My dad has a fluorescent light fixture in his garage with tubes that
barely glow. I went to the Borg and bought a pair of replacement tubes
but no improvement. I do not smell anything near the fixture so my
thinking is the ballast is probably still good. That leaves the starter.
For whatever reason, I couldn't figure out how to release the cover
panels (it's an 8' fixture) so I couldn't get in to look any closer.
Would you agree it's probably the starter gone bad? We can get somebody
else to swap it but I just wonder if I'm in for a little or a lot.
Mortimer Schnerd, RN
mschnerd at carolina.rr.com
*Smell is not always a positive test for a bad ballast. You should not have
to remove the cover to replace a starter. If you cannot see a screw or
wingnut to remove the covers they are probably removed by squeezing the pan
I would say a basic service call and the cost of a ballast is what you are
Our HD has had 8' twin tube cold weather light fixtures for $60 or so,
less lamps. At that price it makes sense to swap out the old timer and
have something a bit safer to be around. Keep in mind that older folks
need better illumination than the rest of the populace.
Someone has already mentioned a cold weather fixture. Standard
fluorescent fixtures and lamps will not light in cold temperatures.
The ballast should have a temperature rating on the label. You
can replace a 40 degree ballast with a zero degree and use the
same lamps but if you replace the whole fixture, I would install
a cold weather fixture and lamps designated "HO" for High Output.
The HO fixtures will light at very cold temperatures and put out
much more light at normal temperatures than a standard fixture.
The mention of 'starters' in this day and age seems unusual?
Our working 4 foot fixtures (kitchen/garage/storage/part of basement/
one bedroom etc. use the larger (1.5 inch diam) tubes. There are some
15 fixtures involving 30 tubes. All work well even with used tubes
from a previous building renovation! So we don't buy many 'new' tubes.
Only two of the fixtures were acquired new.
We also have some presently unused 8 foot fixtures (8 foot by 1.5 inch
tubes) awaiting repair/respraying. Both the 4 or 8 footers are 20 to
40 years old, are designed for 115 volts 60 hertz and do not use any
starters at all!
The working fixtures are correctly and properly installed and fixture
cases grounded. The only slight difficulty we have ever had is
occasional hard starting of the garage tubes in very cold weather,
without heat in the garage.
Also we obtained (free) a whole row of 'Electronic ballast' four foot
tube fixtures from a school renovation which use the one inch diam
tubes. T8 style IIRC? These are in our basement workshop. They work
well don't flicker and never a problem starting. We have a spare
couple of ballasts from one fixture that was smashed up, on hand, just
We also have some very old style fixtures; some with three tubes
others with two or four tubes, which do have sockets for small round
aluminum can, two pin, starters. These fixtures may have come from old
telephone and radio building, one of them circa 1938. We intend to
modernise and renovate some of these for a friend for a friend, using
a supply of non-electronic ballasts and brand new 1.5 inch tubes.
We also renovated and converted; in one case from 347 volt (Commercial
3 phase!) to 115 volt some 4 foot four tube fixtures for a relatives
garage. One or two of the fixtures were found dumped in a gravel pit.
Fitted with 115 volt ballasts, new tubes, sanded down and resprayed,
with minor repairs (e.g. a broken socket) they work have worked fine
for the last year.
BTW; many years ago I was given and could have had more, a box of
tubes removed from a 'group re-lamping job' (see note) in a large
building. In the box they looked like normal four foot tubes! Figuring
that at least half of them would still be good. Delighted I took them
home to find they were 'metric' and about 1.5 inches shorter than
'regular' four foot tubes. So the laugh was on me! I did after use two
of them by modifying one fixture and marking it 'M' but what a pain to
have a mixture of tubes!!!!!
Group re-lamping involved changing out ALL the tubes in an area or
whole floor once the incidence of reports and or daily replacements
reached a certain frequency. It was often done at night when offices
etc. were vacant since it sometimes involved step ladders and
sometimes moving furniture. Consequently a high percentage of the
removed tubes would 'still be good' and possibly capable of longer
life because they were the ones that had survived! Also the removal
would contain a percentage of recently replaced tubes that were almost
brand new. It's not that tubes were/are expensive but could never
resist a bargain and free tubes and fixtures for friends projects/
So while we haven't gone CFLs yet have been using fluorescent tubes
for at least the last forty years because of the quality and spread
But; 'starters' in this day and age! I must be out of touch? The only
one we have that has a starter is a now unused short fluor. tube strip
that used to be under a wall cabinet somewhere.
Welcome comments/criticism re starters etc.
First check to see what sort of bulbs the older fixture requires. Lots of
older fixtures will not work correctly with the new "green ended" bulbs and
will glow dimly or not at all. The older, lower-efficiency bulbs are
getting harder and harder to find and as a result, more and more people end
up buying the green-ended bulbs for old-style fixtures and finding out they
don't work, or work poorly, or cause their light's ballast to meltdown (very
stinky!!!). As a result, I've replaced most of my older fixtures with
newer (and more efficient ones) designed to run the newer bulbs when their
ballasts start to fail.
What's the exact model number of the new bulbs? What does the fixture say?
It's worth noting that the older fixtures, designed before the new green
bulbs came on the market, are often not very informative about bulb types,
describing only length and socket type. IMHO, the switch to higher
efficiency bulbs was handled very badly. Ask any Borgster which bulbs
belong with which fixtures and you'll get every answer under the sun, most
of them wrong. Sylvania says this of their hi-efficiency T-34 bulbs:
"Not recommended as a direct replacement for 40-watt fluorescents in most
residential shoplight fixtures since it could cause the fixture to overheat.
Use only in fixtures specifically labeled for use with 4-foot, 34 watt
Gee, who would ever think that a bulb that looks the same and fits into the
same socket would be a potential fire hazard? Why should any average
consumer have to know the difference between magnetic or electronic
After noticing what looked to be hardly used fluorescent bulbs in my
neighbor's trash month after month, I spoke to her and found out she was
running T-34's in an old fixture. They would work for about two weeks and
then go dim. She said the HD guy said you could use the bulbs in any
fixture that took them. Once I told her to go back to the T-40 bulbs
designed for the fixture, the problem stopped and I got a home-baked cherry
pie for my assistance. I wonder how many times that scenario plays out in
the US every day and whether the bulbs that get trashed overwhelm most of
the savings that come from using them?
At least CFL's work in any standard screw based lamp that's sized to fit
them. I'm thinking they should have redesigned the fixtures and the
high-effiency bulbs to only work with each other. It's about time someone
came up with a better socket, anyway. I suspect there are a lot of people
who have dropped a bulb, thinking it was "clicked in" when it really wasn't.
Changing 4' bulbs is hateful enough for those with arthritis. Changing an
8' bulb alone is just about impossible, at least for me.
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