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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Posts
    36

    Default 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!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Posts
    74

    Default 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

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    wisconsin
    Posts
    159

    Default 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..

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Shamokin, Pa.
    Posts
    645

    Default 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?
    Last edited by Ernie_Fergler; 08-08-2009 at 09:03 AM. Reason: spell check

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Pacific Northwet
    Posts
    1,627

    Default 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 50F. Newer ones are generally good down to around 35F, and you can get "cold start" ballasts that are good down to 0F.
    The "Senior Member" designation under my name doesn't mean I know a lot, it just means I talk a lot.I've been a DIYer since I was 12 (thanks, Dad!). I have read several books on various home improvement topics. I do not have any current code books I can refer to. I was an apprentice plumber for two years.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Posts
    36

    Default 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!!
    Last edited by Toody; 08-11-2009 at 05:16 PM. Reason: Forgot to add something.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Posts
    36

    Default Re: Need advice about shoplights in basement...Update

    Hello everyone, I wasn't able to get new T8 light fixtures as you recommended because the old ballasts and lights that were in there were installed separately, up against the ceiling beams. In order to install complete new fixtures (T8s), all the ceiling tiles would have to be lowered a 1/4 inch. Now, I have another problem...

    All the lights and ballasts (with Phillips T12 lights) are working -- but one. When I turn on the light switch, one light flickers and won't turn on completely, but the other three light right up. I've tried changing light bulbs/rods, in case one malfunctioned, but that only results in the light lighting up completely one time; thereafter, the lights flicker again when I turn on the switch. I even used lights that were connected in the other ballast and worked they just fine.

    I'll have to call the electrician back, but I'd like to be armed with information...do you think that the problem is the ballast? I've been told that if it was the ballast, the light would not work at all. Others have told me that it may be a lose connection, and that the ballast would try to work.

    Any help will be appreciated!

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