It had been a while since the majority of the world had been using fluorescent lights instead of the old incandescent light bulbs. Since then, we all had been familiar with fluorescent light problems.
Fortunately, most of these problems are common and had been solved by professional electricians. On the other hand, most of us are reluctant to deal with them because of two reasons – complete ignorance and fear of dealing with anything to do with electricity.
Common fluorescent light problems include flickering of lights, humming or buzzing sounds and the unsteady on-off lighting. The causes of these had been grouped by the pros under four concerns – the bulbs, the bulb holders, the ballast or starter, and the absence of power or electricity.
There are also many common misconceptions on these lighting troubles. Flickering lights are not caused by power shorting or surges. A power short causes the lights to go on and off or completely off even if the switch is on.
When considering fluorescent light problems, especially the flickering of lights, you need to check first the bulb, the ballast or the starter. (Some lights use starters instead of ballasts.) Any of these can cause the flicker.
If it takes a moment for the light to go after switching on, the system is using a starter. However, if the flicker takes longer than normal, or keeps on flickering, the starter is deteriorating.
If only one end of the bulb lights up, it could be caused by the starter and replacing it is the solution. If both ends are dark, the bulb is burned out and needs replacement.
The ballast (a rectangular black metal box inside) supplies the voltage that makes the gas in the bulb glow and light up. When it does not work anymore, there is a loud hum in the installation and the ballast needs to be replaced.
Sometimes, fluorescent light problems can be simple practical troubles from areas we take for granted. For instance, the bulb holder in a fluorescent lighting system can crack or break (without our knowledge) which cuts off the electrical contact and causes malfunction.
At other times, it could be the main switch of the light that does not work. If the ballast (and starter) and the bulbs are newly replaced, and it still won’t work, maybe the switch is the culprit.
Before doing any troubleshooting for any of your fluorescent light problems, it is important to cut off all electrical power from your main switch. Take all precautions in working with anything that uses electricity (use of insulated tapes, screw drivers, pliers, etc)
Starters and ballasts need their exact replacements. Defective bulbs should not be disposed of indiscriminately because of environmental and health hazards. If you’re not comfortable with all these, you can always call a certified electrician.