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Bulbs pose fire hazard

Last reviewed: August 2011
Spiral compact fluorescent lightbulb from Telstar Products
Some Telstar and Electra CFLs can overheat and cause a fire.

More than 300,000 compact fluorescent lightbulbs from Telstar Products have been recalled because they can overheat and possibly cause a fire, according to the company and federal authorities.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission says that Telstar, which is based in New York, has received two reports of fires. In one case, the fire was contained to the light fixture; in the other, the fire spread to the home.

The issue of CFLs overheating and smoking has been raised occasionally since they became common in households. For example, an Oregon consumer filed a report in the new CPSC complaint database about a CFL emitting heavy smoke as its base became very hot. It was one of five complaints about CFLs filed since the site began in March 2011.

One of the manufacturers responded, “At end of life, one or more of the electronic components inside the self-ballasted lamp no longer functions, which in very rare instances may result in an odor, smoke, or darkening of the plastic enclosure near the base of the bulb.”

In our labs, we’ve tested 77 models of compact fluorescent lightbulbs over the last five years, for a combined 2,680,000 hours of light. We’ve never seen a bulb create smoke or overheat enough at the end of its life to cause any noticeable physical damage to itself. But we’ve heard from readers about bulbs smoking and their plastic base or glass tube melting and discoloring.

When a CFL can no longer light, its electronics still try to turn on the bulb, which could eventually overheat and cause the smoke and discoloration. Since 2008, the Energy Star qualification program has required “end of life” circuitry that should eliminate that type of failure.

Telstar’s recall involves bulbs sold under the Telstar and Electra brand names. The bulbs were sold in two styles: spiral and the “3 U’s” shape. The Telstar bulbs were sold in 20 watts and 23 watts, with model LB-1020 and LB-1023 printed on the packaging. The Electra bulbs were sold in 18, 20, 23, 26, 28, 30, 34, 36, 38, and 40 watts, with model LB-18, LB-20, LB-23, LB-26, LB-28, LB-30, LB-1018, LB-1020, LB-1023, LB-1026, LB-1134, LB-1136, LB-1138, and LB-1140 printed on the packaging.

The bulbs were sold for $1 to $1.50 at discount stores in New York and New Jersey from August 2010 through March 2011. Consumers should immediately stop using the lightbulb and return it for a full refund. For more information, go to or call 888-828-1680.