Tech blogger has trouble with LED bulb cover

Blogger and Instapaper creator Marco Arment installed several Cree LED 60W-replacement bulbs in his home. After 3 months of running about an hour a day, he “found it [the bulb’s glass cover] dangling there one morning, about to fall and shatter.” (Actually, the bulb wouldn’t shatter – its silicone coating is there specifically to prevent that. But still.)

Marco is happy with his Cree bulbs overall, but suggests you keep an eye on them. Cree 60W and incandescent

Here’s what scares me: His last sentence is: “I was able to leave the glass off and swap this bulb with an intact one from an enclosed fixture.”

This is a horrible idea, and if the same thing should happen to your bulb, please don’t do it. The electronics in the Cree bulb are non-isolated: The cover serves to keep consumers away from the 120V ac line voltage. If you touch the electronics portion of the bulb with the cover off and the power on you risk electrocution.

The Cree bulb packaging specifically says don’t run it with the cover off. Yes, Marco says he has it in an enclosed fixture but that’s not good enough. If you want to get more into the technical issues of non-isolated vs. isolated bulbs, here’s a place to start. And here’s a tear-down of what’s inside the Cree bulb.

OK, we’ve covered the safety issue here. Next up: What about Cree bulb’s quality? I got in touch with Mike Watson, Cree VP of corporate marketing and asked him. His responses boiled down to this:

1. Home Depot has sold more Cree LED bulbs than all other LED bulbs combined, so anecdotally, Cree failures may seem to be more noticeable.

2. The failure rates for the Cree bulb are less than half the rate of any other light within its category (that is, 60 and 40W equivalent incandescents, other LED bulbs, and CFLs, etc) sold by Home Depot. 

3. If any buyer experiences a problem with their Cree bulb, they should take it back to Home Depot for a replacement, no questions asked. If they prefer they can send it back to Cree. 

4. You should never, ever operate a Cree bulb with its glass bulb cover off.

As an aside, I’ve purchased 8 Cree bulbs and had no quality issues.

Comments

  1. Cree steps up the voltage to over 200 volts. I had 3 globes come off myself. I smell a recall coming.

  2. I’ve had the same problem.. In a bathroom fixture the bulb was pointing down.. came home one day to find the glass on the floor. I reported the defect to cree directly, and i think its clear they do have an issue with the way those glass globes are glued on. I now run the bulb without the globe and since it is up very high, i’m not to worried about someone grabbing it. (although with water in an over the sink application that may not be a good idea) On the BR30s, i noticed in another online review and with my own that the glass is somewhat ‘crooked’ in the base. I don’t like the answer the cree guy gave – ‘the defects are less than other LED bulbs’.. if there’s a problem it should be addressed. Hopefully, with automation, these kinds of issues can be cleaned up. I also noted several LEDS bulbs were broken in the store. I’m sure the return rate is not ideal. the glass is very fragile – its seems more so than a filament light bulb. not sure why. Aside from the above, i really like the design and think the product is great. Its really hard for me to believe a product like this can last 10 years- wondering about power surges and lightning strikes. Well, i guess cree tested well to feel comfortable with that warrantee.

  3. I was attempting to remove the bulb and the glass diffuser came off. This is not a trivial
    issue. It has high voltage and I had my bulb in my table lamp.

    Cree should address this issue asap…

  4. Per a post on candlepowerforums, Cree modified the bulbs from the original BA19-08027OMF-12DE26-1U100 to the BA19-08027OMF-12DE26-2U100 [note the 2], identifiable by the longer/curved heatsink and packaging with the raised rib/ring in the clear part. Hard to tell if this actually addresses that problem but now that I’ve gotten around to it it looks like the problem bulb in the link was the original model pre-revision.

    For what it’s worth, I spent a neurotic 15 minutes at Home Depot trying to pick 2U100s with the best looking “glue” at the base of the glass only to find out that the “glue” ridge where the globe meets the base is simply the end of the silicone coating dip and has nothing to do with holding the globe in place.

