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  #1  
Old 02-08-2015, 10:42 AM
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electrical jobs... and some questions ...

this morning I replaced the light switch in the bathroom with a vacancy sensor - because we have so many lights in there, that leaving them on must increase our electricity bill significantly - job well done.

The other thing I was going to do was re-use the original switch for the closet, where the light is out - I thought it blew bulbs - replaced bulbs - no joy, tested the switch with a multimeter - it's showing 88.9V - so I'm guessing it's not the switch - although I did wonder why it's not showing 110V.

So my question for those of you more knowledgable about electical matters...

1. that 88.9V - is that 'normal' - or could the switch still be bad?
2. if it's not the switch - I'm guessing the next thing it could be is a ballast - this is the dual-light tube system that the builder installed when we built the house - I'm assuming that the ballast is under the main light unit - ie, on top of the light - are these easy to replace?
3. the light in that closet was just LOTS - I ran it with one bulb in instead of two - could that have contributed to the ballast going out?

4. have any of you got experience with occupancy/vacancy switches? Do they have "persistent" settings - ie, after power-out, do they remember the mode you put them in? BEcause if not, the chance from occupancy, to vacancy mode on the switch I used (a lutron) - required removing the face-plate to access a switch - I'm thinking that's a bad idea. It also sits a little proud from the wall now - might have to see if they have their own face-plate which accomodates the higher switch better - it's only 1/32nd of an inch, but the face plate wobbles a little - which annoyed me

Thanks!
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Old 02-08-2015, 10:46 AM
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I moved this to Off Topic, as I wasn't seeing the political angle here
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Old 02-08-2015, 10:50 AM
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I moved this to Off Topic, as I wasn't seeing the political angle here
thx - I could swear I was in regular OT... I think it remembers the last sub-forum you opened (which I was messing around with in another tab).
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Old 02-08-2015, 10:57 AM
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thx - I could swear I was in regular OT... I think it remembers the last sub-forum you opened (which I was messing around with in another tab).
No problem. It's easy to do. I was going to make a crack about whether there was a global warming question here and ask if you wanted it moved back?
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Old 02-08-2015, 10:59 AM
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No problem. It's easy to do. I was going to make a crack about whether there was a global warming question here and ask if you wanted it moved back?
lol - heck now... thank you again though!
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Old 02-08-2015, 11:19 AM
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88volts is decidedly not normal. You get 110v (approx) or 0v...anything in between is a problem (assuming you are not testing in the wrong place, like on motors. or wrong side of ballasts.

Jot down a diagram, show where you are measuring...take a picture of the drawing and post it. I jsut dont see where you are measuring voltage to test a switch... (Id test a switch with it on Ohms.)

No idea about how different switches power up (ie 'memory')

HD probably has a different faceplate you can try- there are variations. I wouldnt think there is a 'special' one, but there are standard 'oversized' plates that may help. There is a 'tension' between 'depth of receptacle/switch' and 'plate tightness' and 'pressure on the wall'. (The screws in the plate pull the device towards you, which pulls the plate against the wall, which locks everything together nicely.... Are the mounting tabs of the switch itself all the way down onto the box?? If it is, the plate should work unless your box is proud. I've never seen a standard decora item that had a unique plate requirement, but ive been out of the electrician business for a bit.

Damn obama...
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Old 02-08-2015, 12:00 PM
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Where do you see 89V? Before or after the switch?

Check hot side of switch to neutral.

Check for loose neutral in the breaker panel.
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Old 02-09-2015, 12:09 PM
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Not even sure how you're seeing 89 volts. In my experience, it's either nothing, or somewhere between 110 and 130.

I'm a little confused about the testing of the switch using a meter. Normally, you'd just use the continuity function, or the ohms scale to test for continuity with the switch closed.

If you're trying to read voltage across the switch you'll need access to a neutral somewhere and then you can test the switched side of the hot to a neutral for something close to 110 with the switch closed.
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Old 02-09-2015, 12:16 PM
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Most likely the switch. Similarly, I had one of the dual wall outlets (not switch) when used tripped the breaker. Took me a while to figure it out since a neon tester would not trip that outlet because the current was too low. Replaced the outlet, everything was fine.
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Old 02-09-2015, 02:27 PM
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I was testing the voltage across the neutral to hot with the switch on because I was trying to work out what might cause the ballast not to work. I tested with the continuity tester and it showed it worked in the on position and didn't in the on position - I changed both bulbs in the unit, so it's either the switch or the ballast. I will put a different switch in this weekend - I have to get through Valentine's day - this valentine's website is causing us a ton of work.. I'll be making up valentine cards until about 10PM and I was up at 5AM... for a hobby site that was supposed to spread the news about the valentine remailing, we generate a lot of work for not a lot of reward - but it's fun... I think.
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Old 02-09-2015, 03:59 PM
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Old 02-09-2015, 04:14 PM
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I didn't read all the details and I kinda got lost in it.. So, that's the disclaimer.

