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Ballast fire!

Ballast fire!

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Look at the scorch mark on the ceiling coming from the fixture! This occured way back when this locally owned supermarket in Santa Cruz, CA had F96T12 slimlines. The lights were changed to F32T8s with polished reflectors back in '95. Half of the tubes were removed in 2001 because of the energy crisis. Thats why I could take this pic on my mobile device! Comment away on what you think of this incident.

021211200816.jpg 2011-01-19_18-45-54_396.jpg 2011-01-01_14-11-12_523.jpg IMG00226.JPG

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Light Information

Fixture
Location:Santa Cruz, CA

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Filename:IMG00226.JPG
Album name:silverliner / not so pleasant sights
Keywords:Miscellaneous
File Size:91 KB
Date added:Apr 07, 2010
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rjluna2
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Robert


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Apr 07, 2010 at 10:34 AM Author: rjluna2
It was many years ago (circa 1973) that my dad's workshop 4 fluorescent light fixture (I don't remember if they were rapid start or preheat) at the basement started to smoke out of the fixture. My dad and my grandfather was with me at the basement at the time noticed the smoke and I don't remember if they turned it off or something. Thereafter, I believe they removed the ballast and never been replaced. We been using the two lights ever since. (Now I believe that the fixture is now long gone after they remodeled the basement before we moved out.

Shortly after the incident, my favorite show was Emergency! and I drew up picture story that the fixture started to fire and we call the fire department. They came to our house to extinguished the fixture and delared our firemen heros! I may still have the picture story with my dad's caption.

Pretty, please no more Chinese failure.

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Apr 07, 2010 at 10:53 AM Author: icefoglights
I remember years back when I had a fall job preparing my school to open for the season. One of the 2-lamp F40 rapid start ballasts decided to burn up. We didn't see any smoke or scorch marks, but the smell is hard to forget!

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Roi_hartmann
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Apr 07, 2010 at 12:18 PM Author: Roi_hartmann
I know one case where the shop owner called firedepartment after smelling burning plastic. It was in the morning before shop opened. Shop owner searched long time the source of the smell with the firemens. If I remember right, one of the firemans had infrared thermometer and he thought that maybe it was FL ballast that was smoking. Shop did have about 70-80 2X58W shoplight from 60's installed about 2,5 height(the room was more tall, fixtures were installed metal bar). so they started scanning fixtures and finally found the somking one. Choke-type ballast was somehow partially shortcircuited and had not burned the fuse. the shop owner detached that fixture. Couple of days later I went there and changed the whole fixture( I worked for him kind a service man) back then I was not lighting collector, allthought I have allways liked to change burned lamps. So I did not save the old fixture. thats sad because It was still good fixture if you would just clean melted plastic in side and install new ballast.

There had been some other issues with those same old fixtures. Mainly "destroying lamps slowly". I think some of the ballast are partially short circuited and gives too hight current/voltage as they will destroy new lamps in months with massive end blakkening.

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Apr 07, 2010 at 03:00 PM Author: don93s
Once I came across an old 1958 Universal RS ballast so I decided to see if it works. As soon as I plugged it in, flames and sparks shot out of the casing like a firework! Looked cool, but obviously dangerous and the smoke was very foul.
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Apr 07, 2010 at 03:33 PM Author: nogden
I saw the damage done by a failed preheat ballast a few years ago. A little store that I occasionally visited was lit partially by preheat lights. I went in one day and was talking to the owner about the fire that they just had. She showed me where a ceiling light used to be that burned up. The whole corner of the room was destroyed by the fire! I don't know what happened (stuck starter? shorted ballast?) but it was not good! I'll have to stop in there again someday and see if they are still using the other preheat lights just like the one that caught fire.

-Nelson
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Apr 07, 2010 at 06:36 PM Author: Foxtronix
I once had a faulty ballast, and it ended up like Don's. A while ago I found an early 70s CGE silver label rapid start ballast (the middle one on the picture and when I plugged it in, I could see sparks from a small hole in the casing with a foul white smoke spreading out in the air! I still remember how bad my workshop smelled for a while LOL!

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Apr 07, 2010 at 07:12 PM Author: Silverliner
I remember back in the 90s, as they were beginning to remodel an old bank building into a local market, there was an article in the paper about a fire in the building caused by a fluorescent fixture. I went by to check, saw one troffer (F40T12 rapid start) completely charred! Fortunately the building was okay and it still houses a market today.

May all the great lighting technologies have their place in history.

