Fluorescent fixtures are popular because they spread light through a room more completely that incandescent light bulbs do. This is why they are often used in home kitchens and basements, as well as most offices and factories.
Other advantages of fluorescent fixtures include they operate at a cool temperature, which means they do not burn out as frequently as hotter burning light bulbs. Also, they are less expensive to operate than light bulbs.
There are only a few things you need to know about maintain a fluorescent fixture. However, while they rarely need maintenance, they are more complicated than, say, a household lamp.
There are only a few parts to a fluorescent fixture. The receptacles which hold the bulb in place and through which electricity enters the bulb, the ballast inside the fixture which maintains the steady flow of electricity to the bulb, and, in older fixtures, the starter which, as it sound, is used to start the fluorescent light.
When a fluorescent fixture is not working, first check the bulbs. If they are gray or black at one or both sides, they are most likely burned out. Replace them with the same size and voltage. The voltage is written onto the glass side of the bulb.
To remove the fluorescent bulb, simply use two hands to turn the bulb up or down and it will then pull towards you out of its receptacles at either end.
If the bulbs show no sign of wear, the problem may lie in the ballast, which is located inside the fixture. Before replacing the ballast, you must turn off the electricity, preferably at the fuse box.
Again, remove the bulbs and store them gently so they may be reinserted. Remove the metal cover facing the floor and you will see a black box. This is the ballast. Follow the wires coming from the ballast to the receptacles which hold the bulb. Using a screwdriver, simply pop the wires from the receptacles.
You will see screws are holding the ballast to the fixture. Remove them and the ballast will easily be removed. Take the ballast to an electrical goods store or hardware store and have the exact box replaced.
Insert the new ballast exactly as you found it, reconnect the wires to the receptacles, replace the outer fixture cover and bulbs and you should again have light.
In fixtures using starters, you will usually be given plenty of notice that a starter is failing. When a fixture uses a starter, it usually flickers for a moment before remaining on. If the flickering continues for more than a few moments, it means the starter may be failing.
Turn off the electricity, remove the bulbs, and in many fixtures you will see a round, silver cylinder roughly the size of your thumb. This is the starter. It is possible the starter is simply not seated correctly which is causing the flickering. Remove the starter and put it back into its socket. If that does not resolve the problem, remove the starter and have it replaced with the exact type. Again, you will find the voltage information written on the side of the starter. Replace the new starter, reinsert the bulbs and all should be well.
If, when you turn on a fluorescent fixture the ends of the tube light up but the middle does not, this means the starter is reaching the end of its life so go ahead and replace it.
In older fluorescent fixtures, the receptacles which hold the bulbs and supply the electricity may crack from age. This will become too apparent when you are inserting a bulb and half of the receptacle turns to dust and falls away. Of course, this means the receptacle must be replaced.
Of note, when replacing ballasts or receptacles you might wish to check to see if it is simpler and more economical to replace the entire fluorescent fixture. As a rule, these fixtures are quite inexpensive.
Finally, when you are disposing of any fluorescent bulb it is important to never allow it to break. The bulb contains a noxious mercury vapor which only a skunk would be happy to inhale.
The good news about learning to maintain a fluorescent fixture, is that once you have fixed each of the above items, you will become an instant expert and find future repairs can be done very quickly.