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Old 07-04-2009, 09:02 AM   #1
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Bad bulbs?


Hi;
In March, I installed a motion sensor switch in the basement for a fluorescent fixture. The lamp is 4ft 2 bulb F40 configured in series (at least that's how they seem to work; remove one bulb, the other gets very dim).

The fixture was installed a few months before the motion sensor, which is of the 3-wire type (with neutral) and is set to the maximum on time of 15 min.
The purpose for the motion sensor was that I was trying to save power (and money) as the light was being left on all day.

I am now wondering whether the frequent cycling with 15 min on time has prematurely worn out the bulbs, or maybe the ballast (electronic type I think).

The bulbs are ALTO, USA and were purchased at the same time the lamp was installed, which was about 7 months ago.

I am considering hacking the switch and increasing the on time to at least 30 min, but it looks like it's pretty well sealed and cannot be opened. The switch is a RAB.

So, if I have to replace the bulbs every 6 months or so, the whole motion sensor idea was a complete waste.

I am also thinking of installing a timer in parallel with the motion sensor, so that between certain hours, the light would just stay on. This way, it could be set to stay on during the hours of highest use, then let the motion sensor handle it at other times.

Any ideas?

Thanks

FW

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Old 07-04-2009, 11:25 AM   #2
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Bad bulbs?


Constant on/off switching of flourescent tube fixtures will shorten the life of the ballast somewhat, but the real victims are your tubes. When the tubes have reached 80 percent of their life expectancy they develope dark spots at one or both ends of the tube and they can
'die' within a week to a year. The tube electrical wiring is in series and requires two good flourescent tubes to complete the circuit for the secondary side of the ballast. When one tube completely stops ionizing the gas "burns out" the ballast goes into overdrive trying to jump that open circuit and continue to fire the second tube. This puts severe stress on the ballast and the abnormally high power spikes all but kill the second tube. Even when both tubes are dead so to speak the ballast is still electricly live and still in overdrive trying to fire across this enormous open circuit putting further stress on itself. A normal twin tube 40W fixture will consume 100W on being placed into service for the first time. If one tube goes out the fixture is still consuming 100W. Two tubes go out and the ballast will try to consume upwards of 70W. True you are using less power than the whole fixture rating, but the ballast was only designed for 20W. Smell something burning?? The lights and tubes effiencies are figured on X number hours of constant operation. You can extend those numbers by having off intervals in between on intervals TO SOME EXTENT, but on/off cycling with motion sensors, light sensors, or short duration timers, or circuits with combinations of sensors, timers, and wall switchs are not going to save you money over the long haul. You are going to go through equipment, power costs, and white hairs unless you can come up with a specific plan for a specific problem. Believe me if you will, I have bins of parts in my garage from trying to do just what you are talking about. Right now I have an AUX power relay wired to the light bulb socket on my garage door opener. The relay contacts run power to the five twintube flourescent fixtures over my car bays after the wall switch. This was the cats ass when I was working because the lights (400 Watts of tube lite) came on over the carbays whenever I or the wife came home after dark and hit the button for the garage door. Now that I am retired and spend a lot of my days in my garage/shop just the act of walking through the open garage door turns those freaking lights on in broad daylight for another 10 minutes. In less than one year I have gone through 3 twin-tube fixtures. Go Figure.

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Old 07-04-2009, 06:14 PM   #3
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Bad bulbs?


Thanks for the information. When I first installed the motion sensor, I thought I would be OK with 15min on cycles, but I guess the lights get turned on a lot more often than I thought. We use the basement a lot (it's finished), and the cat can even trigger the lights in the middle of the night<g>.

Do you think the CFL's that we have all been replacing our incandescents with would be a better choice for this use?
I could remove the fluorescent fixture, and install a couple simple bulb sockets, then put in 60W or even 100W CFL's. Maybe not as much light as the two 40W tubes, but we don't really need it.

The timer I am considering would go in parallel with the motion sensor, and keep the lights turned on 100% of the time during normal hours (say 9:00am to 8:00pm), then allow the motion sensor to take over during the off hours.
Otherwise, I could just re-connect the 3-way switches at the top and bottom of the stairs that used to control the lights.
We used to turn it on in the morning, and leave it on all day. Because it's the basement, we need at least some light all day.

I guess I could replace the fixture with a smaller wattage, and re-connect the switches, so at least the fixture won't be sucking up 100W for 10hrs/day.

I could still use the current fixture (after replacing the bulbs) in the attic, so it wouldn't be a waste.
Those strip fixtures are very cheap anyway.

I appreciate the info you gave me, and I will put it to use by going out on Monday and buying two new tubes.
Depending on what I decide by then, I may also buy one smaller fixture and tubes as well. Maybe a dual 20W, 2ft. It would fit the space better anyway. Now, with the 4ft fixture, in the drop ceiling, it's a bit tricky to replace the tubes because of the ceiling framework.

