Home>Discussions>ELECTRICAL & LIGHTING>Sparking Flourescent Ceiling Fixture
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dcalabro
Sparking Flourescent Ceiling Fixture

Today I turned on my kitchen light and it started making a loud crackling and noticed sparks flying inside the fixture. I immediately switched the light back off and since this is a fluorescent fixture, I assume it was something wrong with the ballast. Is this something that is fairly common with fluorescent fixtures or is this something else i'm not noticing?

Regardless, the fixture will be replaced with an incandescent fixture.

dj1
Re: Sparking Flourescent Ceiling Fixture

Do you know how old this fixture is?
Have you replaced the bulbs recently?

I'm asking these questions to determine what happened.

On the other hand, if you are ready to replace this fixture in the near future...

dcalabro
Re: Sparking Flourescent Ceiling Fixture

I just moved into the house this past July so I don't know how old the fixture or bulbs are. Do fixtures usually have date labels I can check for?

Tonight I plan on taking the cover off to reveal the balasts so I guess I can check then.

Brookworld
Re: Sparking Flourescent Ceiling Fixture

Since you're replacing the fixture, go with CFL (like 23w = 100w) at 3500K (or even 5000k) color temp - - white & bright, depending on room use, or you can do it like a woman and go with 2700K so skin wrinkles are less visible. :)

6500K is too white/blue, so skip that.

dj1
Re: Sparking Flourescent Ceiling Fixture

The previous owner may have installed the wrong bulbs for the ballast in the fixture. Or the ballast just gave.

Today's ballast are different. They allow only a certain kind of bulbs. In other words, every ballast will allow it's own bulbs.

dcalabro
Re: Sparking Flourescent Ceiling Fixture

I did notice 2 of the 4 bulbs had different wattages than the other 2 but I don't understand why it only suddenly happened as we have been using it for months now. The ballast was a GE 6G1020A and the wires coming out of the ballast to the bulbs were literally melted off and the casing scorched.

dj1
Re: Sparking Flourescent Ceiling Fixture

I know you are planning to replace this old fixture, but just for your info, these magnetic ballasts are disappearing and will be harder and harder to find.

Judging by the damage you described, I would replace the fixture now. Why wait?

dcalabro
Re: Sparking Flourescent Ceiling Fixture

Sorry if I misstated but i am definitely replacing the fixture I was just curious if this is common to find or if there was another unknown cause.

Last night I disconnected the wire from the fixture and capped it off but the actual fixture is sitting in a ceiling grid so close to the ceiling that i have no space to lift it out. I have to wait until this weekend to take down part of the ceiling grid and remove the entire fixture for trash.

Thanks.

Re: Sparking Flourescent Ceiling Fixture

Up to 1000V may appear across the ends of a fluorescent lamp and a loose socket (some call them tombestones) can arc like crazy and even start a small flame.

The old magnetic ballast tend to melt down, drip and even catch fire as they fail.

As prevously stated, they can no longer be manufactured in the US but the current stock can be sold off.

Good Luck from Columbiana, Alabama
Maurice Turgeon, http://thesemiretiredelectrician.com

Fencepost
Re: Sparking Flourescent Ceiling Fixture

Are you replacing the fixture because "it's bad" or are you replacing it because you don't like fluorescent lights?

Before you throw it out, consider the following:

  • You can simply get a new ballast. New, electronic ballasts do not give an annoying flicker. You should get a "T-8" ballast -- these use the 1" diameter tubes which are usually somewhat more efficient. You won't need to change the sockets unless they are damaged. Purchase a ballast according to the number and length of tubes the fixture uses. Note that an electronic ballast will have a different wiring diagram than a magnetic ballast will.
  • Try different color temperatures. As Brookworld mentioned, 2700K (warm white) has a very warm, almost pinkish cast; 3500K (soft white) is yellower and closest to incandescent; 4100K (cool white) is a whiter light that is comfortable to work under (and my favorite for task lighting); 5000K (daylight) produces very white, true coloring (best for an art studio) and will take some getting used to indoors; 6500K is a very bluish light.
  • You can get different wattages, but do not exceed the wattage labeled on the ballast. If the ballast is not specified "high output" do NOT use high output tubes.

Note that different color temperatures may have different apparent brightnesses, even if the "lumens" rating is the same. For example, I think that 4100K seems brighter than 2700K for the same wattage. It has to do with our eyes' sensitivity to different frequencies of light, compared with the frequencies of light cast by the bulbs.

It sounds like you've got your mind made up on replacing it, but I wanted to post this in case someone lurking here has a similar problem but doesn't want to replace the entire fixture.

dcalabro
Re: Sparking Flourescent Ceiling Fixture

Thanks for the suggestion and this is all great advice. I am replacing the fixture because i hate how it looks, i was remodeling in the future anyway, dislike the color temperature, and i'd rather replace the fixture because i guess im ocd and would rather not have that smoke damage on the fixture.

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