1. Do you get the same 89V when you completely remove the switch? Meaning, is the 89V come from the wires or because of the switch.

If it comes from the wires, when the switch is not there, then it might be that your Ground "Earth" is not exactly zero. That means that the connection to Earth is not perfect. See if you can check the voltage between your Neutral to a plumbing pipe or something. And then between your pipe to the 110V wire. You might find the missing 20V there.

If it's from the switch, it might be the contacts got burnt because of sparks between them. If you can visually inspect them, put a piece of sanding paper between them and polish the contacts on both sides.
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Old 02-09-2015, 07:06 PM
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Old 02-09-2015, 07:26 PM
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I was testing the voltage across the neutral to hot with the switch on because I was trying to work out what might cause the ballast not to work. I tested with the continuity tester and it showed it worked in the on position and didn't in the on position - I changed both bulbs in the unit, so it's either the switch or the ballast. I will put a different switch in this weekend - I have to get through Valentine's day - this valentine's website is causing us a ton of work.. I'll be making up valentine cards until about 10PM and I was up at 5AM... for a hobby site that was supposed to spread the news about the valentine remailing, we generate a lot of work for not a lot of reward - but it's fun... I think.
Ballasts drive me slightly wiggy. I'm guessing there's a way to test them but I haven't run across it. Maybe I should look for that (duh). How old is the fixture? IME ballasts take a while to go bad. I just serviced a bathroom light, well, it was two 48" T12 single bulb fixtures end to end above a long diffuser. Took forever to light up. The two ballasts had quaint looking labels. Haven't seen anything like that on the shelf that I can remember. I'm guessing 10 to 20 years old at least. Also about impossible to find except online. The single bulb 48 incher is just not made anymore, in T12 anyway. Then it hit me, I could use a 2 bulb 48" T12 ballast which are still available and wire it like it was two bulbs side by side. One $20 ballast at the store and victory was mine.

Switches are cheap, I forget, a buck or so. Get one and try your test out on that. And where were you getting the neutral? Switch wiring doesn't need a neutral in the box, depending on how the light was wired. Hot and neutral could be up by the light.

Occupancy switches have the capacity to learn how to behave. If you come into a room and it either goes on when it's too bright to be needed or does not go on when you want it to, run up and press the switch within 15 seconds and over time it will adjust. Not making this up. As for maintaining settings, I think they do but I'm not sure. I installed one once and then had to redo it as I grabbed the wrong 'hot' out of the big nearby junction box to hook it to. It was a switched hot, not the always hot. Lot going on in that box. I think the settings remained. If you still have it open, you could do a trial - set it the way you want and do your own blackout with the circuit breaker.

The occupancy switch with dimmer is cool cuz when you manually turn it off, it does a slow, well not too slow, fade down to off. I worked on houses where people paid good money to have all the lights do that.

On the wobble, I encounter that all too often. Hard to say - examine everything closely and you'll find it. Sometimes there's a little bump-out you can file down. Sometimes the box is proud - can be ground down if plastic or maybe unscrewed, popped in a ways and re-screwed. They're usually nailed though, pulling or cutting through the nails is tough. I can cut them with my Fein tool but it will beat up a blade pretty good. Sometimes the cover plate has some inexplicable little plastic ridge that interferes with something. Maybe the screws are bigger-headed than needed. With the biggish square box on those, cramming all the wires in so there's room for it can be tough. Could be the flanges are screwing up tight but bending at the box, which has some wire or wire nut behind it, so that the face is sticking out enough so that the plastic plate doesn't contact the wall.

Last edited by cmac2012; 02-09-2015 at 11:52 PM.
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  #15  
Old 02-09-2015, 07:29 PM
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This just in (learned of this a few days ago): T12 ballasts are being phased out. Production stopped about a month ago. Still legal to use existing inventory. T8 is apparently better in many ways.

http://cleantechnica.com/2012/07/14/...s-the-outrage/
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  #16  
Old 02-12-2015, 07:59 AM
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well I had an hour to "spare" this morning - turns out it wasn't spare, Mrs wyb had plans for it, but oh well - I replaced 2 switches in the bathroom - the one in toilet for the light I replaced with a lighted switch, as Mrs wyb always turns on the extractor fan instead of the light if she wakes in the night, and that has a tendency to wake me up fully as opposed to just stirring a little. Hopefully that helps get a better night sleep.

