Fluorescent Lights: All you need to know

Fluorescent lamps are low pressure mercury electric discharge lamp which consists of a glass tube filled with a mixture of argon gas and mercury vapour. When the current flows through the ionized gas, between the electrodes, it emits ultraviolet radiation from the mercury arc which is converted to visible light by phosphor coating on the inside glass of the tube. To operate, the fluorescent lamp needs a ballast to limit the current and to provide the necessary starting voltages. Each fluorescent lamp requires a ballast designed for its electrical characteristics. Confused? Well don't be. This guide will help sort you out. 

Common Problems and How to Fix Them: 

A Bad Ballast
  • When you replace a ballast make sure it is intended for the exact lamps that are being used.
  • If the old fixture had a magnetic ballast then you may consider upgrading the fixture to a solid state ballast.
  • Most of the time the sockets will not need to be changing, but remember, you will need to make sure that the lamps to the ballast.
  • Solid state ballasts are more energy efficient. They produce less heat and are less sensitive to cool temperature starting problems.

Bad Lamps

  • Dark circles at the end of the lamps. This will indicate that the lamp is on its way out.
  • You can expect to change the lamp every two years but this will depend on the amount of use.
  • If you notice that the lamp is staring to give problems or has a dark ring you need to replace them. Allowing  the lamps to burn out in the sockets can burn out the ballast.
  • When you replace a ballast you need to replace the lamps as well.
  • Purchasing a lamps is less expensive that a ballast, so don’t ignore the problem.

Pins not making contact
  • The lamp won't work correctly is the pins are not making contact or not in the socket correctly. To fix this remove the lamp and reinstall it. You need to make sure you line up the pins with the lamp socket and then giving the lamp a twist to seat the pins into place.
  • Some sockets are made to push the lamp pins directly into place with a little snap-in pressure.
  • Always check  the lamp sockets to see which type your fixture has. Remember to  never force a lamp you may break the pins or ballast.

No Ground Wire
  • All fluorescent lights require a ground wire from the electrical circuit. This is  attached to the metal frame of the light fixture.
  • You need to make sure the ground wire has been attached. If the wire is not attached the fluorescent lamps may not light up all the way which will cause the lamps to burn out prematurely.

Cold Temperatures

  • Older magnetic types of ballasts are slower to start in colder temperatures and after they do start the lamps flicker until they warm up.
  • Upgrading the light fixture to an electronic ballast and new matching lamps usually takes care of this problem.
Some Types of Lamps

Fluorescent Tube and Circline Lamps

Tubes and circline bulbs are often used for industrial applications. The light emanating from these bulbs can be distinctive, making them less popular for residential use.

Compact Fluorescent and Screw-Socket Bulbs

These bulbs are the ones most commonly used for residential applications. The light from these bulbs is often engineered to mimic the light of an incandescent bulb.    

Deciding which lamp to get? 

Deciding on which type of fluorescent light bulb you should use will be dictated primarily by the area in which you will be using it. They all have their own specialized uses, and these special characteristics should be carefully weighed before making your purchase. Remember whenever in doubt about repairing an electrical fixture such as a lamp, get a professional to help.

Having lighting problems, need an electrician?

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