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Light switch needs to be turned on and off multiple times to turn on light

Light switch needs to be turned on and off multiple times to turn on light

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  #1  
Old 06-20-13, 08:13 PM
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Light switch needs to be turned on and off multiple times to turn on light

Hi all...I'm hoping I can get some advice for an issue I've been having with our ceiling mounted 2 bulb linear fluorescent fixture in our kitchen.

For some reason, the light switch needs to be flipped on and off multiple times for the light to turn on. Sometimes it will turn on normally but most of the time, I will have to flip the switch many times. When this first started about 6 months ago, I replaced the 2 bulbs. The problem seemed to have subsided for a while. Then it started again so I switched the light switch just in case it was the switch. It seemed to have worked perfectly for a little while until recently.

I know my next step is to look at:
1) the light fixture
2) the wire connection at the fixture

I'm hoping I can get some advice before I tackle this like what to look for or anything that will help me know what I am doing.

If I am missing any information that helps anyone diagnose this problem, please let me know.

Thanks in advance.
 
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  #2  
Old 06-20-13, 09:21 PM
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Make sure the light fixture is grounded. Check the connections at the tombstones (bulb sockets). Look for any tar like substance leaking from the ballast. After the light has been on for a few minutes check to see if the ballast is too hot to touch for 10 seconds.
 
  #3  
Old 06-21-13, 05:57 AM
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There is a ground that I'm connecting to the light switch. Does that usually mean it's grounded assuming that ground is coming from the fixture or is that ground line coming from the main?

I will check what you've suggested. Thank you. I would have never known to check those.
 
  #4  
Old 06-21-13, 06:19 AM
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That means the light switch is grounded, but not necessarily the light fixture. Best to check it and be sure.

Another possibility: I had a switch fail just last week. Flip it up; it didn't work. Apply a slight pressure to the left or right while it was on and it worked. Replaced the switch -- all is well. If you do replace the switch, don't waste money on the 59-cent specials. Spend a couple of dollars.
 
  #5  
Old 06-21-13, 06:56 AM
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Thanks Rick for the grounding explanation.

When I replaced the light switch, I did replace it w/ the cheapo, no box one's. I will do the battery of checks suggested earlier and if all else fails, I will replace the switch to something better. If it's ultimately not that, at least the better switches are not expensive. Thank you!
 
  #6  
Old 06-21-13, 06:21 PM
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I'm going to try and trouble shoot this weekend..In the meantime, I have a question regarding the fixture grounding issue.

If the fixture was not grounded, how does it affect the fixture and why would it possibly give me issues w/ how it turns on w/ the light switch? I'm curious as to the reason behind this for my own knowledge.

Thanks all.
 
  #7  
Old 06-21-13, 10:57 PM
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Fluorescent tubes work by striking an arc between the ends. The older fixtures used a pre-heat system that warmed up the filaments in the tube and then the high voltage could arc. With the close proximity of the tube to the metal casing.....the arc also uses the ground to get established.

The new electronic ballasts don't require any assistance of the ground from the case or a filament. They send a very powerful high voltage spike out that ionizes the gas in the tube almost instantly.

I don't think you have a switch problem. Pick up a new electronic ballast and send that old one packing.
 
  #8  
Old 06-22-13, 06:04 AM
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Awesome explanation. Thank you! I'm going to take a peak at the fixture and double check connections. I don't know how old the fixture is but the house was built in the late 80s. If nothing else looks foreign and I see no ground, I'll do a new ballast since I have a new switch too.
 
  #9  
Old 06-22-13, 08:08 AM
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If you have a magnetic ballast and swap to an electronic ballast be sure to follow the wiring diagram on the new ballast. It may be different from your existing wiring.
 
  #10  
Old 06-22-13, 09:10 AM
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You'll find two choices when purchasing an electronic ballast. One choice is to continue using T12 lamps and purchase an electronic ballast that replaces the old magnetic ballast and the second choice is to convert the fixture to T8 lamps and purchase an electronic ballast for T8s. Since most T12 lamps are no longer manufactured, I'd definitely opt for converting the fixture to T8 lamps. The wiring is definitely different, but the wiring diagram is on the new ballast. Assuming the lamps you now use are 4-foot F34 or F40 lamps, the lampholders will accept the T8 lamps.
 
  #11  
Old 06-22-13, 10:21 AM
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Ok, I just looked at the light a bit closer though I didn't detach anything to see the ballast or wires since I wasn't able to devote enough time at this time.

