Fluorescent lights, pot lights: a practical primer

Flourescent lights can add brightness to rooms that are otherwise dark and gloomy. Likewise, LED or halogen pot lights can warm up popular rooms in your home. To help make lighting your home easier, here's a practical primer on common flourescent light fixes and how to install pot lights.

Fluorescent lights, pot lights: a practical primer

Troubleshoot your fluorescent lighting problem

If your flourescent tube blinks on and off: 

  • This is a sure sign that your tube is wearing out. Shut off the power and rotate the tube to clean terminals. Then turn the power back on. If your tube is still blinking, replace it.

If your tube is hard to start:

Your starter is defective and needs to be replaced with one of equal rating. If you have rapid or instant starter, get an electrician to replace your starter's ballast.

If your flourescent light flickers or swirls:

New tubes or very cold temperatures are common causes of flickering or swirling tubes. Leave the tube on for several hours to stabilize its temperature. You could also ask an electrician to install low-temperature ballast in your light's starter.

The ends of your tube are blackened:

If you can see that your tube is blackening at its ends, then your tube is wearing out. You'll need to replace it.

Your fixture hums or vibrates:

A vibrating or humming coming from your light fixture suggests that it has loose parts or mounting screws. These sounds could also mean that there's a ballast that's short-circuiting. Try tightening all the screws on your fixture. If that doesn't silent your light, then get an electrician to replace your defective ballast.

Along with flourescent lights, pot lights are also a popular lighting option. Here's an expert guide to installing your own.

What you will need

  • Compass and pencil
  • Power drill with holesaw attachment or keyhole saw
  • Ladder, for ceiling access
  • Strong battery-powered flashlight
  • Low-voltage LED or halogen light set, complete with transformer, connecting lead, holding clip, spring clips, bulb and instructions
  • Pliers (if required)

Before you begin

  • Arrange for a licensed electrician to carry out all work associated with your household power such as fitting a suitable outlet.

1. Make a hole

  • Decide where you want to put your light.
  • Using your compass, draw a circle on the ceiling the same diameter as the light's fitting, usually 5 centimetres (2 inches).
  • Cut a hole using a holesaw of the correct diameter fitted to a power drill, or drill a hole large enough to admit a keyhole saw and cut the hole with the saw.

2. Position the transformer

  • Insert your light's transformer into the hole – most are small enough to fit.
  • Climb into the ceiling with the flashlight and position the transformer clear of the hole.
  • Connect the wiring harness to the transformer output socket and take the pre-wired lead to the hole.
  • Plug the transformer into the household power outlet.

3. Connect the light

  • Feed the connecting lead down the hole.
  • Climb down from the ceiling.
  • Plug the lead into the light fitting and secure the holding clip.
  • Give the lead a little tug to make sure that the clip has engaged.

4. Install the fitting

  • Fit two spring clips to your light fitting.
  • Push the fitting into the hole until you hear the clips click as the shorter arms force the longer arms to flatten against the upper surface of the ceiling.

5. Fit the bulb and test

  • Fit the bulb and snap on the metal ring clip to hold it in place.
  • Restore household power, reconnect the circuit and check if the light works.
  • If not, the bulb could be faulty.
  • Gently squeeze the ends of the ring clip together with pliers to remove the bulb, then fit a replacement.
  • If your light still doesn't work, call an electrician.

Keep this practical primer on flourescent and pot lights and you'll be better able to stylishly light your home.

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