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When one or more fluorescent bulbs buzz or flicker or the light won’t turn on, the problem could be as simple as a bad bulb.
How To Tell If Fluorescent Ballast Is Bad
Here we suggest steps you can take to determine if the problem is a loose or faulty bulb or lamp that needs to be replaced.
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Top photo: Visible blackening on one or both ends of the fluorescent bulb means the bulb is nearly dead.
This series of articles explains how to diagnose the causes of flickering, dimming, or malfunctioning fluorescent lights in or on buildings.
Warning: Flashing or dimmed lights may indicate a hazardous condition with a risk of fire or electric shock. If the simple bulb or starter repairs we describe here do not resolve the flickering, turn off the malfunctioning fixture, leave the circuit off, and call a licensed electrician for assistance.
We also provide an INDEX OF ARTICLES on this topic, or you can try the SEARCH BOXES at the top or bottom of the page as a quick way to find the information you need.
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If the device had trouble starting and kept flashing, the problem could be a bad connector on one or both ends of the bulb, a loose bulb, or a bad bulb.
And glass, gently grasp the bulb and try to turn it back and forth to scrape the connector pins and clean their connections in the terminals that connect to the ends of the bulb.
Sometimes I find that the bulb was never installed correctly and sometimes I find that the connectors were dirty or arc burned.
I rarely find that the inner metal spring clips of the connector have broken or even fallen out of the connector completely, so definitely try to look at the connector to see if the metal clips are inside.
Sylvania / Osram 49908
Later on this page, we will show you how to insert and rotate the fluorescent lamp so that it clicks into place.
If the ends of the bulb are even slightly blackened, the bulb may be near or even past the end of its life.
Other bulbs, also dimmed (shown at the top of the page), refused to light up at all. We replaced both the dead bulbs and the almost dead one.
Remove a bulb from a properly functioning fixture and test it in a flashing fixture; also look for black or other discoloration in the flickering bulb.
Ballast Burned Out With Led Plug And Play Replacement Tubes
A broken fluorescent tube will often begin to darken or even appear black at one or both ends. Eventually, the bulb won’t light up.
For details on removing and inserting fluorescent lamps, see LAMP/BULB REPLACEMENT later on this page.
On a miniature GE F13/T5 bi-pin like the one pictured above, the F13 indicates a 13-watt fluorescent lamp and the T5 indicates the shape of the bulb (straight). This particular bulb is 20.91″ long and has a bulb diameter of 0.625″.
If you break one of these mercury-containing fluorescent lamps, you release not only a million tiny pieces of glass, but also mercury dust, which is poisonous if inhaled or gets on the skin.
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Get the right fluorescent bulb—or “lamp” in electrical slang—for your fixture by taking the old one to your electrical or building contractor.
Finding the right bulb is easy if you have an old bulb as it is easy to compare the original by bulb type, size and wattage.
In CODES AND TYPES OF BULBS we present a table of types and identification codes of fluorescent lamps and
In the United States, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) significantly reduced the mercury content of fluorescent lamps (light bulbs) manufactured after 1990; before 1990, these bulbs had a higher mercury content.
Fluorescent Bulb Troubleshooting Diagnose & Replace Fluorescent Light Bulbs (lamps)
If replacing with a quality bulb does not help, the problem may be in the starter or ballast.
The starter is a small container that is simply inserted into the socket by one end of the fluorescent lamp.
If the problem is not with the bulb, starter, connectors or wiring, and especially if the light was buzzing, the problem is probably with the ballast.
Warning: Before calling for help because you can’t find a starter on your fluorescent lamp, check the type of bulb and socket Bi-pin bulbs and sockets support programmed starter bulbs and require a separate starter.
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Be careful: Be careful not to break an old or new bulb—you don’t want to be dealing with broken glass and toxic mercury. Use eye protection.
To remove the old bulb, gently rotate it 45 degrees to align the pins on the bulb with the entry/exit hole in the base of the bulb and gently rotate the bulb outwards.
When inserting a new bulb, proceed in the reverse order. Hold the bulb upright and line it up with the two sockets on the bulb base and insert the pins directly into the socket slot, then rotate the bulb 45 degrees to hear it snap into place.
The Leviton 13351 T8 / T12 Swivel Socket shown in the photos above accommodates a 1″ diameter bulb and is designed for a center, two-pin “no side lead” socket for programmable starter ballasts.
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It is also rated at up to 660 watts and 600 volts, which is much more than any typical residential fluorescent lamp.
I’ve had good success replacing fluorescents with LED equivalents, which use less power and are less annoying with flickering, starters, and transformers.
However, wiring replacement LEDs requires some additional skills, or perhaps less.
Warning: Read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the replacement LED bulb as the details will differ from those listed here.
Tips For Light Bulb And Ballast Replacement
Be careful – you may be shocked or killed. Turn off the power before touching or attempting to work on lights or electrical appliances.
Warning: If you are not trained and experienced in proper wiring and repairs, hire someone who is. Failure to do so may result in fire, electric shock, injury, or death.
Note: In the case of a luminaire equipped with an electronic ballast, the green cap of the GE LED T8 universal tube can point in one of two directions. If the hose does not start properly, you can try changing the direction or go to the Direct Connect/New Device section of the manual.
If the replacement in the known tube does not light, look for a bad connector or a bad starter or reactor.
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I have a 4 tube light in my garage. The middle two are on, but the outer two are not. Please help.
Try moving the fluorescents back to where they previously worked, or install a tube you know is good for their previous location. If they work there, maybe a different starter or a bad bulb connector is the problem
I have a 4 tube fixture that only has 2 tubes that light up. Instead of having them next to each other, I decided to move them to the outer edge on either side. The tube I moved works fine and next to it started to light but now both tubes are out on the other side!!! What’s up with that???
I have encountered the bulb failure problem you describe with several electrical products that were, I’m sorry, so poorly made that any twisting or torque applied to the ends of the bulb connector will cause them to fall out. At least some of the blame lies with retailers selling the cheapest possible product, usually made overseas.
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A brand new black bulb went out, I turned the bulb slightly and it came back on for 5 minutes, no flickering and suddenly went out… when I took the bulb out the wire was sticking out of the side of the bulbs and it fell off leaving 2 small pin holes at the end of the two pins.. not sure what happened or if this is the problem tbh
My fluorescent bulbs are burned out and dim at one end. This bulb is on a switch with another bulb and this bulb still works. Is it dangerous to turn on that switch with burned out fluorescent tubes still in the holder?
We replaced the ballast and put two new bulbs in the 8′ fixture, but the bulbs won’t light. One is weaker than the other and appears to have a “pulsating” light passing through it, the other is static but weak. Some idea?
I have 4 21″ fluorescent tubes under a 13 watt cabinet and 2 12″ non-G fluorescent tubes in a glass display, how do I wire them and what do I need?
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Read on for BULB CODES AND TYPES or select a topic from closely related articles below or view the full ITEM INDEX.
DEFECTIVE BULB DIAGNOSTICS / BULBS on – online encyclopedia of advice on inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair and prevention of building and environmental problems.
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