I am confirming they are 48" T12s. I don't see anything wrong w/ the ends of the 2 bulbs at the attachments. Now that I realize the ballast is hidden within the center compartment, I'm thinking that if I need to change the ballast, I mind as well get a new fixture. Fixture's aren't too expensive. Does something like this work? It doesn't say if it's an electronic ballast, do any of you know?

I'm thinking that if I need to detach the fixture from the ceiling to check the wires, I mind as well just get a new fixture since I know the fixture is old anyways. Does this make sense? If this was a hundred's of dollar fixture, I would explore more but it isn't.

Thoughts or suggestions of similar 48" 2 bulb fixtures like the one I linked?

Thanks all!
 
  #12  
Old 06-22-13, 10:26 AM
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You will need to open it to disconnect the wires and remove the fasteners. It may not have a junction box underneath the fixture. It may be held by toggle bolts or screwed to the ceiling joists..

A common recommendation on cheap fixtures is if the ballast is bad a new ballast may cost more then the fixture so just replace the fixture.
 
  #13  
Old 06-22-13, 03:02 PM
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Thoughts or suggestions of similar 48" 2 bulb fixtures like the one I linked?
The surface wrap fixture you linked to is fine as long as you don't mind paying $8 to $10 each for T5 lamps. I'd buy a fixture that takes T8 lamps.
 
  #14  
Old 06-22-13, 04:37 PM
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Aren't T5 lights the highest efficiency? Or are you saying that T8's will do for my application and will save some money?
 
  #15  
Old 06-22-13, 04:59 PM
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T-8s will work for your application and will save you some countable money. BTW, I haven't yet changed any of the lamps in the ones I installed when we moved in here in 1999. They're in the laundry/utility room, so they're not on a lot, but still.

Want to compare the two? Check the lumens-per-watt rating of each lamp, the cost of the lamp and the rated life. Calculate the annual cost of each from that.
 
  #16  
Old 07-13-13, 01:03 PM
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Update

Hi all...Just an update.

So I bought this fixture and installed it this morning.

As usual, it took longer than I had planned. The instructions did not match the item in some cases (not to mention that I need to prep and paint part of the ceiling as I had not planned on this new fixture being oriented slightly differently than the old one in relation to the box), which leads me to my question.

The fixture included a "wire compartment cover" which was a metal box that was suppose to be screwed to the metal frame of the fixture somewhere. I couldn't figure out where as all of the holes in the fixture were taken. What this was suppose to do was to cover the wire nuts for the 2 wires. So instead, I just attached the wires together w/ the nuts. But they are kind of just hanging around and may be rubbing the T8 lamp a little. Will this be an issue? I'm already planning on trying to attach the loose wires to the main metal frame somehow just for reassurance but would like to know how urgent I need to do that.

Another question I have is regarding the ground. I attached the ground wire from the house to the ground wire that came w/ the fixture, which is then screwed w/ a nut into the metal frame of the fixture. Does this sound right? It's connect via a wire nut as well.

Thanks in advance for your help.
 
  #17  
Old 07-13-13, 01:34 PM
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Most surface mount fixtures have 1/2" electrical knockouts for connecting the wire using a connector.

Your fixture may have had a square hole in the back of it and that cover should snap into the square hole. The cover would have two feet that would slide into the fixture and then you would slide the plate the other direction to lock it in. I wasn't able to find any pics for you.

Normally the wire shouldn't be allowed to just hang around thru a large hole. It should be connected using a proper connector.
 
  #18  
Old 07-13-13, 02:50 PM
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The way you grounded the fixture sounds correct.

The wiring cover should be installed. Do you see two small tabs on each side where the wiring cover could slide into?
 
  #19  
Old 07-13-13, 06:31 PM
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The fixture does have a hole in the metal frame that attaches to the box. I pulled the wires from there into the fixture, which really means it's just hanging down. The ballast is off the other end and it's wires are then connected to the house wires w/ nuts. I can't quite figure out where this wire compartment cover goes, nor do I even think the holes provided are wide enough to fit the wires inside.

What proper connector are you referring to? Do you have an example?

Thank you.
 
  #20  
Old 07-13-13, 06:34 PM
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The wiring cover, which I am referring to as the "wire compartment cover" is a small box where I was suppose to feed the wires through and where I can hide the wire nuts. But I can't figure out where that attaches to the metal frame of the fixture. It comes w/ 1 screw that I am suppose to screw into the frame.

I'm hoping I can just make sure the wires are tucked tightly between the bulbs. The light is not on for a very long time each time it's on if that helps.

Thanks.
 
  #21  
Old 07-13-13, 07:01 PM
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Could you post some pictures of the light?
 