And... I replaced the switch that I got that 89v reading on... I figured that I would test it after I replaced it with the vacancy sensor... grr... there are no exposed areas to test once you have the sensor in place, all the wires are inside wire-nuts... not a single screw attachment on this thing. So I cannot say where I got the 89V, whether I screwed , it was a mis-read of what - I suspect human error on my part of course.

So - does the new switch work?

Drum roll please.......

....

....

....

... the closet light STILL doesn't work. AARRRRGGHH!!

So - I use my little voltage sensor that beeps in the presence of electricity and I have power right up to and into the ballast - and nothing on the output side. Grrr... it MUST be the stupid ballast then?!?!? (or this 89V thing is right - and 89V isn't enough to make it work? I dunno - but home-depot again tonight to get a new ballast - they're $14 and they have a ton of them in stock...

But - that brings me back to one of my original questions... can running the ballast with one light bulb disconnected burn these things out early? What's the life of one of these? We built in '07 - so it's been here 7 1/3 years I guess. While not a light we tended to use a lot (it's the closet after all) - it is one that might get left on 'accidentally' by Mrs wyb (she's terrible about leaving lights on - hence the new vacancy switches for the bathroom so our 400W of lights will go off WHEN she leaves the light on.

It also raises a new question ... could I have have read the 89V correctly? Would low voltage cause the ballast to just "not fire" or burn out?




As a side-note - the lutron occupancy/vacancy sensor I got does vacancy, but if it senses the room is vacant and turns the lights off - any movement in the room causes them the lights to come back on... you have to turn the lights off properly, not allow the vacancy setting to turn them off, or the cats coming to drink water from their water bowl by the bath-tub will n reactivate the lights. I guess she needs to make sure she turn off the lights manually still and/or I need to remember to put the switch into 1 minute mode when we go on trips, because I know mrs wyb is going to be 'passive' and allow the switch to turn the flippin' lights off... grrr.... I was hoping that once vacancy was detected, the lights would stay off until manually reactivated.


Side note #2: Mrs wyb decides she doesn't like the screwless wall-plates I selected. *THIS* is why I don't do sh1t around the house - if you don't do it, you get ear-ache, if you do the job, it's never 'quite right'- grrr..
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Old 02-12-2015, 08:20 AM
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or the cats coming to drink water from their water bowl by the bath-tub will n reactivate the lights.
Try a piece of opaque tape across the bottom of the sensor.
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Old 02-12-2015, 09:28 AM
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Try a piece of opaque tape across the bottom of the sensor.
hmm... I do remember seeing some glossy white electrical tape at home-depot, might grab a roll to see how it looks - seems kind of odd to have to take over our nice brand new switch to get the functionality I need though...
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Old 02-12-2015, 10:23 AM
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Old 02-12-2015, 01:43 PM
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wyb - not sure about the ballast running one bulb. If it's one of those types that has two circular bulbs, a small inside a large, unhooking one of them might be a problem. I've done web searches on this exact topic, and it can be tough going. The ballasts that are used for multiple bulb fixtures will frequently be labeled 'for 1-2 bulbs' or '2-4 bulbs,' but they have a separate pair of wires on one end for each bulb, and a common pair for the other end. My take is that by leaving one of those unhooked, that part of the ballast is left idle. They used to sell T 12 ballasts that were rated for two or three bulbs, no longer available, but that implies something similar.

Forgive me if I'm insulting your intelligence, but some switch boxes have a single romex going down to them from the light. People usually hook the white to the hot black in the box at the light, then the black and white to the two poles on the switch, and then the black up in the lightbox to the black on the light. It's sometimes referred to as 'turning white to black.' If you use one of those current testers that doesn't require a ground or a neutral, you can find the hot wire coming into the box, or the terminal on the switch that it's hooked to, and as the other one shows no current, people will conclude that it's the neutral. It is not, however. It merely goes up to the light fixture on the side that would be hot if there wasn't a switch in the middle. Not sure what a voltmeter will say when connecting those two contacts at such a switch box. Could very well be it will show a reduced voltage as there is a neutral on the other side of the lightbulb.

In other cases, the live romex comes to the switchbox, and then the switched hot (and neutral and ground) is sent up to the light fixture. Both are legal, sometimes it's easier to do one or the other. Drives me nuts at times, say if a client wants to put an outlet in next to a switch, or just below, and you open it up and there's no neutral, no ground. Turns an easy job into a hard one.

