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Two banks of fluorescent lights do not come on when the light

switch is thrown. There...
Two banks of fluorescent lights do not come on when the light switch is thrown. There is current to the light switch. There is a second light switch across the room that may or may not be connected to these lights. There is no power to the second switch. What could be the problem with the lights?
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Answered in 5 minutes by:
8/23/2013
Rick
Rick, Master Electrician
Category: Electrical
Satisfied Customers: 467
Experience: 10 yrs as a electrician. Have my own company.
Verified

Sparky :

Hello, my name is XXXXX XXXXX I'm here to answer any of your electrical questions.

Sparky :

Did you take the light switch out of the wall?

Sparky :

If not, please do so and let me know how many screws are on the switch, and what color they are.

Customer:

No. I wasn't sure which breaker to throw.

Sparky :

How did you find out there is power going to the switch?

Customer:

I've got one of those little testers - little light bulb glows red when there's current.

Sparky :

And you used it without even removing the switch? Normally you have to hold those close to the wire. But that's ok. Is this in our home?

Sparky :

your

Customer:

It's in a house we're trying to sell. The lights were working when we moved out, but they haven't worked since the prospective buyer had it "inspected". One terminal on each side of the switch, ground on the lower right side.

Sparky :

What color are the wires attached to the switch? Are you sure it has a ground wire? Is it a green or bare wire?

Customer:

I'm not at the house any longer. I didn't really get too much detail on the switches. I was trying to get some idea of where to start to solve the problem.

Sparky :

Well that all depends. But I will give you a good direction to go in. The first thing you want to do is see if it is a 3 way switch. If it is then the switch at the end of the room more than likely has something to do with it. Take that one apart and see if that is a 3 way switch. If it is, you need to see if you have power at one of the wires. They both should have how wires. I will post a picture of a 3 way switch for you. If they are 3 way switches it does not mean that there is a problem with the switch at all. What you will need to do is take the light apart and find where the house wiring connects to the ballast, which could be the cause of the problem. How old is the house?

Customer:

House is 20-25 years old. That looks similar to the switch, but I don't recall seeing a terminal on the lower left. These lights are in a lowered ceiling, one ceiling tile apart. If the ballast is bad on one bank (each has 4 bulbs), would that affect the second bank?

Sparky :

Another thing is you can not rely on the type of tester you have for much of anything. So be very careful. After you have taken the light apart and find the house wiring connections hold your tester to the black wire. If there is no power, flip the switch then check for power again. If there is still no power then there is no power getting to the light fixture. You may have a switch or a breaker problem. Another way to know if a switch is a 3 way switch is the switch will not say on, or off. If it is a single pole switch then it will say on and off depending on whether you have it in the off or on position. If you do have power at the switches either one, then you may want to replace the switches paying close attention to make sure you put the wires in the same locations on the new switches. The wire that really matters is the one that goes on the black screw. You will have 2 screws that are the same color, those don't matter they can be flip flopped and it's ok. But the one that is a different color must go on the black screw. It would be very odd for both ballasts to go out at once. Especially since you have 4 bulbs on each one. A lot of times 4 bulb fixtures have 2 ballasts each. 1 for every 2 lights. Even if both had 1 ballast a piece it would be odd for both to go out at he same time.

Sparky :

What you though to be a ground wire may actually be the 3rd screw. 20 years ago, not a lot of ground wires were attached to the switches.

Customer:

So it's more likely a switch than the light fixtures themselves? I think the switch said on and off, but I'll have to give it another look. I'll also have to see if there is anything else on that breaker.

Sparky :

There will be a lot of things on that breaker because it is a lighting circuit, so you can expect a lot of things to turn off right along with it. Were the lights the only thing not working?

Customer:

Yes. There are other ceiling lights in this basement, one the other side of the room and a light for the stairs.

Sparky :

Then I would say that the problem is either going to be a switch, or a loose connection before that point in that particular circuit.

Customer:

Ok, great. Now I have a starting point. I can try the switches, if that doesn't solve the problem I'll find an electrician. We're running out time for when the house has to be ready and if it's something simple I'll give it a shot to save time.

Sparky :

That's great please rate my service, and thank you for your time.

Customer:

Thank you for help.

Sparky :

No problem

Rick
Rick, Master Electrician
Category: Electrical
Satisfied Customers: 467
Experience: 10 yrs as a electrician. Have my own company.
Verified
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Just wanted to say thank you Mark, for the excellent rating. It is greatly appreciated. If you have any more electrical questions, please let me know. Here is my profile page. Thanks again. The bonus is greatly appreciated.

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Category: Electrical
Satisfied Customers: 467
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Experience: 10 yrs as a electrician. Have my own company.

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