This article describes the steps needed to successfully replace a ballast in a fluorescent light fixture.
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While most problems with fluorescent lighting is fixed by changing the bulb, another problem can be lurking that requires a little more knowledge and skill to repair. If the fixture fails to light after all of the bulbs have been replaced, the culprit most likely will turn out to be the ballast.
Despite the fixtures looking complicated, the ballast are not hard to replace.
The first time that you change a ballast, it is best to plan for the job to take about an hour of your time. If you are good at minor electrical repairs and do a lot of home improvement, cut that amount of time in half. Usually, it takes longer to figure out the best way to access the ballast than it does to change it.
Start the job by removing the old ballast.
Remove the old ballast before purchasing the new one unless you are certain about what type of ballast to buy. This way, you can take the part with you when you pick up the new one to make sure that you only have to make one trip. If the ballast has never been replaced, you will need six or eight small wire nuts. From the tool box you will need a pair of pliers, a set of small end wrenches, two screw drivers (one slotted and one Phillips), a pair of wire cutters, and a wire stripper.
To access the ballast, start by removing the cover to light fixture.
Inside the fixture, you will find the two tube lights in most home fluorescent fixtures. Between the two bulbs, you will notice a panel that hides the wiring and ballast for the fixture. Remove the bulbs carefully and store them to be returned to their place after the ballast has been replaced. The cover over the ballast usually does not have screws, but if they are present, remove them. Generally, squeezing the panel inward will release it from the tabs down each side of its length and allow you to pull it free.
After the cover is removed, you should be able to see the ballast.
Most ballasts for fluorescent lighting fixtures are oblong in shape. It will be between six inches and a foot long. The ballast will have wires coming out of both ends and running to the ends of the light fixture. These wires will connect to the plugs for the ends of the fluorescent bulbs. There will be two other wires, one black and one white, that attach to your house wiring near one end of the ballast. Make sure that the electricity is off to the fixture. Remove the wire nuts from these two wires and disconnect the wires from your house wiring.
Published in: Do-It-Yourself