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You should measure between 5 volts and 9 volts ac.

you get any other reading, the filament voltage circuit in Problem:

the ballast is bad and you should replace the ballast. Fluorescent lighting is a great way to save energy and expense,
Measure the starting voltage by probing between one end
but more can go wrong with them than with a standard light bulb.
of the lamp holder to the other. (see Figure 4) You should Getting rid of that annoying buzz or constant flicker can be a
measure between 150 and 390 volts ac, depending on How-to Test it Yourself challenge. The problem might be a bad lamp, a bad ballast, a loose
the type of ballast and lamps used. If the voltage you connection, or incorrect wiring.
measure is not in the correct range, replace the ballast.

Electronic Ballasts
Fluorescent Task Summary:
It is easy to check an electronic ballast to see if it is
oscillating, which means it is generating the frequency
that the lamp needs to operate. Set your DMM to the
lighting This booklet will help you identify, test and troubleshoot common
electrical problems in shop light style fluorescent lighting. Small,
compact fluorescent "bulbs" that replace standard light bulbs in
frequency measurement function. With the light turned lamps and light fixtures are completely self-contained and cannot be
ON, probe with your DMM between pins on opposite repaired. If you have problems with a compact fluorescent bulb,
ends of the lamp holder. You should measure a frequen- simply replace it.
cy of 20 to 50 kHz. Normally, if the electronic ballast
has failed there will be no output signal at all. If you do Recommended Tools:
not obtain a proper frequency measurement (and about
117 volts ac is present at the ballast line power supply You will need a DMM with all the basic measurement functions such
wires), replace the ballast. as ac volts, dc volts, resistance, and continuity, plus some more
advanced features like True RMS and frequency measurement (up to
6. Where to Go From Here:
50KHz). It is assumed you have basic knowledge of how to make
By now you should have isolated and fixed the problem. electrical measurements and how to operate a DMM. If not, you
If not, it may be time to replace the fixture completely. should start by reading Basic DMM Measurements and your DMM
If you suspect a more serious problem, call a qualified owners manual.
licensed electrician for help.

99 Washington Street
Melrose, MA 02176
Fax 781-665-0780
Step by step troubleshooting:
1. Which Type of Lighting - and electronic. You can easily tell which
The Basics of Ballasts one you have in your fixture because of
the size. Electromagnetic ballasts are
Fluorescent lights operate when a high large and heavy because they have an
voltage electrical current passes iron core inside, and electronic ballasts

between the electrodes on one end of are about 50% smaller and lighter
the tube to the other through a conduc- because they operate by electronic
tive gas inside the lamp. The ballast is a switching circuitry.
device in the light fixture that creates
the high voltage and limits the current The most important point about ballasts
flow through the lamp to the correct is they are matched to a certain type of
level once it lights. fluorescent lamp. When you replace a
lamp in a fluorescent light fixture, you
Lighting #5 There are two types of ballasts in need to choose one that is intended for
residential lighting: electromagnetic the type of ballast you are using.
Similarly, if you change the ballast, it
should be matched to the lamps


1000 750 200

3 - 9 V ac Filament Voltage ON/OFF


1000 750 200

150 - 390 V ac Starting Voltage
20A 20A
200m 200k 200m 200k
A 20M 20k A 20M 20k
2M 2k 2M 2k

already in the fixture or to the type

20k 2k 200
DUTY Hz 200k
20k 2k 200
% %

85XT 85XT

V COM mA 20A V COM mA 20A

you intend to use in the fixture. Check


200mA MAX 200mA MAX

1000V MAX 1000V MAX
750V 20A/30sec 750V 20A/30sec

the label on the ballast in your fixture

Electricity can be
to see what type it is, and what type of
lamps it is intended for.

1000 750 200

A Black (Hot)
Remove one lamp Remove one lamp dangerous. Protect
yourself and your
200m 200m

Distribution panel
200 20m
2m 2m
20m 200
200m 200k

2. That Annoying Buzz

20M 20k

home by remembering
2M 2k
20k 2k 200


V COM mA 20A

to follow a few simple


All electromagnetic ballasts generate MAX

200mA MAX

hum. Look for the sound rating of A White (Neutral) rules when working
through F on the ballasts label. Sound Ground (Bare copper or green)
with electrical circuits:
rating A is the quietest. If your ballasts Leave one lamp installed Leave one lamp installed