Occupancy sensors are useful, even required more and more, but they are not without flaw. I put one in the bathroom used by the son of one client, the kid was forgetting to turn the light off. One small problem, if you're standing behind the glass sliding door on the tub/shower, the sensor won't detect movement through the glass. I put it on five minutes and tested it. Wouldn't even notice my hand waving above the door. It would come back on if the door was briefly jiggled open and closed. My client, sort of a nervous Nelly, was freaked that his kid would fall and hurt himself in the bathtub. We set it for 15 minutes, the longest, no problem yet.

Last edited by cmac2012; 02-12-2015 at 01:48 PM.
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Old 02-12-2015, 02:40 PM
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wyb - not sure about the ballast running one bulb. If it's one of those types that has two circular bulbs, a small inside a large, unhooking one of them might be a problem. I've done web searches on this exact topic, and it can be tough going. The ballasts that are used for multiple bulb fixtures will frequently be labeled 'for 1-2 bulbs' or '2-4 bulbs,' but they have a separate pair of wires on one end for each bulb, and a common pair for the other end. My take is that by leaving one of those unhooked, that part of the ballast is left idle. They used to sell T 12 ballasts that were rated for two or three bulbs, no longer available, but that implies something similar.

Forgive me if I'm insulting your intelligence, but some switch boxes have a single romex going down to them from the light. People usually hook the white to the hot black in the box at the light, then the black and white to the two poles on the switch, and then the black up in the lightbox to the black on the light. It's sometimes referred to as 'turning white to black.' If you use one of those current testers that doesn't require a ground or a neutral, you can find the hot wire coming into the box, or the terminal on the switch that it's hooked to, and as the other one shows no current, people will conclude that it's the neutral. It is not, however. It merely goes up to the light fixture on the side that would be hot if there wasn't a switch in the middle. Not sure what a voltmeter will say when connecting those two contacts at such a switch box. Could very well be it will show a reduced voltage as there is a neutral on the other side of the lightbulb.

In other cases, the live romex comes to the switchbox, and then the switched hot (and neutral and ground) is sent up to the light fixture. Both are legal, sometimes it's easier to do one or the other. Drives me nuts at times, say if a client wants to put an outlet in next to a switch, or just below, and you open it up and there's no neutral, no ground. Turns an easy job into a hard one.

Occupancy sensors are useful, even required more and more, but they are not without flaw. I put one in the bathroom used by the son of one client, the kid was forgetting to turn the light off. One small problem, if you're standing behind the glass sliding door on the tub/shower, the sensor won't detect movement through the glass. I put it on five minutes and tested it. Wouldn't even notice my hand waving above the door. It would come back on if the door was briefly jiggled open and closed. My client, sort of a nervous Nelly, was freaked that his kid would fall and hurt himself in the bathtub. We set it for 15 minutes, the longest, no problem yet.
oh heck no - you're not insulting my electrical intelligence - I have none.

My level of understanding of electric is to turn it off, check you turned it of - go back and use a beeping machine to make sure you turned off the right circuit and when installing, do one wire at a time so I can't mess it up - copying the previous installation exactly.

So with your explanation of how things are and are not, I had to google the word 'romex' - coz I thought you were talking dutch.

I know ballasts are odd - and you can run them in series or parallel - and you can 'over drive' lights - I don't know what that means though - but the series + parallel I get, I must have had parallel wiring as I was ABLE to get one bulb to light when I removed one, I'm just not sure if doing so was harming the ballast or not.

That said - the ballast is now exposed and this is it:




one thing came to mind about this piece of junk... it looks beat up for soemthing that has been under a metal cover for 7+years - like it was kicked around a bunch before it made it to my ceiling... anyway, I'm going to replace it with this cheap GE ballast:

http://www.homedepot.com/p/GE-120-Vo...1037/100632123



Which looks to me untrained eye to be the same - sort of.

On the occupancy sensor thing, I understood that the shower might have caused problems, or that Mrs wyb taking a bath (it's a big tub) - might not trip the sensor, so I decided to put it in using the vacancy mode - ie, if you turn it on, it stays on while it detects movement and goes off when it doesn't. That could cause us problems I guess taking a long shower or soak, so I might also have to go with 15 minutes... and that tape idea, won't necessarily help if she's soaking...hmmm food for thought.
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Old 02-12-2015, 06:32 PM
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Side note #2: Mrs wyb decides she doesn't like the screwless wall-plates I selected. *THIS* is why I don't do sh1t around the house - if you don't do it, you get ear-ache, if you do the job, it's never 'quite right'- grrr..
Just like sex.
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Old 02-12-2015, 08:22 PM
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Originally Posted by wyb View Post
oh heck no - you're not insulting my electrical intelligence - I have none.