  #22  
Old 07-15-13, 06:26 PM
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Here are a couple of pictures.

Never mind the blue elec tape. It was my attempt to secure the wires to the metal frame. As you can see, the wires have nuts around them at the connections so there is nothing bare out. In there somewhere was suppose to be that box that tucked all of that away but I doubt it would have fit anyways.

On a side note, I will need to reinstall the light because the dry wall anchors for the screws at the ends did not hold securely. Luckily, the fixture is truly held in place via the elec box so I have no fear of it falling. I'll have to replace them w/ toggle bolt anchors as I have to reuse the same hole location. As a result, I am going to try to revisit the wire tucking issue again.

I know I might be beating a dead horse but thanks to everyone trying to help.
 
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  #23  
Old 07-15-13, 07:00 PM
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I think I'd revisit the instructions that come with the fixture.
 
  #24  
Old 07-15-13, 09:09 PM
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Can you post a link to the fixture you are installing, and a link to the instructions for it? The wiring enclosures I'm familiar with run the entire length of the fixture.
 
  #25  
Old 07-16-13, 09:42 AM
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Here is the direct link to the fixture:

Shop Portfolio 57-in White Ceiling Fluorescent Light at Lowes.com

I can't find the instructions online but I can assure everyone it's not helpful. I am pretty handy and have no problems connecting wires, etc. The issue I am trying to solve is how to tuck the wires away. That was not very clear to me. Usually it's tucked inside the elec box but the box is covered w/ a plate that is used to attach the fixture in place (which is fine w/ me). The instructions for tucking the wires is unintelligible because the instructions/drawings do not match the fixture.

So basically, I'm asking for ideas/brainstorms to how to tuck the wires in the area between the 2 middle bulbs.

Thanks everyone. I really appreciate the responses.
 
  #26  
Old 07-16-13, 02:08 PM
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That appears to be a Lowe's house brand, and all I could find there was a pretty picture of the complete fixture.

We need to see the inside, all of the parts, and the instructions. Scanning those in would work.
 
  #27  
Old 07-16-13, 03:56 PM
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Can you post a link to the fixture you are installing, and a link to the instructions for it? The wiring enclosures I'm familiar with run the entire length of the fixture.
Nash, check the link again and take a look at the reviews. One of the reviewers had a similar problem with the wires as the OP has.
 
  #28  
Old 07-16-13, 04:32 PM
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And others had multiple ballast failures and there are multiple complaints on how flimsy it is. You have to question the integrity of any manufacturer that includes plastic drywall anchors for mounting. Suggest you return it for a better model and check inside if the new one has a full length wire shield before buying.

<Opinion> Seems way over priced. Surely you can find better for that price.
 
  #29  
Old 07-16-13, 05:52 PM
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Nash, check the link again and take a look at the reviews. One of the reviewers had a similar problem with the wires as the OP has.
Thanks, Joe. I went back and skimmed through the lot. The fixture sounded worse and worse as I went.

I came away thinking: "And Lowe's has the chutzpah to charge $109 for this?" One more reason I don't buy materials there.
 
  #30  
Old 07-16-13, 08:07 PM
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I don't fault Lowes so much, but I also steer clear of house brands. This is what you usually get, a cheaply made item whether it be electrical, plumbing or anything else. All the big stores have their house brands and this doesn't seem to be much different than any of those I have seen. That being said, even reputable manufacturers make OEM specific items for the big box stores only. I was looking for a Lithonia fixture a while back and the distributors couldn't make heads or tails from the catalog number. I eventually found it was an item made exclusively for Home Depot.
 
  #31  
Old 07-16-13, 09:34 PM
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Yeah, Commercial Electric products aren't great quality either, and I've been known to refuse to install a Harbor Breeze or Hampton Bay fan. That said, it seems to me - my opinion - that Lowe's is more concerned about appearance and less concerned about function and quality than HD. More of a home furnishings store.

It might just be my limited exposure.
 
  #32  
Old 08-03-13, 08:53 AM
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Hi all,

I see there's been some action on this thread. I finally had a chance to "fix" the problem this morning. I switched out the drywall anchors w/ toggle anchors and now the fixture is secure. I ended up tying the wires that seem to be loose w/ zip ties. I have attached a picture. Does anyone see a problem, at least electrically? (I know aesthetically its not pretty but no one sees it and it doesn't touch any of the bulbs.)

As it's been stated recently, the fixture has a lot of issues as things are not so obvious, especially when it comes w/ following the instructions and installation.

As far as actual use, I am happy with it. The ballast seems to work fine as the lights come on immediately. We'll see if it stands the test of time.
 
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