Garage fluorescent lights burn out in months - HELP

sdknechtFebruary 13, 2010

I have had troubles keeping light in my garage for years. I have 2 standard bulb fixtures and a typical 60 watt bulb only lasts 3 months or so. I switched to fluorescent tubes a few years ago and powered them using screw in adapters into the sockets. They too burned out after only a few months. A few times I completely replaced the fixtures because it seemed that the ballasts went out. Today I checked every junction on that breaker to check for lose connects. I found one apparent problem: on an interior fluorescent light fixture that is between the breaker box and the garage lights, the ground wire from the ballast was connected to the hot supply that is apparently feeding the garage lights. I was surprised that the breaker wouldn't trip with this scary wiring but now I am wondering if this would even effect the garage lights?

Any other ideas on what could be causing this? I inspected every junction and everything seemed to be good connections and properly wired.

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What is the voltage reading at your fixture? High voltage could be the cause.

However, I think the most common cause of short flourescent lamp life is the use of the least expensive fixture available. The $9.99 "shop light" that you get at W*l-M*rt is fine if you use the light once a week for an hour or two, but will eat tubes. After I went to a real supply house and got good fixtures (about $40 each) for the most commonly used lights in my shop, I was able to just about quit replacing lamps. I still have a few cheap fixtures in the storage area where they are rarely used.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2010 at 8:17AM
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What brand fluorescent fixture do you recommend? Home Depot carries these 2x4 Lithonia troffer items:

Any idea on these? I think someone on another thread might have mentioned that Lithonia has noisy ballasts. Maybe I'm making that up.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2010 at 12:20PM
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I have those Home Depot Lithonia 8 feet twin T12 lights. I have four of them. Two in the garage, and two in the basement. They are all magnetic balasts. About $US 35 a fixture.

They do make quite a hum, especially at start up, and especially when it is cold. They have however been resonably reliable, and I have in the space of 5 years only blown one tube.

If I were to install new, I would probably go for a T-8. Note that T-12's are geeting phased out ....

Best, Mike.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2010 at 4:45PM
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I too am having the same issue...But my fixtures burn out in hours not in days or months.

Admittedly, I am using the inexpensive Lithonia Lighting 4 foot fixtures...But it is the darnedest thing.

I have three of these in my garage - all on the same circuit and switch. It is only one spot that the fixtures burn out rapidly in...I have gone through three of them now and thought ...Oh well, they cost $9 I'll just replace it..But after this latest one burned out I am thinking I have a problem.

The other fixtures, same brand etc, have been running for years now.

BTW, the bulbs are fine...Its the fixture that burns out. Power goes to the ballast but doe not come out when checking with a circuit tester.

I'm not opposed to purchasing a more expensive fixture...Just don't want that one to burn out in hours as well.

Any help would be appreciated.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2011 at 9:09PM
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The last big box fluorescent I bought I opened up and found a cheapo no-name, made-in-China ballast in it. I think it was a Lithonia fixture. I ripped the ballast out and replaced it with a good quality electronic instant-start ballast.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2011 at 12:56AM
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You can shorten the life of florescent bulbs if the fixture does not have a good ground.

The bulbs rely on on that nice grounded metal reflector to help strike the arc in the bulb at initial start-up and every time the AC voltage drops through zero, 120 times a second).

If the ground is poor it can take longer to start up, cause repeated starting strikes, and generally shorten the bulb life.

Cheap ballasts (especially cheap magnetic ballasts) on many Chinese fixtures do not help.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2011 at 10:33AM
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Cheap Chinese electronic ballasts aren't any better; a lot of them have deficient electrolytic caps that quickly leak or dry out. I have two Kirchler circlite-type fixtures (from Lowe's) that I've had to replace the ballasts on.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2011 at 9:36PM
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Brickeyee's reply a couple posts up regarding grounding, is really is a very important comment and quite a common problem in rapid start fluorescent fixtures flickering and not starting. Usually, however, it is not considered since it's a little bit of the "black magic" used in these fixtures.

Often when the tube does not fully light, the first reaction is to try to grab and re-seat the bulb, and then suddenly it lights. (Many tombstone connectors have been sold because of this.)

What is happening is that the capacitive effect of your hand touching the bulb is actually what causes the tube to light - the same as the effect caused by the grounded reflector over the tube. It aids in the ability of the the mercury vapor gas in the tube to ionize and start the ongoing process.

While they may be able to strike an arc without the ground, it is much more reliable with the ground. A proper ground needs to exist between the electrical ground, ballast, and metal reflector.

If touching the bulb all of the sudden causes it to light... suspect grounding problems.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2011 at 7:43PM
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