My level of understanding of electric is to turn it off, check you turned it of - go back and use a beeping machine to make sure you turned off the right circuit and when installing, do one wire at a time so I can't mess it up - copying the previous installation exactly.

So with your explanation of how things are and are not, I had to google the word 'romex' - coz I thought you were talking dutch.

I know ballasts are odd - and you can run them in series or parallel - and you can 'over drive' lights - I don't know what that means though - but the series + parallel I get, I must have had parallel wiring as I was ABLE to get one bulb to light when I removed one, I'm just not sure if doing so was harming the ballast or not.

That said - the ballast is now exposed and this is it:

one thing came to mind about this piece of junk... it looks beat up for soemthing that has been under a metal cover for 7+years - like it was kicked around a bunch before it made it to my ceiling... anyway, I'm going to replace it with this cheap GE ballast:

Which looks to me untrained eye to be the same - sort of.

On the occupancy sensor thing, I understood that the shower might have caused problems, or that Mrs wyb taking a bath (it's a big tub) - might not trip the sensor, so I decided to put it in using the vacancy mode - ie, if you turn it on, it stays on while it detects movement and goes off when it doesn't. That could cause us problems I guess taking a long shower or soak, so I might also have to go with 15 minutes... and that tape idea, won't necessarily help if she's soaking...hmmm food for thought.
I can't make out the figures on the front of the ballast you're going to install. If you want to stick with one bulb only, find the type and size of bulb - well, must be a T8, all of the choices on your existing ballast are T8, and see if it lists watts. Watts = volts x amps. So if it says 40 watts, 40 / 120 volts = .33 amps. But I think both of us are worrying on this too much. Going down to a lower amp requirement is usually never a problem, while the reverse is. That's how cords get too hot. Say if the circuit is on a 15 amp breaker, and they are usually that or more in the average household power panel, and you use some tiny extension cord, or worse yet, 3 or 4 of them hooked together, and you operate a 13 amp skilsaw for example, the breaker will not pop, unless there is another 2 or 3 amps or more on the same circuit, but if the motor or light - a resistor in electronic talk - can handle 13 amps, the cord will try to supply it and probably will get too hot, if it's too small that is. It's often referred to as current draw because a resistor with much room for current will seemingly suck it down. OTOH, if you have a single Christmas style light, one of those tiny, tiny ones, it will only draw maybe a milliamp. No more will go its direction no matter how much is offered.

Most people (including me until my early 40s) have heard the terms volts, watts, ohms, etc. but don't really know what they mean too well. The explanation that first helped me came from my auto-electronics teacher at a local CC. Watts is pressure and amps is volume. That's why high voltage can sting the hell out of you (spark plug) but not really injure you. Like a tiny jet of water at X pressure will sting but not injure. High amps + high volts is what will kill you. Imagine that same X water pressure but from a pipe 8 inches in diameter. Could easily slam you up against a wall. I mean even a fire hose can do that.

When two copper wires of 14 or 12 gauge short (touch) while hooked to power, they will burn and spark like hell because there is a wide open path for the current, the amps. That's what pops a breaker, the fact that too much amperage is flowing. But if you have a resistor between those two lines, you get light, or motion, etc. No burning spark. It's called a short circuit when the wires touch because a normal (long) circuit travels through a resistor.

So, long story short (too late for that) I think you'll be OK with only one bulb, but it wouldn't hurt to see if the ballast you're using includes a one bulb rating on the front with the sort of amps the bulb you're using will draw.

Last edited by cmac2012; 02-12-2015 at 11:08 PM.
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Old 02-13-2015, 06:28 AM
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dtkw dtkw is offline
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The ballast is notorious to go south a lot of time. It is from China.
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Old 02-13-2015, 06:57 AM
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wyb wyb is offline
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I was going to fit the ballast this AM - but I had a phone call from the UK first thing - and I noticed that the CFL in the toilet on the lighted switch I installed is flickering - charging + discharging... seems to be a common problem with non-dimmable CFLs - this DIY malarkey is never a simple thing, always leads to more and more little jobs... that's why I used to just pay someone to do it - Mrs wyb decided it would be cheaper to do it ourselves (meaning me - not her or us) - which I actually take exception to - by the time you buy a multi-meter, a voltage detector and all the other little tools I didn't have, I'm $100 in tools - sure I can use them many, many times.. but I had other plans for my weekend... like shooting, or brewing beer, or video games... grrr..... any now we're into seed season - I have to start seedlings for the veggie garden... ho-hum... I want an apartment again... far less work...
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