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Thread: Flourescent Light Repair Question

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
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    Southern MD
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    Flourescent Light Repair Question

    When I outfitted my shop, I bought 20 T12 4' fixtures. They are the inexpensive ones from the Borg that are called workshop lights. The reason I chose them, other than price, was they have a metal cage around the bulbs instead of any kind of plastic lens. I figured that I would bang them with pieces of wood and this would be a good design. I was right.
    The problem is the sockets in the things break often. When I go to change the lightbulbs, one false move and the bulb is stuck. The only way to release it is to twist it a little harder and snap one of the cheesy metal tabs that provide power to the bulbs. Since the fixture over the doorway has been banged into submission, I've been canabalizing it for spares every time I break one. So far so good until yesterday.
    Yesterday, I put the the final canabalized socket into one of the fixtures and it still didn't work. I'm guessing that means I need a new electronics module also. What is readily available to me. I'm pretty sure the borgs sell new modules for them, and they are most likely better than the ones I have now. Can I buy new sockets for them also? Maybe some that are higher quality. I kind of like the way these fixtures take a beating, so I'm happy with the housing. I'd be happy to just upgrade the electronics and sockets over time as needed. I'm just wondering if it's reasonable or possible.
    Jay St. Peter

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
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    Midwest
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    Why bother fixing them if they were/are cheap?

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
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    Toronto Ontario
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    Hi Jay, I wouldn't replace the ballast in a T12 fixture with another T12 ballast.

    I would replace it with an electronic T8 ballast, and replace the lamps with T8 lamps.

    You will reduce your energy consumption by aproximately 30%, the lamps will be instant start down to -18C, and will be flicker free.

    I have been replacing the ballasts in my shop with Sylvania QTP2X32T8/UNV ISH-SC.

    You can also purchase sockets for the lamps if you need them.

    Regards, Rod.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
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    Mt. Airy, MD
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    Jay -

    I see that you are in Southern MD. I work in the lighting industry and have tons of spare parts I can give away, mostly for T8 lamp, electronic ballast equipment. If you make it up towards AA county (Crofton/Gambrills area), drop me a message and I can meet you somewhere with a few parts.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Location
    Byron, IL
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    My guess is that the parts will cost you more than buying the whole fixture. When I built my shop 3 years ago, I went with inexpensive T8 fixtures from HD. Like you describe, these also had a metal cage under the bulbs. I was attracted by that feature as well. Unfortunately, I have had to return/replace about 2/3 of them so far. They were cheap to begin with, but the time and aggravation has made them expensive. When it comes to fluorescent fixtures, you really do get what you pay for.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
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    New Hampshire
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    Ditto on the cheap fixtures from HD. I have replaced 4 full fixtures that I have purchased in the past 6 years, but in my case the ballast was dying not the bulbs or the clips. I went to HD to by the ballast only but they wanted $20 for a ballast for my $5 fixture. I just bought new fixtures.

    Surpirisingly, of the 12 fixtures I bought only 4 have died. Of the 24 light bulbs that it took to fill the fixtures, I think I have only replaced 3 (and one was because it broke).

    Based on what you all have said, I'm thinking I should by slightly more expensive ones next time and see if more life out of the. (check back in 5 years, I just replaced them last summer.

    Have you guys seen the flourescent light bulb covers, the plastic tubes, they sell in HD to keep the light bulb fragments from falling on your head when they break?
    Last edited by Anthony Whitesell; 02-07-2008 at 1:46 PM.

  7. #7
    Rob Will Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by Rod Sheridan View Post
    Hi Jay, I wouldn't replace the ballast in a T12 fixture with another T12 ballast.

    I would replace it with an electronic T8 ballast, and replace the lamps with T8 lamps.

    You will reduce your energy consumption by aproximately 30%, the lamps will be instant start down to -18C, and will be flicker free.

    I have been replacing the ballasts in my shop with Sylvania QTP2X32T8/UNV ISH-SC.

    You can also purchase sockets for the lamps if you need them.

    Regards, Rod.
    I agree with Rod. If you like the guarded fixtures you have, start changing them to T8. All T12 fixtures EXCEPT T12HO and VHO are being phased out. Eventually, regular T12 bulbs will be hard to find.

    T8 is more energy efficient and will maintain better lumen output for the life of the bulb.

    "Shop lights" often have really cheap ballasts. You will be buying new electronic ballasts when you switch to T8. Pay close attention to the wiring diagram on the T8 ballast, it is completely different from what you currently have. Also, watch out for the number of bulbs that your ballast is designed for - check the part numbers closely. At the borg they often get put in the wrong bin.

