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Old 07-26-2020, 05:08 PM   #1
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Bad ballast tripping breaker?


One of the fluorescent lights in my office began flickering every ten seconds or so and finally tripped the breaker. I reset the breaker only to have it trip again almost right away.

So I took the bulbs (LED tubes) out of that fixture and installed them in the one next to it (photo) and now everything is fine. It's plenty bright so I don't care if I can't use the middle fixture for the time being.

My two questions are: 1. Can a bad fluorescent fixture ballast cause a breaker to trip and 2. Now that the lights are steady and breaker isn't tripping can I stop worrying about it being dangerous?
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Old 07-26-2020, 06:22 PM   #2
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Re: Bad ballast tripping breaker?


1 - yes


2 - yes
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Old 07-26-2020, 06:31 PM   #3
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Re: Bad ballast tripping breaker?


1 Yes
2 Maybe.

2 depends on the type of fixture. If the bulbs complete the circuit and allow power to the ballast then you have effectively disconnected the ballast.
But some ballasts are energized even when the bulbs are removed.
I suspect that since the breaker is no longer tripping you have the fixture that needs the bulb to be energized. Either way it won't hurt to take care of the problem, either open up the fixture (with the power off) and disconnect the ballast or replace it.
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Old 07-26-2020, 06:35 PM   #4
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Re: Bad ballast tripping breaker?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Ripcord View Post
One of the fluorescent lights in my office began flickering every ten seconds or so and finally tripped the breaker. I reset the breaker only to have it trip again almost right away.

So I took the bulbs (LED tubes) out of that fixture and installed them in the one next to it (photo) and now everything is fine. It's plenty bright so I don't care if I can't use the middle fixture for the time being.

My two questions are: 1. Can a bad fluorescent fixture ballast cause a breaker to trip and 2. Now that the lights are steady and breaker isn't tripping can I stop worrying about it being dangerous?

1

2

The problem did not fix itself You need to disconnect the power to this ballast if you are no longer going to use the fixture. If you are, then you need to replace the ballast.
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Old 07-26-2020, 06:52 PM   #5
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Re: Bad ballast tripping breaker?


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The problem did not fix itself

correct, the problem didnt fix itself, but that was not the question,


the question was, is it dangerous?


and the answer to that is no, if it was dangerous, the breaker would still be tripping, that's its job
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Old 07-26-2020, 06:56 PM   #6
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Re: Bad ballast tripping breaker?


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Originally Posted by anyacolo View Post


the question was, is it dangerous?
and the answer to that is no,
Not necessarily.
Someone, anyone could easily re-install bulbs and the breaker may not trip...all the while the ballast is cooking in the fixture. Shorted ballasts are known to start fires.
This is still dangerous unless the power is disconnected or the ballast replaced.
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Old 07-26-2020, 07:13 PM   #7
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Re: Bad ballast tripping breaker?


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Not necessarily.
Someone, anyone could easily re-install bulbs and the breaker may not trip...all the while the ballast is cooking in the fixture. Shorted ballasts are known to start fires.
This is still dangerous unless the power is disconnected or the ballast replaced.

once again, that is not the question,


he is asking if it is dangerous THE WAY IT IS NOW,


and the answer (once again) is NO!!

Going by what your saying, every outlet in your house is dangerous because somebody could stick a fork into them


.

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Old 07-26-2020, 07:24 PM   #8
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Re: Bad ballast tripping breaker?


can bad stuff wired to your circuits cause them to have problems? yes.

can it continue to cause problems without bulbs in it? yes.
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Old 07-26-2020, 07:52 PM   #9
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Re: Bad ballast tripping breaker?


If the ballast is the issue and still energized there could be an issue.
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Old 07-26-2020, 07:52 PM   #10
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Re: Bad ballast tripping breaker?


Quote:
Originally Posted by anyacolo View Post
once again, that is not the question,


he is asking if it is dangerous THE WAY IT IS NOW,


and the answer (once again) is NO!!

Going by what your saying, every outlet in your house is dangerous because somebody could stick a fork into them


.
This is potentially incorrect and dangerous advice. There was most likely an internal short in the ballast of that fixture. It could possibly cause a fire if not disconnected. Removing the lamps just removed the load from the ballast. the ballast is still burning electricity in the fixture.

