Flourescent Light Whining!

Discussion in 'General Electronics Chat' started by 120volts, Jun 8, 2017.

  1. 120volts

    Thread Starter Member

    Sep 26, 2014
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    Hello, I have a customer who is complaining his double 2' long, hard-wired bathroom lights are "whining". The noise starts out soft and then builds to loud and louder and doesn't stop all the while he's taking a shower. At first I thought he was talking about the ceiling fan/light. LOL. But true enough it was the tube lights. When I went to inspect it I could not induce the noise but he says the whining is there only half the time. I've done a lot of work for this customer so there is no reason not believe him.

    The only thing I could think of is a bad ballast (though the lights do kick on as normal) or perhaps something resonating in the metal box, or the typical buzzing from the lights except on steroids. Sorry, I don't have a video. The guy only has a flip phone.

    Any ideas?

    The shower retains a lot of moisture and the lights are old and show a lot of rust on its box if that can help explain things.

    I am planning to change the fixture to the newer LED one so moot point but I'm so curious if anyone has experienced this or might know the cause.

    P.S. What's the fluorescent light bulb "buzz" about anyway? I know some lights are louder than others but I never thought to ask myself.
     
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2017
  2. Kermit2

    AAC Fanatic!

    Feb 5, 2010
    4,166
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    It is the ballast. Even if it turns out that the lights are causing it. The ballast is the part singing in his shower room.
     
  3. SLK001

    Senior Member

    Nov 29, 2011
    1,170
    431
    I second that it is a bad ballast. For the new electronic ballasts, I use an AM radio to see if the ballast is bad - if the radio howls, I replace the ballast.
     
  4. tcmtech

    Distinguished Member

    Nov 4, 2013
    2,809
    2,703
    Yep. The old magnetic ballasts would hum at line frequency and the new ones will occasionally hit a harmonic of their solid state switching power supplies operating frequency that falls in the range of our hearing.

    I've only heard one ever do it but it's real.

    As for yours if it's only doing it while the shower is in operation it's likely a humidity related issue where the moisture makes the ballasts switching frequency drift one way until it hits a harmonic resonance point that can be heard hence the reason it comes and goes.
     
  5. 120volts

    Thread Starter Member

    Sep 26, 2014
    46
    2
    Wow. Thanks, folks!!!! So cool to know!! I thought it might have been a drowning sewer rat trying to sing off key just to annoy us. I'll still replace with LED lights rather than the ballast...more cost effective in this case.

    That's interesting about the humidity. When I turned it on it was in the early evening well after their morning showers. I'll ask him next time I see him if it only whines with the morning shower.

    I'll now have to buy a cheap am radio for my tool kit to occasionally test ballasts.
     
    ronv likes this.
  6. Aleph(0)

    Active Member

    Mar 14, 2015
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    @120volts like other posters say it's probably defective ballast. But even good transformer (which includes magnetic ballasts) can make sounds exactly like that from noise on line induced by other loads! I know cuz I thought I had failing HID Hg vapor ballast cuz of intermittent _singing_ noise but it was due to noise induced from phase control on electric boiler burner on another circuit!
     
  7. Reloadron

    Distinguished Member

    Jan 15, 2015
    3,632
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    Flourescent Light Whining!

    I would offer them a little cheese and crackers to go with that whine. My money is also on the ballast or newer electronic switching circuit. My first choice would be to remove the fluorescent fixture and replace it with LED floods or a newer nicer lighting scheme.

    Ron
     
    shortbus likes this.
  8. shortbus

    AAC Fanatic!

    Sep 30, 2009
    5,699
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    That would work with a whole new fixture. But many of the replacement led tube bulbs use the existing fluorescent ballast. At least that's what the ones my grandson(just finished his electricians apprenticeship:)) gave me do.
     
  9. Reloadron

    Distinguished Member

    Jan 15, 2015
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    That's why I suggested floods. :)

    Completely refinished a pantry room and put in LED Floods (three lamp fixture) Totally amazing at the light quality. Liked it so much I put a fixture in the Kitchen and have one waiting to go in the downstairs bathroom. They also run very cool to the touch. Waiting on the existing old style 48" tubes to fail then I'll put in the new fixture. :)

    Ron
     
    shortbus likes this.
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