Then, i would re-connect the wall switches, and use the motion sensor in another location that doesn't see as much traffic.
That plan would be more efficient than buying the timer for around $25.
The main reason I came up with the timer idea is that it might be easier to wire in than re-connecting the wall switches.
But the wiring for the wall switches is still in place. All I have to do is install one or two new j-boxes, run the wires, and nut them up. Everything is also tagged, so I can get it right the first time<g>

FW
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Old 07-05-2009, 06:43 AM   #4
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Bad bulbs?


All I can tell you is that incandescent bulbs have been the accepted norm since Mr. Edison introduced them to us. Everyone more or less accepted their power consumption, sizes, lumen output etc. for over 100 years. As progress was made in everything manmade, new uses, specs, lamps, fixtures etc. have evolved and now technology is changing so fast that as I sit here pecking away on this keyboard you and I are both falling way behind the technology curve. You want to save money over burning 100W incandescents for 12+ hours a day? Jump ahead to LED lighting. I know what many people will say about them, but you can prove it to yourself. I did the math and now instead of lighting 5 - 60W bulbs across my back deck and forgetting to turn them off, sometimes have them on for as long as 18 hours (5x60=300Wx18=5400W) I tried a
"new fangled" 120 LED PAR38 lamp that consumes 4W, has no glare; no heat; is impervious to heat and cold and while it does cost a tad more 19.99 as opposed to the 60W at 87 cents, it also has a life expectency of 100,000 hours where the 60W has about 1200 hours. The 120 throws nearly as much light as the 60W and I can leave the whole lot of them on 24/7 if I want and only consume (5 4W leds=20W/hour x 24hours=480W) 480W/day as opposed to 7200W for the standard 60W bulb. For me this is certainly LESS IS MORE. Rather than me just telling you what I have found try logging into a website www.ledlight.com and look through all their different lighting possibilities. If you can't find what you are looking for I don't think you have a problem to fix. Also try googling 120 VAC led lighting; there's a whole new world out there pardner.
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Old 07-05-2009, 07:52 AM   #5
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Bad bulbs?


LED sounds like the way to go. No issues with short cycling.
I think what I am going to do is replace the fluorescent fixture with some kind of incandescent fixture. I can then choose what I want to put into the socket.
I still have a lot of incandescent 40W - 100W bulbs I don't want to just throw out, so I may use them until they burn out, then buy the LED bulbs, when they will surely cost a lot less.

FW
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Old 07-05-2009, 09:47 PM   #6
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Bad bulbs?


Just be careful on the LED's you buy
There is a lot of bulbs that are not designed right & overheat
This will cause a premature failure
Also look at the wattage of the LED vs the CFL
My CFL's I buy for about .90 from HD, spots were a bit more at $2 each
One person lost 3 LED bulbs in an electrical storm
No other electronics were affected
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Old 07-05-2009, 11:48 PM   #7
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Guys, I've used incandescents,flourescents,CFLs,halogens, and now LEDs and what I've found are 1. You cannot compare watt for watt from led to anything else or vice versa. I can right now lay my hands on a 20W LED bulb that is roughly equivalent in lumen output to a 200W incandescent or a 4W led with the output of a 20W halogen or a 3W led that compares to a
8-9W CFL in lumen output. There is also a 347 LED tube light at 15W that compares to a 40W T8 flourescent in lumen output and requires no ballast; just 120VAC. 2. LED lamps are more expensive up front, but if you compare lamp cost over the life of the type of unit you will see that LEDs are no worse or better cost wise than anything else except maybe the sun. Plus there is no maintenance, very little or no heat from the LEDs thus requiring no special fixtures with special heat shields to protect against fire. 3. LEDS by definition are DC devices. With slight modification by the manufacturers they are also usable with AC. You will find this to be true from the 12 volt AC/DC nonpolarity concious Malibu replacement units all the way up to the street and parking lot units that replace the high power sodium vapor lamps. With any electrical device it is also true that if the unit is turned on and your area is beset by an electrical storm and a bolt momentarily energizes any line near your device it will be damaged, burned, maybe even a large flash of light and mucho smoke. Scuba Dave's buddy that lost the LED bulbs could just as easily have lost a refrigerator, a 60" plasma, and the charger for his laptop.
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Old 07-06-2009, 10:26 AM   #8
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Losing 3 LED bulbs in one night can't be compared to losing a fridge or some other electric device...unless they lost 3 in one night
No other light bulbs were effected
The LED bulbs were all on different circuits with other lights

The same as when CFL's 1st came out the LED bulbs are going thru "growing" pains
Some you will never have a problem with
Some are just garbage
You can't compare wattages even with CFL bulbs as you have many different color spectrums
What one person likes another will not
I'm not spending $20 on a bulb that is "supposed" to last 10+ years
CFL's were supposed to last a long time too, not happening

Usually I buy my CFL's & after an instant in-store rebate they are free
Show me an LED bulb that is free & I'll buy it
LED's are worse cost wise until they are proven to last & the cost comes down
I'm getting usually at least 4 years out of CFL's, some longer 5.5+ years & counting
I have one old-style CFL in the basment that is over 12 years old

Last edited by Scuba_Dave; 07-06-2009 at 06:36 PM. Reason: sp
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Old 07-06-2009, 04:20 PM   #9
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Bad bulbs?


