Home>Discussions>ELECTRICAL & LIGHTING>Need advice about shoplights in basement
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Toody
Need advice about shoplights in basement

Hello Everyone,

I am having problems with my basement lighting. How many shoplights per on/off switch is acceptable?

Here's the history of my lighting problem. Sorry if it's so long:

In 1976 we had shoplights installed in our basement. Two in the laundryroom, one in a storage room/office. Each room has their own switch.

The main area of the basement has four shoplights (set of two in each fixture). I'm not sure of the watts. Originally, these were controlled by a dimmer switch. However ten or more years later, the lights began to flicker. At which time an electrician told us that dimmer switches are not the best to have and replaced that switch with a regular, nondimmer, switch. The lights worked fine until 2004. At this time, another electrician said that the switch was lose and needed to be tightened. The lights worked fine until 2009.

Gradually each light dimmed or would not work at all. This led me to believe that they needed to be replaced. I purchased some new replacement lights -- and when we went to install them -- lo and behold -- all of the lights worked. The guy who was helping me said that I may have problems with the ballusts (sp?).

A week later, the lights were acted up again. Some light while others didn't. Some of those that weren't working, came kicked on later.

I've talked to various people what could be wrong -- and still have to find an electrician that can squeeze me into his schedule. All have stated that it could be the ballusts, in which case new fixtures would be more affordable than just replacing individual ballusts; it could be the shoplights themselve, or it could be that there are too many lights for the one switch to handle. (Again there are four, with two lights (48-inch) in each. There is one switch at the bottom of the stairs and another at the top. (The one at the top also houses a switch to the garage; and the switch at the bottom houses the switch to main basement lights that are acting up and one that controls the shoplights in laundryroom next to the main area.

One person suggested that the air in the basement may be too damp at times, and when the humidity/dampness decreases, it causes the lights to work properly. There are registers to the basement, but we don't allow the basement to be heated. I run the dehumidifier 24/7. During the summer it has to be emptied three or more times a week (bin is half full). During the winter, I hardly ever have to empty the dehumidifier.

Any opinions or suggestions will be appreciated! :)

TRLambert
Re: Need advice about shoplights in basement

If the lights were installed in 1976 and you haven't had to replace them or the ballusts yet, odds are it's time. You have more than got your money out of them.

I would suggest you go to a home center near you and purchase the modern day equivalent / replacement and either install/replace them yourself or have an electrician do it for you. They are fairly easy to replace.

As far as the switches being "overloaded". . . I highly doubt it. Four shop lights as described should not be an issue.

Good luck and way to go keeping those originals running for 33 years!

Tim

sparky1
Re: Need advice about shoplights in basement

tim was right. 4 flourescnet lighs should only draw somewhere around an amp or two apiece. so you are well below what your switch can handle. id go to your local box store and buy 4 new ones for 20 bucks a piece or so and replace em yourself.. cost you 1/4 of hiring an electrician to come in and diagnose the problem, then telling you most likely to replace them anyway..

Ernie_Fergler
Re: Need advice about shoplights in basement

I agree with those two follow up replies. Are you thinking about using T12s, vastly outdated, or going with more efficient, but also more costly, T8s?

Fencepost
Re: Need advice about shoplights in basement

Unlikely that the switch is the problem, but considering the age of it you might want to replace it anyway. They can suffer wear over time. They aren't expensive to replace. I'd suggest getting a "spec grade" or "pro grade" switch, as they will last longer.

How cold is it in your basement? Some older fluorescent ballasts have trouble starting below 50ºF. Newer ones are generally good down to around 35ºF, and you can get "cold start" ballasts that are good down to 0ºF.

Toody
Re: Need advice about shoplights in basement

Thanks for all your advice!

I had a friend look at the lighting to see how easy it would be to replace/install them. He has more experience in that area than I do and suggested new ballusters/fixtures that have drop down covers. Currently, I have the old sliding covers that fit in the ceiling tile dividers.

He said that new fixtures/ballusters would cost around $50 each, are more energy efficient, and would include the entire "kit."This includes the drop down covers. Is this what you guys are talking about?

By the way, my basement is usually 10 to 20 degrees colder than the main floor. However, it may be less, since I recently had insulation installed around the perimeter of the basement.

Thanks again!!

Ernie_Fergler
Re: Need advice about shoplights in basement
Toody wrote:

Thanks for all your advice!

I had a friend look at the lighting to see how easy it would be to replace/install them. He has more experience in that area than I do and suggested new ballusters/fixtures that have drop down covers. Currently, I have the old sliding covers that fit in the ceiling tile dividers.

He said that new fixtures/ballusters would cost around $50 each, are more energy efficient, and would include the entire "kit."This includes the drop down covers. Is this what you guys are talking about?

By the way, my basement is usually 10 to 20 degrees colder than the main floor. However, it may be less, since I recently had insulation installed around the perimeter of the basement.

Thanks again!!

A T8 ballast kit to replace the present T12 could be what he is talking about. I personally use the more efficient T8s when ever practical, as those new unit will be in use for a long time.

Toody
Re: Need advice about shoplights in basement

Thanks, Ernie! Do the T8 kits cost around $50 as my friend thought? Also, did you say that the T8s were long lasting?

Fencepost
Re: Need advice about shoplights in basement

The T8 lamps with electronic ballasts have many advantages over T12 and the old magnetic ballasts:

  • * More energy efficient
  • * More light output
  • * Reduced flicker

When you go shopping for fluorescent tubes, you'll find a bewildering array of them. Some are brighter, some are dimmer, and they produce different colors of light from reddish (warm white) to bluish (cool white), represented by a "K" number referred to as a "color temperature". I find 4100K lamps to be the most pleasing; this is what is most commonly used in schools and office buildings around here.

Toody
Re: Need advice about shoplights in basement

Thanks. There are so many options out there!

wirenuts29
Re: Need advice about shoplights in basement

A dimmable ballast is kind of a specialty item. in all the commercial applications I've installed them on they have their own special dimmer switches. I would suggest skipping the dimmers and get the spec grade switches, and t-8 lamps and ballasts. Additionally I've run into tombstones on the dimmable lights being different than a typical tombstone.when they are powered up they will burn up the ballasts quickly.

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