are B or higher, you can improve Always turn the power

figure 1 figure 2 figure 3 figure 4 off at the electrical
things by upgrading to an A, or bet-
ter yet, an electronic ballast, which is panel before handling
wires or terminals.
the quietest of all.
An excessively noisy fixture is usually
Troubleshooting fluorescent lighting Dont assume that you
know which wire is hot!
an indication of a poor ground connec- Use your meter to
tion or loose mechanical parts in the nut. It is OK to twist a stranded wire Before you proceed, unplug the lamp ture open and the wires exposed. With cord, turn ON the wall switch, and wires for a tight, positive connection. verify the power is off
fixture, which is good news because around a solid wire before you install cord or turn off the circuit breaker for the circuit breaker ON and the switch turn ON the light. If nothing happens, Reconnect the wire nuts. For solid before handling any
this is easy to fix. the wire nut. Inspect and tighten every the fixture you are troubleshooting. ON, use your DMM in the ac voltage check the outlet for power (see the wires, do not twist the wires together. wires or terminals.
ground connection: the green wire in Remove the lamps and open the fix- function and probe between the black brochure How to Safely Test Instead, lay them in parallel and
Before you proceed, unplug the lamp Make sure your meter
the fixture should be securely connect- ture. Use your DMM to make sure the wire and ground (green or bare cop- Electrical Outlets) or check for 117 screw on the wire nut. It is OK to
cord or turn OFF the circuit breaker for is working with a 3-
ed to the green or bare copper wire power is OFF using the procedure per). Your should get a reading of volts ac power inside the fixture as twist a stranded wire around a solid
the fixture you are troubleshooting. point check: Measure a
coming in, and should be securely fas- described above. about 117 volts ac. Now probe between described earlier in this booklet. wire before you install the wire nut.
Remove the lamps and open the fixture. known live circuit, next
tened (typically with a screw) to the the white wire and ground. The read-
metal frame of the fixture. Inspect and Verify the main power supply wires ing should be about zero. Turn OFF the If only one lamp wont light, try the Turn on the breaker and see if the measure the circuit
Use your DMM to make sure the power
tighten the hardware, especially the are clear of all objects and not touch- light switch. If you still get a reading of lamp in another fixture to see if it problem is fixed. If not, it is time to youre working on and
is OFF. Carefully unscrew the wire nuts
hardware that connects the ballast to ing each other. Turn the circuit break- about 117 V ac between the black wire works there. If it does not light in troubleshoot the ballast. finally re-check the
on the connections to the main power
the fixture. er ON or plug in the power cord. Use and ground with the light switch off, another fixture, replace the lamp and known live circuit.
supply wires and make sure they are 5. Checking for a Bad Ballast
your DMM in the ac voltage function stop and re-wire the light switch so see if that fixes the problem.
clear of all objects and not touching Use caution when
Replace all wire nuts and make sure to check for approximately 117 volts that the hot (black) wire is controlled Electromagnetic
each other. Set the DMM to the ac volt- Next, youll need to check for loose measuring live circuits.
they are tightly fastened. Reassemble ac between the black and white wires
age function and the 200 volt range. by the switch. NEVER have the neutral connections inside the pin sockets. Rapid-Start Ballasts Dont stand in water,
the fixture and replace the lamps. of the main power supply wires. If wire controlled by a switch. Switching
Probe between the black wire and the Before you proceed, turn OFF the use one hand to probe
Turn on the circuit breaker or plug in you measure low ac line voltage (less the neutral wire leaves live voltage ON You have the rapid-start type if there
white wire. (see figure 1) The DMM power to the fixture using the proce- whenever possible,
the power cord and turn on the light. than about 108 volts ac) there is a even when the switch is OFF. are two wires going into each end of
should display zero. Now probe dure described earlier in this booklet. and dont wear metal
more serious problem with your elec- the lamp holder. This is the most
between the black wire and ground If this does not stop the buzzing, Use your DMM to verify power is OFF. jewelry.
trical wiring. Contact a qualified, 4. One or More Lamps Wont Light common type. The lights normally
(the green or bare copper wire), and check for a bad ballast as described licensed electrician. If proper ac line Remove the lamps. Inspect the pin come on in less than one second, but
between the white wire and ground. later in this booklet. voltage is present, you most likely When one or more lamps wont light
not instantly.
Only use a meter that
Both readings should also be zero. its usually because of a bad ballast, a sockets to see if they are damaged, has the proper voltage
3. Blinking Lamp have a failed lamp. Replace the lamp. bent, or loose and failing to properly
bad lamp, or faulty wiring. Check the Take one lamp out of its holder, turn ranges for the job at
Unscrew all the wire nut connections connect with the pins on the lamp.
A lamp that blinks or does not seem to If the light fixture is controlled by a easy things first before you replace a the power ON, and measure the fila- hand and make sure
and retighten them for a tight, positive Replace the entire fixture if the pin
light fully is a sign of either low ac line switch, it is important that the hot ballast: ment voltage by probing between the the meter has the
connection. For solid wires, do not sockets are damaged.
voltage or normal lamp failure. Check (black) wire is the wire controlled by two pin sockets at one end of the proper safety ratings
twist the wires together. Instead, lay Make sure the light fixture is getting
for normal line voltage first as follows. the switch. (see figure 2) This is a Open the fixture, unscrew all the wire lamp holder. (see figure 3) and protection.
them in parallel and screw on the wire power. Check the circuit breaker to
good time to check for proper light nut connections and examine the
switch wiring while you have the fix- make sure its ON, plug in the power
(continued on back)