Problems with Halogen light bulbs and how to avoid them

spotlight bulb burnedI was racing against a deadline to get my video finished. All went well until I discovered that something was wrong with my audio, so I had to redo the whole thing. Ok, these things happen, even among the best of us, so I started all over again and when I was half way… BAM!!!
There goes the 800Watt halogen light bulb of my main spotlight and I have no reserve! The light bulb could have been faulty, but more likely, I left it burn too long in one go. Normally, I turn spotlights off as soon as I can, alas in this case I got a bit impatient. As a result, the main spotlight bulb turned suddenly cherry red before fading into lead gray with a puff of smoke. After that, I stood there in the dimmed light, hearing the pinging noises of a spotlight cooling off. A whole day wasted. It was one of those moments for a stiff drink.

Since halogen light bulbs for barn door spotlights are rather special, you need to order them. Not many shop owners have a bulb in reserve that is rarely in demand, therefore it is highly unlikely you can grab them from a shelf. The only thing you can do is order them and hope they will arrive soon.

I confess, my barn door spotlight came from China, it is certainly not top notch and it doesn’t have a ventilator to cool the light bulb. Ventilators obviously prolong the lifespan of a bulb, but that doesn’t mean they don’t give in. Especially halogen light bulbs of 800Watts and above are quite vulnerable, unless you buy a top professional spotlight. And even then you will need a reserve.

Fluorescent light bulbs don’t get hot, which is actually the main reason they have a long lifespan, but I like to have one really strong halogen light source with barn doors to flood the setting and then use filling lights (fluorescent) to dim the harsh shadows. It is not a requirement, it is just personal taste. I know people who do it all with softboxes and fluorescent lights, but I do not like that atmosphere. I want to get some shadow in faces because to me that makes interesting video. With softboxes alone, you get a rather sterile effect. Nothing wrong with clean video, but I like to paint a bit with light.

To recap, the lesson here is that whenever you buy a halogen spotlight, order enough reserve bulbs to last for at least 3 months. I cannot tell you how many exactly, because it depends how often you film, but you might get a discount if you order 5 bulbs or more and then you can feel safe for a long time.

Precautions to save a halogen light bulb from early retirement

  • As a general rule, turn off your spotlight at least every half hour, and in high Summer, every 15 minutes (if possible). Let it cool down until the spot light casing feels lukewarm.
  • Never turn on a spot light when the temperature in the room is below 55.4F°/13C°, or it probably will go up in smoke as soon as you hit the light switch. I have experienced this several times in the past. However, cheap working lights of 500Watts are more resilient. They can also burn for hours on end.
  • Never touch a halogen bulb with your fingers, it leaves a residue that weakens the glass of the bulb. Your bulb probably burns out within the hour when that happens.

Safety precautions for halogen spot- and working lights

  • Always wear working hand gloves when touching spot- and working lights. They becomes very hot within 3 minutes.
  • Keep spot- and working lights at least 3 feet away from material that easily burns, like textiles, plastics and paper.
  • Make sure cables do not touch any part of the spotlight casing. Check this every time before you turn the lights on. This is really important!

Halogen based light sources always get blazing hot. There is a video on YouTube where a guy scrambles an egg on a working light. Pretty cool, although I prefer to prepare my food in the kitchen, but it demonstrates clearly that you can burn your fingers and anything else that is too close by.

1 thought on “Problems with Halogen light bulbs and how to avoid them”

  1. Halogen lights are still popular despite they are inefficient and draws lots of electricity. Because they are cheap. However, LED lights are taking over now and I think that’s the better choice considering all aspects.


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