Fluorescent bulb keeps flickering

Star Tribune (Minneapolis)October 16, 2010 

Q: I have two overhead fluorescent light fixtures that are not working properly. After the switch is turned on, the light bulbs might take several minutes before they actually come on. Sometimes, they will come on immediately. What can I do to fix it?

First, make sure you are using the correct fluorescent bulb type for your fixtures. If it's an older fixture, it likely uses a T12 bulb. Newer, more energy-efficient fixtures use T8 bulbs.

Next, check that the pins on each end of the bulbs are making contact with the socket. Or it could be time to replace your bulbs if you notice that they get dark gray on the ends.

If changing the bulbs doesn't solve the problem, the problem is most likely with the ballast, a transformer in the light fixture that changes the voltage from 120 volts to the required voltage for fluorescent bulbs. If the ballast is wearing out, it could cause all of the symptoms you listed.

If the ballast is the problem, it's probably time to purchase new light fixtures, which an electrician should install. Replacing just the ballasts could cost almost as much as a new fixture and take more time.

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