T8 Light Fixtures

gmgpk(IL)July 15, 2006

Hi all,

I have a 4-shelf light garden that I am using the T8 light fixtures from Home Depot on and I was wondering if any one else was having the same problem that I am having. I've been using them for about 2 years now and really like the looks of my plants, but I am having to replace a fixture about every 3 - 4 months because it just quits working. Has anyone else had this problem? I am on my 3rd light fixture on some shelves! I have one out right now and I am going back to the T12 fixtures because the T8 fixtures aren't worth the cost of replacing every 3 or 4 months.

We built our 2 light stands ourselves; mine has 4 shelves(full of gessies & Orchids) and his has 3 shelves(full of Orchids). His still has a T12 fixture that has been in use for about 6 years. When we installed all the fixtures we attached them to each shelf; then fixed them so that all the fixtures on each stand runs to one cord and that is plugged into a 12-hour timer. Thanks for any feedback!


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lightmaster(z8 Salem, Ore.)

The Lights from HD? (Commercial Electric with Sunpark ballasts)

How many are running into the timer?


    Bookmark   July 15, 2006 at 3:57PM
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There are 4 light fixtures on each timer. The HD lights are the cheap $6 or $7 shop light fixtures with a instant on electronic ballast.


    Bookmark   July 15, 2006 at 4:34PM
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watergal(z6/7 Westminster, MD)

Yep, exact same problem here. T8's give out such nice light and the electronic ballasts don't hum, but the life span is so darn short. I'm gradually switching over to HID and Wonderlights since most of my plants are big, but I need decent shop lights for the short stuff. Help!

    Bookmark   July 17, 2006 at 5:41PM
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maineman(z5a ME)

Shelley, Watergal,

I have had several dozen HD T8's going for the last 3 years and so far I have lost only one of them in "normal" service. I think the trick is that the cheap electronic ballasts are susceptible to voltage spikes from transients. I have all of my HD fixtures plugged directly into surge surpressors (also from HD) and the surge surpressors are plugged directly into my timers (also from HD). Any transients created by the timers or other sources in our circuits are filtered out by the surge protectors.

Apparently the timers can create voltage transients when they switch on. You may also have other voltage spikes in your home circuits. The transients do damage or kill the electronic ballasts. The HD fixtures are like coal miner's canaries for detecting problems in your circuits. I think you will get longer life from your HD fixtures if you protect them with surge protectors. With my significant investment in HD fixtures I think the surge protectors have paid for themselves.

I became aware of this problem early on when I "fried" a ballast by plugging the fixture directly into a live extension cord. It was obvious that the transients created in making the connection with the extension cord were the guilty culprit. That's when I started buying surge protectors.


    Bookmark   August 10, 2006 at 9:51AM
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maineman(z5a ME)

I gotta start using a spell checker: "surpressors" should be "suppressers" or "suppressors", one or the other. I don't know which.


    Bookmark   August 10, 2006 at 10:02AM
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I heavily suspect that the shoplights that are failing you have a small circuit board that is probably built into the sides of the fixture. There is a type of electronic ballast being used in some fixtures that is extremely lightweight and is usually not mounted in the top of the shoplight. Many of these fixtures are plastic, and they usually seem somewhat flexible if you try to twist it a bit. These are the absolute worst type of ballast/fixture combinations. They have a terrible reputation - lasting less than a year on average. Most good lighting sites recommend that you never buy one of these. Unfortunately I have seen this type sold in Lowes, Home Depot, Wal-Mart, and most other stores. They simply will not last, and are susceptible to every electronic weakness you can imagine.

If you can take the shoplight out of the box and look at it first, you should be able to detect this type of ballast/fixture. It is very lightweight and seems to have an unusually thin, flat top - indicating it does not contain a ballast in the top. Do not buy one of these!


    Bookmark   August 11, 2006 at 12:13PM
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lightmaster(z8 Salem, Ore.)

Yeah, in a part of my shop, the lights and plugs are under one breaker. I slowly replaced the old lights with electronic ones and added a few of the ones by CE. So every time I use a piece of equipment that has a high amp start, some just go crazy.

The ones by CE (Commercial Electric) have slowly been getting louder, to a point to where they are now louder than the old heavy magnets. There is the Tandem 8' using an Advance REL4P32sc which will flicker onoff...onoff...onoff until I power off the lights and fire them back up. (2nd 4 tube ballast since renovation; the last one blew then it was trying to light a dying bulb.)

Then there is the old magnet 4 tube fixture that never has a problem with a voltage drop. In fact they still have the same old tubes back from 1997. (and it is the only one that doesn't interfere with my stereo)

and those resitronic (end ballast) lights...I have had luck with those in the past. Just not working one day, glowing brightly at the ends and groaning, short bulb life (used to go through boxes with those), ballasts literally melting out of their cases, smoke (no fires), ya name it!

You just have to be careful with what type of electronic ballast you get.

Sylvania 2 tube
Sylvania 4 tube
Advance 2 tube
Magnetic Ballasts by Sylvania

Not so luck:
Advance 4 tube, and electronic slimlines
Anything resitronic (LOA, anything that goes irkzh at startup)


    Bookmark   August 14, 2006 at 4:10PM
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Well Bullocks, I just bought 2 of these lights. No idea what ballast they have but I got them from HD, Commercial Electric, about $8 bucks each, serial number 732-334. Great, so these are lemons?

I was so excited that I could finally put together my seed starting station too. I hope they at least get me through this coming season.


    Bookmark   September 11, 2006 at 5:28PM
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Many problems with T8 shop light ballasts. One by Sunpark started arching. Quick action to unplug may have stopped a larger problem. Check of ballast showed 2.2 ohm resistor burnt up. Ballast model #SL15CW. Had to replace ballasts on six other lights that failed. Lights where purchased at Home Depot. Life expectancy proved to be less than 4 months.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2007 at 10:31PM
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I have been running the Sunpark/Home Depot bargain shop lights ($8.99 each) along with the "better" quality ($14.99?) shop light with a improved reflector for nearly a year now without a failure, all in an overdriven configuration (One ballast per T-8 Tube). I purchased the needed additional Sunpark ballasts directly from Sunpark in Ca for around 6.00 per. To use a Sylvania or GE 4 x 48 T-8 electronic ballast from local sources ends up costing me a little more than double for one dual tube fixture than what I can make 2 for with the Sunpark ballast. I am also running them all through surge suppressors after the timer.

Of note, the most recent purchase of this same bargain shop light from my Home Depot resulted in a surprise. The box and brand is exactly the same, but it is for T-12 tubes only. They do still have an electronic ballast, though it is a model for T-12 tubes. The "better" quality shop light has the T-8 & T-12 option, and is using what turned out to be a re-badged Sunpark SL-15T ballast. The new ballast in the bargain light fixture is the equivalent electronic ballast from Sunpark for T-12 lights with a different badge. I talked to Sunpark and they confirmed that they for now were the supplier of these ballasts, but would no longer be selling to this maker of fixtures.

As I mentioned in another post, I did have a ballast failure recently while testing a newly wired up ODNO T-8 lamp, but there is a small chance it was not a ballast fault. No fire though it did produce some nasty & likely toxic brown smoke.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2007 at 11:27AM
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Home Cheepo shoplights have cheap ballasts, as cheap as possible, to compete on price, but not necessarily long life.
I go to ebay, and bid on T8 ballasts from jslighting. These are nice big ballasts that should last forever. I am running an overdriven T8 bank with these ballasts, see my pics in flickr.

Here is a link that might be useful: My indoor garden set up with T12 fixtures modded to overdriven T8.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2007 at 7:46PM
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