    [FWIW, I’m finding the Cree bulbs great in table lamps and enclosed fixtures, but even though I _like_ warm light, something feels a little “yellow” about them for task lighting even compared to decade-old $1-subsidy warm CFLs. I think it could be that they give a lot of relatively smooth incandescent-equivalent ‘full-spectrum’ power that then cuts off somewhere at or above where the lone red spike would be in a CFL phosphor, but I’m just guessing. It shows up as a loss of contrast in a streaked rose granite countertop that’s beige, rust, and garnet in daylight but comes off yellow with all the garnet black-brown under a warm Cree. I suppose this is more jarring when most other materials probably look _right_ compared to CFL illumination, but the low-cost 830 lumen Philips looks slightly better in that room.]

  5. I just had the same issue with the globe falling off my 60w Cree LED. The silicone coating helped keep most of the shattered glass inside, but still had shards on the floor to clean up.

    Mine have been up-side down in a bathroom fixture for a few months now and get maybe 30 minutes a day of use.

  6. Happened with one of mine too–the globe came unglued when I was swapping it out for a Cree TW. FWIW, it was of the earlier type (BA19-08027OMF-12DE26-1U_00) and in an enclosed fixture that frequently stays on for several hours at a time. Perhaps the heat build-up from being confined contributed to it coming undone, like your 200F oven bake tear-down procedure.

    Anecdotally, it also seemed to be dimmer than the TW bulb of equal lumen rating, making me think Cree may have been a little too quick to omit the usual LED bulb warnings against operation in enclosed fixtures. Which would be unfortunate, because that’s mostly where I’ve been using them. I hate the idea of dust building up on the tacky silicone coating and being impossible to wash off. They may last 10 years, but there’s no way they won’t need a few dustings in that time if left exposed.

  7. Laszlo, I think that Cree has changed the glue formulation on its bulbs, and your mishap may be because it’s an older one. The bulbs I’ve taken apart recently have been a real bear to get the cover off.
    About the apparently brighter TW bulb: I’ve also noticed that the TW seem brighter. I think it’s a by-product of the higher CRI – our eyes perceive the light as being brighter because of the higher red content.
    Did you make a claim on the Cree warranty?

  8. Tony Bartelm says:

    I recently lost a globe as well. The bulb was installed on a fixture that hangs from the ceiling. Gravity vs. Glue? Gravity won. I’ve contacted Cree directly, but this seems to be a major flaw, which given the advertised life span of the bulb, could make these ripe for recalls.

  9. I have 3 cree A19 bulbs above my bathroom vanity and 2 of the 3 have had the globes fall off and shatter. 66% failure rate in this household! One of them took 2 months to fail, the other 6 months. Pretty terrible for a bulb that is advertised to last 20 years.

    Hopefully home depot will let me exchange it for a new one… but I’m still not optimistic that the current design for these bulbs will last ANYONE 20 years. I have very little faith that the glue holding these things together will last.

    The bulbs need to be redesigned with something that clamps around a globe with a protruding edge.

  10. I had one of the globes drop off a 60w A19 bulb and hit my son on the head. Fortunately this was from a goose neck bedside reading lamp so the globe only fell about about a foot before bouncing off his head. No injuries and no broken glass.

    I took the bulb back to Home Depot and they gave me a brand new one without any hassle. (I think the bulb was about 6 months old)

    Because the warranty is so long on these bulbs, I always write the date I install the bulb on the base with a Sharpie as well as scan my receipts to a PDF for future retrieval. As expensive as these bulbs are, I’m holding them to the full 10 years.

  11. Dash, you are an exception. CREE and other cheap bulb mfgrs are counting on you NOT making a claim
    as your time and money would cost you more than what you paid for the bulb. The expected life is a calculated number based on perfect conditions- no one really knows how long it will last in real life.
    You’re lucky your son didn’t touch the glowing LEDs as there is 220 volts present. I’m surprised Home Depot would do a warranty exchange for you as the CREE warranty says to mail it to them.