Flourescent lights go out and come back on.

A bank of flourescent lighting in the kitchen went out a few day ago, but this morning when i turned on the light switch, they came back on. Would these bulbs be bad or could it be a starter or ballast causing this? There are four lights separated in one fixture, two lights to each holder. The other lights are okay. Thanks.
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snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com wrote:

How many ballasts are there? Are there any starters?
What length and diameter are the bulbs? Sometimes this gives an easy clue that can largely rule out presence of starters. Sometimes this indicates that you are less likely to have only one ballast.
When the fixture works, in what manner do the bulbs start? Truly instantly? Instantly, although with a slight "bump" in brightness during the first second operation? Delay of up to 1 second and then WHAM they are on? Dim and maybe slightly flickery during the first second or so? Blinking randomly for a second or two? This can most of the way confirm or deny the existence of starters and may largely disprove all 4 bulbs running on only one ballast. That can save work opening up the fixture to count ballasts.
If there is more than one ballast, it is extremely unlikely that they all conked out simultaneously and then recovered. A much more likely explanation is a bad connection somewhere. If a switch controls the offending fixture and other fixtures simultaneously, then the problem is possibly anywhere from the switch to the fixture, but with usual switches and more common wiring methods the problem will not be the switch and will usually be in or near the fixture.
Possible alternative explanations:
1. The fixture is not properly grounded. Fluorescent fixtures require proper grounding and the bulbs to be within 1/2 inch of grounded metal screen or grounded sheet metal for reliable starting. This affects the voltage gradient within a bulb that is attempting to start. Keep in mind that fixtures not properly grounded have been known to start, but the reliability of starting is lower.
1a. Hot-neutral reverse can have a similar effect.
2. The bulbs have a film of dust that is hygroscopic and slightly conductive when the humidity is higher. That can also screw up the voltage gradient within bulbs that are trying to start. This happens more in coastal areas. The fix is to wipe the bulbs clean.
3. If the bulbs normally blink randomly during starting, then you have "glow switch" (usual kind) starters. Sometimes those have trouble starting in complete darkness and are assisted by the photoelectric effect. If your fixture has starters and it fails to start and start failure is in darkness, try shining a flashlight at the fixture to see if that kicks the fixture into starting. If this turns out to be the case, replace the starters with ones of a different brand but same basic type (usually FS-2 or FS-4). Other partial fixes that *may* work somewhat in this situation are:
a) Have some glow-in-the-dark material in the fixture. (No, I have not actually tried this.)
b) Have a mass of a potassium compound as close to the starters or at least one of them as possible. If you can find that reduced sodium table salt that is half potassium chloride, that may work. Potassium is slightly radioactive. It may take a while for a radiation particle to both hit a starter and kick a starter into functioning. (No, I have not actually tried this.)
4. If you have only one ballast, it may be the ballast - but my impression is that most ballasts that run 4 bulbs are electronic ones, and most of those work as they did before until the second they die and after that they are usually permanently as dead as a doorknob. Of course, some 4-bulb electronic ballasts have marginal design, but the usual main problem with marginal design is not all bulbs starting (when the ballast runs many bulbs) or the bulbs are dim or the bulbs have short life or the ballast dies (permanently) too easily.
======================================= Some fixtures do not work in extreme heat, but the usual symptom is that they turn on and off every several minutes. Those fixtures have "Class P" thermally protected ballasts. If you have one doing that thermal cycling thing, that needs to be fixed. My concern is that the thermal protection device might wear out and then the ballast could catch fire. The ballast may have a minor short and need to be replaced. Some cheap fixtures, especially many "shop lights", have cheap garbage ballasts that require the region of the fixture having the ballast to have air around it rather than being mounted flush against a ceiling or beam. That is the reason for some of those shop light fixtures to have chains to suspend them with.
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