Garage Lights

I have two banks of 4 x 48 fluorescent lights in my garage. They glow very very dimly. When I replaced them several months ago, the were bright for maybe a week, and then dimmed down. The lights were really really cheap, so maybe that is the problem. I know they have zero ballast, but they are 17 years old. How do I fix this problem?

When you say the “lights were really really cheap”, are referring to the florescent tubes or the fixtures themselves?

If you mean the tubes, an easy thing to do is to replace one or two of them with better (more expensive) ones and see if that solves the problem.

If you mean the fixtures, you can go to any large warehouse store and see what different models are available. I normally pick something from the middle range price-wise. Replacing the fixtures isn’t too difficult, but you will need a ladder and you need to turn off the power to the lights first…

I meant the bulbs themselves, but probably the fixtures as well.

What’s the temperature in the garage? Many fluorescents perform poorly in cold weather. I’d suspect the tubes over the fixtures in any case.

I’d try some decent brand-name tubes first, and avoid the lowball ones in the future. They last for years; it’s worth $3-4 a tube to get better performance for that duration.


BTW, my garage gets quite cold during the winter (well below freezing) and I haven’t noticed an issue with the bulbs. I have had the same ones in there for 5 years now.

This is another of those: why not just buy it once? items.

Years ago, I bought a case of good quality 48" tubes. Still have 2 left.

If you’re going to be there for a long time and have even a square foot of floor space somewhere, save yourself the grief.

Just FYI: There are LED replacement tubes available. If the problem is low temperatures, that should help.

Note that some of the LEDs do not require ballasts, which means you’ll have to run wiring around the current ballasts before installing the tubes. Others are designed to run with ballasts, but you will have to replace the fluorescent ballasts with new ones. And, yes, they are expensive.

By the way, do you switch them on and off frequently? Fluorescents don’t like that.

And in the way of full disclosure, I’ve never used an LED tube light, so I can’t vouch for them personally.

What do you mean zero ballast?

I recently installed five fluorescent fixtures in my barn. Each fixture contains four, standard, 48 inch, T8 bulbs.

I applied power to them for the first time a month ago. I am guessing the temperature was around 15 °F. All the bulbs lit up, but they were somewhat dim, most likely due to the plasma in the bulbs being too cold. After about 30 minutes they were at full brightness.

I purchased the fixtures at Home Depot. They were $40 each, and were specified for use down to 0 °F.

Having zero degree ballasts just means they’re guaranteed to light at that temperature, not that they perform like it’s Florida. (They do make fixtures with -20 degree ballasts.

If you really need a lot of light at cold temperatures, HID lights or LED lights are the way to go, (but LEDs that put out a lot of light are still spendy right now and HID lights require warm-up time.) If you just want something to turn on for a few minutes to find your car, a couple of hundred (OK, now it’s 72…) watt incandescent are hard to beat.

This would be a good time to check the voltage to eliminate that as a problem.