Fluorescent Shop Light Ballasts, Redux

As usual, several shoplights didn’t survive the winter, so I gutted and rebuilt them with LED tubes. Even the fancy shoplights with genuine electronic ballasts survive less than nine years, as two of those eight “new” lamps have failed so far.

The dead ballast looks the same as it did before:

Electronic ballast - label
Electronic ballast – label

Some deft work with a cold chisel and my Designated Prydriver popped the top to reveal a plastic-wrapped circuit board:

Electronic ballast - interior wrapped
Electronic ballast – interior wrapped

Perhaps the flexy gunk reduces the sound level:

Electronic ballast - interior A
Electronic ballast – interior A

While also preventing casual failure analysis and organ harvesting:

Electronic ballast - interior B
Electronic ballast – interior B

The black gunk smells more like plastic and less like old-school tar. It’s definitely not a peel-able conformal coating.

One the other paw, the two magnetic ballasts in another lamp sported actual metal-film capacitors, which I harvested and tossed into the Big Box o’ Film Caps:

Shoplight choke ballast - film cap
Shoplight choke ballast – film cap

If a dying ballast didn’t also kill its fluorescent tube(s), I’d be less annoyed. I’m running the remaining tubes through the surviving fixtures, but the end is nigh for both.

The new LED tubes produce more light than the old fluorescents, although I still don’t like their 6500 K “daylight glow” color.

12 thoughts on “Fluorescent Shop Light Ballasts, Redux

  1. I’m seeing 5000K fixtures and bulbs available at ‘Zon. Not sure what I have at home; I’m doing another medical stint–right eye. It’s the last round, so Yeaaah!

    1. And you’re seeing, which is not to be taken for granted!

      Come to think of it, you’ve disproved the rule to never look into the laser beam with your remaining eye …

  2. I am currently coming to the end of my second relamping project at the university where I work. About ten years ago we retrofitted from T12 to T8 bulbs (which involved changing around two thousand ballasts). Now we are changing from T8 fluorescent tubes to T8 LED tubes. The decision was made to go with ballast compatible LEDs, although we have found that ballast compatible is a fuzzy-edged concept. I’d estimate that 90% of the fixtures accept LEDs, the others needing a replacement ballast. We tend to order either GE or Lumipro ballasts (depending on which is cheaper this week) and have found that their lifespan is well worth the cost. The cheap Chinese variety like the one you show tend not to last more than a year. (And they don’t always take the bulbs with them, by the way. I have often found perfectly good bulbs with a dead ballast.)

    Most of the modern ones I have taken apart have had that same black goop inside–I don’t know what it’s for either, but sound deadening is as good an answer as any.

    I’ve found LED bulbs in a wide variety of color spectrums. We’ve been going with 4000K, which gives a very clean light.

    1. The (rather cryptic) instructions suggest one can snap (some?) LED tubes into existing fixtures with the ballasts intact, albeit with possible magic smoke emission; I’d rather gut the fixtures and avoid the smoke thing. In your situation, though, rewiring is definitely a Bad Thing!

      The 4000 K tubes sound like a major win and, for my next basement shop, they’ll be even cheaper and more readily available.

      1. If it were me, I would have gone with pulling the ballasts, but the decision was made above my pay grade. On the fixtures that we did rewire to run direct (the 8 foot bulbs) it was cake, we just bypassed the ballast and ran the positive to one end and the negative to the other. We’ve also been doing the exterior lighting direct wire, which makes me very happy. If I never have to wrestle an HID ballast kit up a twenty foot ladder to install it on the outside of a building again I will be a happy man.

        1. I had to search for LED tubes with Line on one end and Neutral on the other, with four feet in between, because I straight-up did not want both in the same tombstone. Call me a sissy, it’s fine.

          1. You had to search for those? Meaning that the standard is what, both hot and neutral in one tombstone? Odd, The only ones I’ve bypassed have been either mogul base screw-ins or 8 foot bulbs with a single pin on each end.

          2. Oh, oh, guess I need to take a close look at that case of LED tubes I have in the round-tuit stack.

            1. Some of the comments from “verified purchasers” suggest spectacular whoopsies from miswired fixtures …

    2. We have some2700K 7 W bulbs in the house. They’re a bit too yellow for my taste; trying to differentiate a yellow dog biscuit from a beige one can be a pain.

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