I have to agree that LED bulbs are still going through "growing pains". I like my LED flashlight, but I wouldn't throw out my Maglite.

Can either of you guys answer this question:
Will a CFL (incandescent replacement type) suffer from being cycled on and off frequently as the tube fluroresents do?

I had to replace the 4ft fluorescent fixture with an incandescent one so that I could still use the motion sensor. It turned out to be the least expensive, and easiest way to solve my problem.
For now, I put a 100W standard incandescent into the fixture, but am thinking that when I run out of 100W incandescent bulbs, I want to use a CFL. But if it is just going to last 4 months, then I won't bother. I'll just keep using incandescents as long as I can get them, or LED bulbs get less expensive and more durable.

Now I've got another dilemma over these blasted 4ft fluorescent tubes.

After the one fixture stopped working, I swapped the bulbs (tubes) out from another fixture, and they worked fine for 2 days.
Then, after replacing the problem fixture, I re-installed the two tubes into the fixture I had borrowed them from, (a Diamond Plate 2x40W) and one did not work.
I swapped one tube for the other, and it looked as though something were wrong with the fixture itself, as one neither of the tubes would light in one side.
So, I replaced both tubes with bran-new ones and the fixture works again.

Then, I took out my multimeter, and measured between the pins at each end of each tube, and found one of the two to have one open filament.
I then went out to the garage where I had put the tubes I had taken from the problem fixture 2 days ago, and found one to have an open filament at one end, and the other to have two good filaments, so I swapped the bad for the good, and now maybe have two good tubes to install in the original fixture when I re-locate it to the attic.

I guess it's the filaments that burn out due to frequent cycling, so the CFL's should do a lot better under the same conditions.

Sorry for being long, but I wanted to cover everything I have learned and still need to learn about this.

Thanks

FW
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Old 07-06-2009, 06:40 PM   #10
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Bad bulbs?


I have CFL's in my bathroom, the bulbs last about 4 years
I'd guess that's the room that see's the most off & on (and kitchen)
When I switched my outside light to CFL I opted to do away with the motion sensor
Going from 75w down to 13w I figure I'm saving $$ already
Plus we have a streetlight on the corner - so we have a bit of light
It's on a timer & goes on & off automatically (2 am?)
I have LED flashlights too, they are great - but I still have others
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Old 07-06-2009, 10:00 PM   #11
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Funny thing; I decided to install the motion sensor shortly after installing the new 2x40W fluorescent fixture, because it was being left on all day, and drawing 80 watts.
I set the sensor's on time to max, 15min but didn't realize I would get such short bulb life from those tubes.
I didn't save a penny, and now that I had to replace the fixture again, I've spent even more.
But at least now I don't have to worry about cycle times, wasted energy, and shorter than normal lamp life.

4yrs sounds great for a CFL in the bathroom. I have two 3 light fixtures in the bath. Originally, they were the 40W C7 type bulbs, and those never lasted more than 3-4 months. We were always replacing them, so I decided to replace the fixtures with ones that would take a standard bulb, then use 60W CFL's.

Now, we've got a total of 6 bulbs @ 60W each for 360W equivalent light, but draw only 78 watts of electricity.
The two fixtures are on separate switches, so most of the time it's just one light or the other that gets turned on. A huge savings in power, and if the lamps will last 4 years, that's a tremendous savings compared to those C7 bulbs we used to buy.

I'm still "programmed" to get alarmed when I see the light(s) burning when no one's in the room, but have to remember that it may be more efficient (cost wise) to leave them on during peak use times.
It's hard to believe that there can be so much light for such a small power draw.

Once everyone has switched to CFL or LED lighting, our utilities are going to have to raise their rates to compensate for the lower usage of their product<g>

FW
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Old 07-06-2009, 10:42 PM   #12
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Bad bulbs?


Our kitchen went from 320w old school to 82w LED & CFL
Our under counter puck lights are now LED - 4w total & better light
4 recessed CFLS in the ceiling use 52w total
Plus a 13w daylight bulb in the overhead fan
Then I have a 10w LED rope light that barely gets used
Kitchen is much better lit now

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