    The borg and some electric shops have new lamp holders.

    Rob
    Last edited by Rob Will; 02-07-2008 at 1:50 PM.

  8. #8
    The cheap lights don't have electronic ballasts or good sockets for the pins. There's a reason people spend $80 for the "same" thing they could buy for $20 (Festool anything, e.g.). They really are flicker free and instant on and great in the cold. They cost a lot more, but they really are better.

    Assuming you want to change more sockets, HD carries sockets, but they are vastly cheaper on-line. I think the T8's use the same sockets but the bulbs are much thinner. There are even better (less electricity) T5's that require a new socket and look like spaghetti, 5/8" diameter!

    And, since I'm pontificating so much, be aware that all these bulbs come with different light spectrums, essentially ranging from cool-white to daylight. I like the daylights, but I mix in some medium spectrums to make the light less harsh.

    Good luck.
    Doug, the Wood Loon - Acton, MA

  9. #9
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    Southern MD
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    Sorry, I misspoke, they are all T8's. I have a case of 92CRI ~6K bulbs for them.

    Yes, they are cheap fixtures. But, the more expensive fixtures all seem more prone to destruction by errant boards. My just shy of 9' ceilings are at the perfect height to give the false sense of security to whip boards around and bash the heck out of 'em. Again, while they are cheap, the housings are quite durable and I'm very happy with that part of the fixtures. I actually think the cheaper thin metal they are made of absorbs the impact because of the flexibility.
    I'm trying to remember back a few years now, but when I built out the shop the only other durable looking fixture without a plastic cover was around $60 a piece. I think it was around $40 for a box that held two bulbs in the open plus another $20 for a cage style cover for it. With 20+ fixtures, that just wasn't in the already blown budget. I did my research before buying the ones I bought, but had to compromise due to what was available and reasonably affordable.

    I'd be happier to spend $20 to put higher quality electronics and sockets in the ones I have than to spend $20-40 for another fixture that doesn't match the other 19. If that's not possible I'll go back to the drawing board and figure out what to replace them with. I'll only replace the parts as needed, so it's not going to be hundreds of dollars out of pocket today. Just curious if anyone had tried to get replacement parts for a fixture before.

    It sounds like what I want to do might be possible. I'll swing by the borg in the next couple days and see what they have. If that doesn't pan out I'll try the lighting place. Sounds like a good chance they'll have what I'm looking for.
    Last edited by JayStPeter; 02-07-2008 at 3:09 PM.
    Jay St. Peter

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Location
    Byron, IL
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Will View Post
    "Shop lights" often have really cheap ballasts. You will be buying new electronic ballasts when you switch to T8.

    Rob
    Rob, I think you are implying that electronic ballasts is an indication of higher quality. Forgive me if I am misinterpreting. I would point out that the fixtures from HD I bought and had such a high failure rate with, have electronic ballasts. From my experience it is just as easy to get cruddy electronic ballasts as cruddy standard ones.

  11. #11
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    Jan 2008
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    Mt. Airy, MD
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    Jay -

    My offer stands for whatever you need. I have a box of a couple of hundred various style sockets sitting under my desk, and I have ballasts ranging from "original" electronic T8's that have been sitting back in my storage room for years to new high efficiency T8's from all of the big manufacturers.

    Let me know.

  12. #12

    Buy Quality

    Put some quality T8 electronic ballasts in your fixtures and they should last you darn near forever. As mentioned prior I am a big fan of the daylight bulbs. I used to sell industrial lighting supplies and most people don't realize how much difference there is in bulbs of all types. when buying fluorescents look for lumens in the 5000+ range and CRI (color rendering index) over 90 if you want to brighten your shop. These type of bulbs cost more than your typical economy bulbs but IMHO they are worth it. Buy a 2 pack and give them a try. you will be amazed how much brighter they are.

  13. #13
    Rob Will Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by Brad Townsend View Post
    Rob, I think you are implying that electronic ballasts is an indication of higher quality. Forgive me if I am misinterpreting. I would point out that the fixtures from HD I bought and had such a high failure rate with, have electronic ballasts. From my experience it is just as easy to get cruddy electronic ballasts as cruddy standard ones.
    Hi Brad, no I was mostly referring to older magnetic ballasts. I agree on the crappy ballasts. It seems to me that the cheapest ones are often OEM installed in light fixtures (as you point out).

    Rob

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