Weird Fluorescent Problem

OK, I've heard from people here and some personal experience, about fluorescent fixture/lamp problems and that many are due to poor quality fixtures. My neighbor called a few days ago with a problem. He had 2 single lamp 4' fixtures. He installed both and one would not light until you touched the glass tube with your finger. I told him that I had seen this before and that others have seen similar problems on alt.home.repair usually due to "bad" fixtures. He told me he had already changed it out the fixture twice. I told him to try a different fixture from a different place. He did .... the same problem. He found that putting a small piece of wire around the glass in the middle of the tube and connecting it to fixture ground (not neutral) solved the problem. What give here? Anyone have any ideas? BTW, he did try several different tubes. All tubes worked in the one "working" location but not in the problem location.
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I've seen this happen with a variety of fixtures, when tubes had a light film of dust and the area was very humid. Generally, cleaning the tubes thoroughly solved the problem.
Interestingly, some U-shaped fluorescent tubes have a narrow foil strip along the side, apparently to deal with such startup probs.
HTH, J
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I think that's usually a symptom of a poor or missing earth connection for the fixture. Most fixture instructions mention that it's necessary, and how the fixture metal must be within a certain distance from the grounded box or some other part.
It's also true that high humidity can give bulbs a problem starting. I've noticed lately that the bulbs in my shop are dimmer when the humidity is exttreme as opposed to when I run the air there. They start fine, but they're not as bright and they don't get brighter as they burn, as they do in a cold environ. Now if my fire alarms would quit reacting to the humidity; I'm tired of cleaning them one at a time!! <G> Yeah, I know; next time they ALL get cleaned! Pop
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I can relate to this problem. In theory running your hand up and down the tube moves electrons on the bulb, helping it to establish the glow. I am going to try washing/drying my tubes to see if that makes a difference. Maybe I'll try rubbing them with a anti-static dryer sheet or wiping them with a rag dampened with fabric softener.
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