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A few months ago I was up in the attic using a trouble light to find my way around. I dropped the light, broke the bulb filament, and was left in the dark to feel my way back to the hatch. Next time I went up I brought a flashlight with me so when I dropped the trouble light for the second time I could actually see. After that experience, I asked for an LED trouble light for Christmas.

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Of course, if I wasn’t such an idiot I would have been using a rough service bulb instead of a normal household bulb in the trouble light. A rough service light bulb has a shock-resistant filament so it doesn’t break when you drop it, and usually some sort of coating to contain the glass if it breaks.  Several manufacturers including Sylvania, GE, Feit, Philips, and Westinghouse make rough service bulbs that fit a medium screw base — think normal light socket — in a variety of wattages.

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You can find the bulbs for as little as 75 cents a piece, but you’re probably better off buying a multi-pack, because sometimes even rough service bulbs break.

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21 Responses to Rough Service Light Bulbs

  1. Dave P says:

    That would be “Edison Socket.” As opposed to mogul and candelabra, to name a few others.

  2. FredB says:

    I’ve been crawling around the attic, too. I’m putting in insulation in preparation for the coming ice age.

    I decided against using the standard trouble light and instead bought a brooder lamp. This has a twelve inch aluminum reflector and a spring clamp. It lights up a good sized working area with a 200 watt bulb.

    Oh, yeah. I also had my 9 LED short flashlight in my pocket from the get go.

  3. David Bryan says:

    Dave, mogul and candelabra are other sizes of Edison sockets, CES or E12 and GES or E39 respectively. A medium Edison socket (MES) is sized E26 (in the U.S.) for its 26 mm diameter.

  4. Erik says:

    Where do you find these for $0.75/per????

  5. Chris S. says:

    I prefer the two bulb 26w fluorescent work lights. They come in a plastic/rubber case and can take a pretty good beating and put off a ton of light.

    The current crop of LED rechargeable work lights just dont seem to be there yet. They are fairly bright but only have a narrow throw instead of a bright flood like a regular work light.

  6. Bill says:

    HF lists four items under rough service:

  7. jason says:

    I just just regular CFL bulbs in my trouble lights. Things are damn near indestructible!

  8. LennyNero says:

    I agree 75% with jason… I use regular spiral CFL bulbs in my lights, except during winter, they just take way too long to warm up in a chilly shop and the added expense of a “cold weather start” CFL just isnt worth it.

  9. Cameron Watt says:

    Those compact fluorescent bulbs are good in the trouble lights, but I often use the lights for small heating jobs, like preventing gas regulators from freezing up; they’re no good for that.

    You guys are right that they’re quite durable, though. When it comes to the incandescent lighs, it seems to me that it doesn’t matter what’s in the lamp…normal or rough service..if I drop it, it breaks.

  10. Tetsubo says:

    The real lesson here is to *always* carry a flashlight. Preferably a LED flashlight. Which I do…

  11. Phil says:

    I have found the the newest G.E. “Energy Smart” CFL bulbs are the best replacements for traditional rough service incandescent lamps in typical handheld drop lights like this. They have the exact same shape as an A21 incandescent, the spiral tube is encased in a plastic globe which not only protects it, it keeps it insulated against extreme cold, allowing it to warm up faster and more thoroughly in subfreezing temps. Most of all, you don’t have the searing heat that tattoos the lamp housing on your skin if you touch it with your arm while digging deep under the hood. An example can be found here:
    https://www.conservationmart.com/p-822-20w-energy-smart-ge-a21-74438-cfl.aspx

  12. Coach James says:

    What will people do for heat once incadescent bulbs begin being phased out starting in 2012?

  13. Chris says:

    Coach James: CFLs still put out heat, just not as much as incandescents. I’d wager that in most situations where an incandescent is used primarily for heat, not light, a CFL will still do the job. I happened to be at Menard’s yesterday and the 65-watt CFL they had as a 300-watt (?) replacement was too hot to touch, both at the base and at the top of the tubes. It puts out a heckuva lot of light, but it also gets pretty darn warm.

    cl

  14. Dr Bob says:

    I’ve never been impressed with so-called rough service bulbs. Yes, they are more durable than normal incandescent bulbs, but they aren’t durable enough for my ham-fisted use. My garage trouble light has a rough service bulb (the CFLs don’t work well in the cold winter months), but my inside one uses a CFL.

    Like FredB, I also have one of those brooder lamps with the reflector and it works very well.

  15. Cameron Watt says:

    @Coach James: I recall seing a news story, a while ago, that talked about people in the EU hoarding incandescent bulbs before they were phased out.

  16. David Bryan says:

    They used to make really durable, long-lasting incandescent light bulbs in Eastern Europe; they didn’t know they weren’t supposed to last a long time. The 130 volt bulbs from Poland made my life a lot easier when I had 3 chandeliers with 15 bulbs each that I had to stand on the very top of the tallest ladder we had to change. There’s a nice summary of rough service and safety coated light bulbs at servicelighting.com:
    http://www.servicelighting.com/library/rough_service_light_bulbs_from_service_lighting.cfm
    and
    http://www.servicelighting.com/library/safety_coated_light_bulbs_from_service_lighting.cfm

  17. Stanley L says:

    My favourite use for rough service bulbs: using them in a dimmer circuit to eliminate the buzzing/humming.

  18. Jim says:

    My local Menard’s carries a USA-made 20,000 hour incandescent bulb: the Aero-tech. http://www.aerolights.com/longlasting.asp . They’ve got 5 support wires for the filament, are filled with Krypton gas, have a brass medium edison base, and are just damn solid looking. And they didn’t cost much more than the Philips and other brands.

  19. Jack says:

    Stanley L
    Try using a dimmer that cost more than ten bucks

  20. Josh says:

    I don’t know if I’d be promoting these lights. If you are looking for good lights that don’t really break easily why don’t you just use CFL’s. They are obviously more than $.75 but still they last longer and are much more efficient. You can get them online for only like $2.50 and you’ll be set for about 10 years… Try it and you’ll be surprised. CFL has no filament to break either… just saying!

  21. Nikki says:

    I get migraine headaches sometimes and any kind of fluorescent lighting just doesn’t agree with me. It strains my eyes the way the old CRT monitors did. I’m doing a little bit of stocking up on incandescent bulbs, but I’m sure LED’s will work for me also, when the time comes.

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