For Most Light Problems, Here’s A Light Solution


Working in the lighting industry for over 25 years, I’ve had, and heard, my share of problems with fluorescents and incandescents.

With incandescents, it’s pretty simple – the light’s burned out, the glass shell is broken or the light isn’t getting juice. They’re what I call the “dumb” light of our industry, which is one of the many reasons why I’m so pro-fluorescent.

Yet with CFL’s higher IQ – like most smart people – comes more challenges. From pre-heats to instant on, there is a long list of things that can go wrong; light won’t come on, light flickers, light comes on at the ends but the middle stays dark, light glows then fades, light has dark rings around it, light hums when it shouldn’t, light is strange color when lit – the problems are endless.

Luckily for me and all my brethren in the lighting and electrical industry, there are fewer reasons that cause these fluorescent problems than there are problems themselves, and even fewer solutions that solve those problems.

Yet that doesn’t mean that figuring out the reason or solving the problem is always a piece of cake.

It can be as simple as no power getting to the fixture or a burnt-out bulb to more complex issues, like a bad circuit, bad starter, bad socket, bad ballast, grounding issues, low line voltage, bad connection to the metal reflectors…and the list goes on.

As any of you light pros can attest, it can sometimes be challenging when we’re trying to help solve a problem for a customer who doesn’t live in our “light” world and therefore may not know a ballast from a breaker. I personally love these customers, because they inevitably allow me a “teachable” moment, to explain what’s going on in terms they can understand and shine a little light on this industry that I so dearly love.

For contractor or laymen, there are lots of trouble-shooting resources on the internet. Even though I may be relatively new to the web and all the very powerful tools it provides (and, let’s face it, all the silly time killers that I generally avoid) when I find something I like, I want to share it with you – particularly if it pertains to our industry.

I’d like to recommend one, in particular, that I think does a great job of explaining the lighting problem, the potential reason and the possible solution.

Before I offer it here, I do want to send out one warning to untrained consumers who read this blog – never ever ever under any circumstances attempt to do any troubleshooting or do-it-yourself lighting fixes yourself. There’s a reason electricians have to go through all those years of training and apprenticeship in order to be licensed and bonded in the state of Iowa. Leave it to the pros!

Having said that, I wanted to share with you this very smart, concise, handy guide to fluorescent lighting troubleshooting that I stumbled upon recently. It’s actually an older web site, from 2006, but I love the way it’s laid out and easy to understand. Just click the URL below:

Whether you’re a an experienced electrician or don’t know a thing about lights, this guide can either be a great resource, or just very interesting reading. Happy problem solving, and let me know if it helps.


Jack Huff, along with his son Brian and wife Sue, owns and manages Adventure Lighting in Des Moines, Iowa. For more information, go to

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