Addressing Lamp Failures Using Thermography

| Peter Cook

Lamp Failures

Since the dawn of time, humans have come to count on one thing: light. So, lighting and lamp failures can be more than just minor annoyances. These failures can impact productivity, morale, and – most critically – safety. And nowhere is human safety more important than at a hospital. The following highlights a recent case study showing how we helped identify and address the lighting issue for a customer in Rochester, NY.

A Dark Situation

Part of a local healthcare system, the hospital campus was founded in 1857 and is one of the area’s most established hospitals. In November of 2017, Horizon Solutions updated the campus with new fixtures and retrofits, utilizing new LED linear lamps and new fluorescent ballasts. Plastic tubes were favored to mitigate the risk of shattered glass in a hospital environment. This project involved over 1,700 lamps.

In August 2018, this healthcare customer began experiencing lighting issues at three facilities. They contacted us to discuss the problem.

As we had gained familiarity with the campus through the lighting project the previous year, we decided to start by focusing on that facility. The hospital staff reported two lamps that were emitting heat and occasionally smoking. Upon inspection, we realized the lamps had failed to the extent that the plastic tubes were melting. These issues were particularly concerning because our team knew the lamps to be high-quality and within warranty.

Linear LED Lamp Examples:

  • 2ft x 4ft recessed troffer w. 2 LED lamps w. 1 (2) lamp fl. ballast
  • 2ft x 4ft recessed troffer w. 3 LED lamps w. 2 (2) lamp fl. ballasts w. I/O switching
  • 4ft strip w. 1 LED lamp w. 1 (2) lamp fl. ballast
  • 1ft x 4ft recessed troffer w. 1 LED lamp w. 1 (2) lamp fl. ballast

Lamp Failures in Fluorescent Lights

This project involved linear style tube lamps, very similar to those pictured.

Shedding Light on the Subject

To determine what was causing failures in otherwise good lamps, the Horizon Solutions team developed a plan to run on-site tests, test failing lamps against working lamps, and to work closely with the manufacturer to understand operating parameters. The testing utilized thermography, a branch of infrared imaging science, also known as thermal imaging.

Our Specialists used tools from FLIR® to take thermal images of equipment and components for further analysis. These tools include thermal cameras with various settings that allow us to dial in on things like fuses, terminations, and/or other elements of a control panel. For this project, the team used FLIR® tools to capture the temperature of lamps and associated parts of the lighting system to investigate and pinpoint issues.

Test #1: On-Site Fixtures

Thermography to Address Lamp FailuresA Horizon Solutions Specialist came on site to examine multiple fixtures throughout selected areas, focusing on the areas with identified issues. The Specialist examined each fixture electrically and reviewed the quality of materials used within the installation. The temperatures of the ballasts were recorded as well as the temperature of the lamps. Using thermographic tools, we determined that the operating temperature of the lamps varied from 98 degrees Fahrenheit to 114 degrees, which is well within normal temperature ranges. The hospital staff reported the ambient temperature to be 72 degrees. 

Test #2: New Lamps with Ballasts Control

Root-Cause Analysis for Lamp Failures Using ThermographyThis test was done off site in a controlled environment. First, we took a picture after the lamp had been on for 24 hours. Then, we took another picture after 72 hours. Our team took this data back to the lamp manufacturer to compare and verify. Most quality lamp manufacturers test their lamps thoroughly and can provide details as to how those lamps were tested in their laboratory and the known failure rate.

Illuminating the Issue

The Horizon Solutions team’s root cause analysis determined that the lamps that had failed were defective, causing the plastic casing to smoke. The analysis and subsequent report were invaluable to our healthcare client. It helped them address the issues, ensuring they had safe, reliable lighting throughout their facilities.

Our report included:

  • Ambient room temperature
  • Lamp temperature
  • Ballast temperature
  • Lamp socket condition

Additionally, we provided qualitative data and pictures. You can see an example of our data below.

Lamp Failures Data Report

Lightbulb Moment

A relatively new and unique way to find hot spots in your system, thermography can help with root cause analysis of lamps and lighting. You can learn more about professional-grade thermography tools here.

Not quite ready to purchase a tool for your facility or department yet? Horizon Solutions has Thermography Specialists on staff who can help. Depending on your needs, we may be able to offer a complimentary baseline evaluation or professional thermographic services for a fee. Contact us today.