How to Troubleshoot Fluorescent Light Problems

Updated February 21, 2017

Fluorescents have many advantages over traditional light bulbs. They are more efficient, less expensive over time and are also fairly simple to maintain. However, from time to time you may need to troubleshoot these lights. They can flicker, take too long to warm up or simply not light. If any of these situations occur there are some simple steps you can take on your own before calling in an expensive electrician.

Locate and inspect the circuit breaker. Most circuit breaker boxes are in basements or utility closets. Double check that the breaker has not been tripped off.

Inspect the fluorescent bulbs or tubes. If the ends have turned black or a dark brownish grey colour, replace the bulb.

Turn off then power. For causes other than a burnt-out bulb or tripped circuit breaker, you will need to have the electricity to the fixture cut. Either unplug the fixture or switch off the circuit breaker.

Check the power cord. If the fixture has a cord that plugs into an outlet first check to ensure the cord's integrity has not been compromised. Look for kinks, tears or worn areas. If you find any, you'll need to replace the cord.

Check the insertion sockets. These are the sockets where a tube fits into the fixture. They can occasionally suffer cracks or breaks. If the socket is broken you will need to replace it. These generally just screw in and out.

Replace the ballast, which is a black box located under the bulbs beneath a covering panel. There is no way to test the ballast, but if all else has failed then this is the last option. Modern ballasts can be quite expensive in relation to a new light fixture, but if you opt to replace it simply follow the manufacturer's instructions. The ballast connects to the fixture through a series of coloured wires. Match colour to colour.

Things You'll Need

  • Circuit tester
  • Replacement bulbs
  • Replacement ballast or fixture
  • Wire strippers
  • Wire nuts
  • Electrical tape
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About the Author

Steve Bradley is an educator and writer with more than 12 years of experience in both fields. He maintains a career as an English teacher, also owning and operating a resume-writing business. Bradley has experience in retail, fashion, marketing, management and fitness. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and classics.