What Causes a Light Bulb to Explode

real explosion of vintage electric bulb high speed photography

Have you ever seen or heard a light bulb blow up? It can be an unsettling experience. Not only from the loud bang and flash of light, but also from the debris of shattered glass. What just happened?

Here’s what can cause a light bulb explosion:

  • Faulty insulation
  • A power surge
  • A snapped filament
  • A sensitive bulb
  • A loose connection
  • Use of incorrect wattage
  • Oily hands


The most likely time to experience an exploding light bulb is probably the Christmas season. Every year, people who celebrate Christmas like to add some light to the darkest month of the year with the addition of bright Christmas lights. This can involve dozens, or even hundreds of light bulbs. We wrap them around trees. We string them across our homes and businesses. Whole towns join the festivity not only by decking the halls with boughs of holly, but also by adding thousands of light bulbs to public areas.


All this activity, combined with the somewhat precarious methods we may be using to stretch these strings of light around everywhere, increase the likelihood of light bulb explosions. If you have an elaborate light setup in mind this season, consider hiring a professional decorator or having an electrician check out your setup.

Here are a few general tips:

  • Check the wattage and voltage of the bulbs to make sure they’re appropriate for the fixture you’re using. A mismatch could result in insufficient power at best, and a dangerous accident at worst.
  • Clean your hands before handling light bulbs. The oil and dirt on our fingers can stick on the glass and trap heat, which can shorten the life of the bulb or lead to an explosion in extreme cases. It doesn’t hurt to use gloves, especially if you may be handling hot bulbs.
  • Take note of what kind of light bulbs you’re working with. New LED bulbs are durable and cool, reducing the risk of explosion. Halogen bulbs run hotter than most bulbs, making them more likely to blow up. They’re also more likely to burn your skin.
  • Pay attention to exposed wires, loose connections, or old light bulb sockets. These problems can require professional attention.
  • If you’re doing strenuous or precarious work installing string lights or light bulbs, it’s best to have the power off. If you’re working at night, you may need to arrange for an alternate light source so you can work carefully.


If you have any concerns about installing lights or light fixtures, or checking their safety, call the experts at Hoover Electric. Established in 1980, Hoover Electric, Plumbing, Heating, and Cooling has been serving customers in Southeast Michigan ever since, offering courteous, professional service. Because we offer all the services you need for residential maintenance under one roof, we’re able to offer extremely competitive pricing while maintaining great customer service and guaranteed satisfaction. When you’re looking for top-quality electrical, plumbing, heating, or cooling services in Clinton Township, contact Hoover through our website or call 586-232-9204 today.

What to read next