The fix is dirt simple if @Ripcord is not going to use the fixture. Most likely don't even need tools for it.
  1. Turn power off to fixture
  2. Center cover removes just by squeezing with hands
  3. Find small black and white wires spliced to larger white and (most likely) black wires
  4. Remove wirenuts and small wires
  5. Reinstall wirenuts on large wires
  6. Close fixture back up

Ballast is 100% guaranteed to not burn the house down now.

For the record if this was a short on the high voltage (lamp) side of the ballast, it would not trip the breaker. There is not enough current available to do so.
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Old 07-26-2020, 08:08 PM   #11
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Re: Bad ballast tripping breaker?


Quote:
Originally Posted by
The fix is dirt simple if [MENTION=448481
Ripcord is not going to use the fixture. Most likely don't even need tools for it.
  1. Turn power off to fixture
  2. Center cover removes just by squeezing with hands
  3. Find small black and white wires spliced to larger white and (most likely) black wires
  4. Remove wirenuts and small wires
  5. Reinstall wirenuts on large wires
  6. Close fixture back up
Ballast is 100% guaranteed to not burn the house down now.
Thanks for all the answers. See if I did this right: (photo)

I took off the cover to find two ballasts (four bulbs in fixture.) Heavy gauge blue wire was spliced to two smaller black wires that go to ballasts. Heavy gauge white wire spliced to two smaller white wires that also go to ballasts.

Disconnected the two wire nuts that held all wires together. Now the end fixture didn't light up, so I reconnected the heavy gauge blue wire (live?) to itself and the heavy gauge white wire (neutral?) to itself allowing power to bypass the ballasts in the center fixture and get to the end fixture.

Now the first and last fixtures light up fine and so far no trip in the breaker.

Will this be safe until I can get someone to look at it?
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Last edited by Ripcord; 07-26-2020 at 08:13 PM.
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Old 07-26-2020, 08:13 PM   #12
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Re: Bad ballast tripping breaker?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Ripcord View Post
Thanks for all the answers. See if I did this right: (photo)

I took off the cover to find two ballasts (four bulbs in fixture.) Heavy gauge blue wire was spliced to two smaller black wires that go to ballasts. Heavy gauge white wire spliced to two smaller white wires that also go to ballasts.

Disconnected the two wire nuts that held all wires together. Now the end fixture didn't light up, so I reconnected the heavy gauge blue wire (live?) to itself and the heavy gauge white wire (ground?) to itself allowing power to bypass the ballasts in the center fixture and get to the end fixture.

Now the first and last fixtures light up fine and so far no trip in the breaker.

Will this be safe until I can get someone to look at it?
If that fixture was the cause of the problem, it is no longer energized and should be safe indefinitely.
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Old 07-26-2020, 08:23 PM   #13
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Re: Bad ballast tripping breaker?


Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeSparky View Post
If that fixture was the cause of the problem, it is no longer energized and should be safe indefinitely.
Thanks, not being an electrician, I was worried that maybe the circuit wasn't designed to bypass the ballasts and provide power directly to the end fixture.

But I guess if it was somehow overloaded in a dangerous manner the breaker would trip...
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Old 07-27-2020, 11:22 PM   #14
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Re: Bad ballast tripping breaker?


First, if you want to run LED lights, you are better off getting the kind that don't need ballasts at all. If you have "Universal" or "Ballast bypass" LEDs, then you are all set.

If you are waffling between running LEDs or going back to Real Fluorescents, which are now excellent, then you ought to have proper modern ballasts. Those are F32T8 ballasts, in either instant-start (1 wire per tube end) or rapid-start (2 wires per tube end). Get a modern ballast that matches your wiring, wire it in, and continue with either LED plug-n-play, LED universal, or Real Fluorescent. T8 fluorescent is efficient and will be available for a long time.

If your ballasts are the obsolete "magnetic" types (they are bulky and heavy and you can hear them buzz if you listen), then it's a mistake to leave them energized if you're not using them, simply because it's a waste of power. But in the case of a *malfunctioning* magnetic ballast, that should be removed immediately because it can indeed have consequences. They will trip breakers, melt tar, or even start a fire inside the fixture.
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