Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Repairing Fluorescent Light Fixtures

"Fluorescent" is a strange word.  It's spelled funny.   But it's not funny when they don't work.

Yesterday was cool and rainy here in Georgia.  No painting projects.  So I decided to mess around with the hallway light that doesn't work between the forward and middle staterooms.  The first thing I did was to take my multimeter to test the switches to see if they had power.  There's one switch at the top of the stairs and one at the bottom.  I did this a couple of days ago, and it seemed that my expensive multimeter didn't work for DC voltage.  The numbers bounced all over the place.  So I did what any of you guys would have done.  I bought another multimeter.  That one didn't work either.  I got the same result, numbers bouncing all around.

I decided to take a new approach.  Test for voltage at the fixture.  I removed the old fluorescent fixture, undid the wire nuts, and exposed the wires.

Miracle of miracles, I had 13.4 volts.  The power and switches are fine.  It must be the bulb or fixture that's bad.

A bit over a year ago, I replaced a balky fluorescent fixture in the master stateroom's head with a homemade LED fixture.  I bought two LED lights at West Marine and installed them in a piece of teak.  It looked good and worked great for about six months.  I was feeling pretty good and wrote about it in this blog posting.  And then the LEDs started burning out one by one.  Now, only a handful of the LEDs turn on.   Sigh.

I didn't have a vehicle yesterday because Pam had it to go to wo-wo-wo-wo-work.  She took a Christmas job at Belk department store, a southern version of Macy's.  If I had transportation, I would have hied myself to West Marine and bought a new fixture.  It's what guys do.  But not having transportation, I had to settle for playing on Al Gore's internets for the rest of the afternoon.  That's where I came across this web page-

Repairing and Troubleshooting Fluorescent Fixtures and Tubes

I love the internet!  There's a lot of information out there, so even a clod like me can pretend to be a pro!

It is now 5:38 AM.  Pam has to work today, but I'm going to drop her off and then take the dogs to the beach.  When I get back to the boat, I'm going to test the bulbs and the fixture to see what the problem is, and then either replace the bulbs, repair the fixture, or buy a new one.  Tubes, starters, ballasts... should be fun.  A new replacement fixture is only $70, so I'm not going to go nuts here, but I love a challenge.


  1. My son gave me some LED strips for Christmas last year. I installed them into a chunk of mahogany much like you did. I've got another set to install, but haven't figured out where on the boat to put them.

    Personally, I like them much better than fluorescent bulbs and would use the LEDs. I can't imagine why yours have died. I've got three sets of them under a cabinet in my office that have been running 24/7 for three years with not a single burn out.

  2. Sometimes your meter will have an AC/DC switch and then some of them have a different position on the dial for AC or DC.

    Most meters I have seen will do both.

    Bill Kelleher