    New England
    You're all missing the point that the switch was ON when he replaced the bulb, neither the original, nor the new bulb worked, but when touching the bulb, it glowed slightly...the power was already there, but the connection was/is lousy...my opinion is that there's a bad connection, either a rusted socket, or corrosion on the contacts...this is an outside lamp where humidity and maybe rain will affect it.
  17. jwelectric

    jwelectric Electrical Contractor/Instructor

    Messages:
    2,540
    Location:
    North Carolina
    You tell them boss man, I agree
  18. ActionDave

    ActionDave Electrician

    Messages:
    351
    Location:
    Colorado
    Uhmmm,. . errr,. . . I kinda said that.
    And, ummmm,. / well I mean uhhhh,. . shucks ya know, I don't want to make big deal or anything. Normally I would not call attention to myself. It's just that JW said I was the winner and I don't want to miss out on my prize.
  19. big2bird

    big2bird IBEW Electrician

    Messages:
    141
    Location:
    Anaheim, Ca.
    Interesting question. Why do you ask?
  20. Alexsis Miller Veal

    Alexsis Miller Veal New Member

    Messages:
    5
    Location:
    CA
    The fixture is 8 years old and a porch lamp, outside. Brass finish and has seen some serious wear.
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