Electricity: Fluorescent Lighting

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They're worth keeping in good repair. If your fluorescent light flickers or makes an annoying hum, a degrading ballast is the likely culprit. You can easily replace it, as shown (top right). Just make sure the wiring configuration, voltage and current match the old one. Make sure the cost of the ballast does not exceed that of a new fixture -- ballasts can be expensive and fixtures are relatively inexpensive.

If your fixture won’t light, flickers on and off or won’t hold a bulb, you may need to replace a lamp socket. Consider installing full-spectrum bulbs that cast a more natural-looking light.

A fluorescent light fixture is a terrific energy saver, consuming up to 75% less electricity than an equivalent incandescent bulb—and the fluorescent bulb lasts up to 10 times longer.

Replacing a Degrading Ballast

1. Turn off the power. Remove the bulbs and ballast cover. Snip old wiring several inches (centimeters) from the ballast’s end.

2. Remove the old ballast by loosening mounting nuts. A ballast is heavy, so use caution as it comes loose.

3. Install a new ballast with adequate cold-starting temperature. Connect the wires and reinstall bulbs and cover.

Replacing a Malfunctioning Lamp Socket

1. Turn off power. Remove bulb by twisting 90° with both hands. Pull one end straight down to free bulb.

2. Unscrew fixture end cover, then slide out socket to expose wiring. Cut wires close to the socket.

3. Strip 1/2 in. (12 mm) of insulation from wires and push wires into new socket terminal slots.


Are you looking for home electrical items -- such as switches and fuse boxes -- or parts and accessories for ones you already have? Try our dedicated electrical supply pages here:

Lighting Direct

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Fluorescents -- SHOP HERE! icon

Examples from Catalog:

Thomas Lighting FW232EB icon

Want to learn more about home electricity? Visit our home electricity library.

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Shopping Smart: Compact Fluorescent Bulbs

It makes good sense to use compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) to replace hard-to-reach incandescent bulbs or those lights used more than three hours a day. Since CFLs use far fewer watts, buy bulbs based on the lumen output. Also, CFLs tend to dim slightly with age, so buy bulbs with 20% greater lumen output than the standard bulb equivalent.

Standard CFLs can be used to replace ordinary bulbs.

Decorative CFLs are available for fixtures with visible bulbs.

Three-way CFLs often use a separate ballast and bulb.  

Last modified: Saturday, 2007-11-03 1:20 PST