I have a florescent light in my kitchen that isn’t working properly. I’ve changed the bulbs, but sometimes it works, and other times it doesn’t. Do I need a new fixture?
Fluorescent lights can be troublesome at times; however, repairs are fairly easy. My first suggestion with problem lights is to simply replace the bulbs. But since you’ve already done that, let’s go to the next step.
With the switch on, try rotating the bulbs slightly, making sure that they have good contact in the bulb pin holders at each end. Sometimes, these sockets or bulb holders need to be replaced. If turning the bulb slightly brings the light on as it should be, wait and see if the problem persists. If it does, replace the sockets (two per bulb).
If rotating the bulb doesn’t help, it could be either the ballast or the starter that is bad. Older fluorescent lights have a starter, which is usually a gray, round device, about 1” long and the circumference of a nickel. You will usually see the starter with the bottom half being exposed. Sometimes you have to remove the bulbs to see them. To remove a starter, simply twist it one-quarter turn counter clockwise to remove it. The starters are usually less than $1 and are available at any hardware store.
If your fixture doesn’t have a starter, then it will have a ballast. A ballast is a transformer that will boost the 120 volt house current up to about 300 volts in order to light the bulb, then reduce the voltage down to keep it lit. Replacing a ballast can be done, but it may take a first timer about 30 minutes, as there are numerous wires to connect. Also, the cost of a new ballast can be $20 and higher, which means that sometimes, it may be less expensive to simply buy a new fixture, especially if the fixture is simply a shop light type.
If you decide to replace the ballast, be sure to look closely when buying the new one, as there are many different types. It would be best to remove the old one and take it to the hardware store with you.