In the past few days, I have dedicated some time to writing about fluorescent lights. Yesterday I wrote about fluorescent light covers, and today I would like to tell you some general things about fluorescent light fixtures.
After you finish reading this article, you will know the benefits of fluorescent lights, how light fixtures are made, what types of fluorescent fixtures there are, and whether it’s possible to use dimmers with fluorescent lights.
1.) Enjoy the benefits of fluorescent light bulbs
If you are planning to use fluorescent light fixtures, it’s probably because you have decided to use fluorescent light bulbs. Fluorescent bulbs are more efficient than incandescent ones because they consume much less electricity. Fluorescent bulbs also last longer – they are able to work for more than 10,000 hours (incandescent bulbs work for 750 – 1000 hours). After the bulb warms up, the light is bright enough for all types of use, including use as a task light. Color variety is also a benefit – you can choose among different light temperatures (I will describe light temperatures in a separate article). If you like their advantages and are ready to accept some disadvantages (especially the danger caused if a light bulb breaks), then fluorescent bulbs are suitable for you and you should look at fluorescent light fixtures.
2.) How are they made?
Fluorescent light fixtures consist of a light ballast, a light bulb (with its holder), internal wiring, and a starter. The job of the fluorescent light ballast is to create the voltage and current necessary to start and illuminate the fluorescent light. Consequently, if the ballast doesn’t work, the fixture won’t emit any light. There are two different types of ballasts: magnetic and electronic. Magnetic ballasts were used in older fluorescent fixtures, whereas electronic ballasts are used in newer fixtures. Electronic ballasts have two advantages – they are able to start the fixture more quickly and they don’t hum like magnetic ballasts did.
The starter’s work is very simple – it sends the delayed shot of high voltage electricity to the fluorescent bulb (to the gas in it to be more exact). Because it needs time to do that, the fixture flickers for a few seconds before it starts working at full power. If your fixture is younger than 15 years old, than it probably doesn’t have a starter (starters were replaced by the new technology of “auto-starting fixtures”).
3.) Different types and sizes of fluorescent light fixtures
Fluorescent fixtures are available in different types and sizes. Most commonly, fluorescent light fixtures are installed on the ceiling (there are some exceptions, though; for example, light fixtures above the sink in the bathroom). We are familiar with different shapes of fluorescent bulbs – circline, U-shape, two-dimensional, quad tube, twin tube, and tubular, which is the most popular one. Most fluorescent fixtures are made for one of these shapes (and sizes), which means that you need to be careful when you are buying fixtures (and bulbs).
Picture 1: Standard ceiling fluorescent light fixture
If you are buying fluorescent light fixtures, you may come across expressions like “T2 fluorescent.” T stands for “tubular” (the shape of the bulb used in the fixture) and the number 2 means the diameter of the bulb in eighths of an inch. T2 fluorescent is a fixture for a tubular fluorescent bulb with a diameter of 2/8 (or ¼) of an inch. T8 fluorescent is for a bulb with a diameter of exactly one inch. Sometimes you will see “HO” after T2 (i.e., T2 HO fluorescent). HO is short for “high output,” which means that these lights are brighter and draw more electrical current.
4.) Fluorescent lights can be dimmed
Many people wonder if fluorescent bulbs can be dimmed – the answer is yes, they can be, but there are some limitations. When selecting a dimmer for your fluorescent light, you need to be aware of the fact that there are different types of dimmers, which will work only with certain types of ballasts (a part of the fluorescent light fixture). So you will need to find a dimmer that is suitable for your fixture (your fixture’s ballast, to be exact) or simply buy a dimmer together with your fixture. This way you will know for sure that they match. I should also warn you that dimmers for incandescent lights are different from dimmers for fluorescent lights, which means that fluorescent and incandescent lights can’t be dimmed together (with only one dimmer).
So now you know the benefits of using fluorescent light fixtures, you are familiar with expressions like “T2 HO fluorescent fixture,” you know how they are made, and you also know that you can dim your fluorescent lights . With this information, you should be able to decide whether they are appropriate for your needs or not. Now I would like to share another tip with you: If your fluorescent fixture stops working, you can find manuals on the Internet that explain how to repair it yourself (if you are DIY type of guy or gal). In many cases, repairing an old fixture is more expensive than buying a new one, but if your fixture is extremely rare, this tip may benefit you.