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Apr 07, 2010 at 09:06 PM Author: DieselNut
I have seen many older rapid start ballasts cook the tar out, especially if left trying to start lamps @ EOL. The F96T12/HO ones seem the WORST.
I have had one GREAT personal smoke show and it was unfortunately from a perfect working vintage three lamp Miller fixture in my barn. A friend and I had been working in the barn shed for several hours (ironically fixing up other similar lights, which I now have in use in my shop!) and we had taken a break to sit around the burn barrel to warm up a bit, chat and drink a few before going back to working on the lights. We had been sitting for a while and noticed the smell of "something else" burning besides the wood and trash in the burn barrel. of course we recognized the smell as a burning ballast, due to the fact that we are both lighting nuts, so we went back to the barn shed. One of the six lights was out and OBVIOUSLY the cause, as a huge puddle of tar had pooled up in the dirt under it. It did not cause enough amp draw to trip the breaker and was still cooking tar inside, spewing smoke out everywhere! We watched it cook until something finally blew inside, disconnecting whatever was at fault. The really sad part is this was the original General Electric three lamp ballast that came in that fixture, maybe the only one I had like that. It is a very large cased and heavy ballast, like the Power Lighting Products (#8G1776W) one I have pictured here: http://www.lighting-gallery.net/gallery/displayimage.php?pos=-41501 Most of my Miller fixtures were originally two lamp and the few other three lamp ones had a two lamp and single lamp ballast in them. There is NO smell as lingering as a cooked ballast's!!

Preheat Fluorescents forever!
I love diesel engines, rural/farm life and vintage lighting!

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Apr 07, 2010 at 09:15 PM Author: joseph_125
I haven't personally seen a ballast burning out but I've heard that most ballast failures are quite nasty and leave a really distinctive smell. I've read lots of stories of burnt ballasts causing a lot of damage to fixtures and the surrounding structure, it's scary!

I like using a inline fuse (rated close to what the ballast draws)in series with the ballast on some of my older ballasts and fixtures in operation to prevent possible ballast failure especially the smoky ones.
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Apr 07, 2010 at 10:06 PM Author: Silverliner
Yes! Inline fuses are a must! Why isn't this in the National Electrical Code?!?

May all the great lighting technologies have their place in history.

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Apr 07, 2010 at 10:34 PM Author: tmcdllr
I was once in a local grocery store at just the right time to see a 2 lamp F96T12 ballast get smoked. It was very loud, very flamy, and very smoky. After a few seconds of this fireworks show that fixture went out completely and left behind black marks on the ceiling and lots of smoke. It was cool!

Nothing like the beautiful cool white light of a coated Mercury Vapor lamp and the soothing hum of it's magnetic ballast.

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Jul 23, 2011 at 11:15 PM Author: Alights
i had an LOA F40T12 shoplight that didn't work on one side once i got it , (so i put an FS-2 starter on it in place and used an F30T12 lamp) (the electronic one fails before the ballast smokes), and then after a while something went wrong with the capacitor, so the lamp started blinking and then smoke came out , then the starter stuck shut and the whole ballast just smoked A LOT with white plasticity smoke! then there was a flash and hiss and the lamp went out and the cathodes were both blown, the capacitor had melted right through itself and caused a break, that's what the hiss was. the lamp still worked later on when i tested it! so bottom line: don't add a starter to an LOA fixture only swap the electronic starters it comes with !
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Jul 24, 2011 at 02:26 AM Author: Ash
Our school had a fixture smoke the whole room (and smell big part of the building), came out this was the capacitor in the fixture (the capacitor is parallel to the mains, so it had no effect on the lamps and they were lighting normal, so it took a long while to discover the source)

A pole not far from my home had a circuit breaker catch fire inside it, leaving burn marks around the door. I think it rusted and the contact opened a bit, and it was arcing, and the breaker was rusted together so it did not trip

I seen a Mazda fixture and a AEG koffer remaints after burning. The Mazda plain melted off completely (leaving some plastic threads stretched from the melted plastic as the fixture fell down) and the koffer had holes in the GRP, but it was just relamped, fit a new ballast, and put back to work as is

I seen HID ignitors catch fire or have component melt hole in the plastic

Ballasts left with stuck starters for long time can do this, but not with big scorch marks as there is no much material to burn in the ballast

Some cheap starters catch fire, i think it is the capacitor breaking down and heating and setting fire to the plastic (cheap starters with flammable plastic)
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Jul 24, 2011 at 03:01 AM Author: tuopeek
As a kid I was running an 8W fluorescent and ballast late at night but I was told turn it out by my parent. So they could not see it I stuffed it under my pillow, but unfortunately fell asleep. I woke up at 5:00 am looked under the pillow. The tube had popped, the ballast was smelling bad and had burn into my pillow. Some of the mains wiring had melted near the ballast. Lucky escape, probably only mercury vapour inhalation. Don’t know how I survived my childhood!
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Jul 24, 2011 at 09:28 AM Author: Patrick
I remember a slimline ballast failure that occurred at my elementary school. My class was out at the time, but if I recall correctly, my brother was in the building when the hallway began to fill with smoke. When I got back, there was just a bit of an odor and a section of the lights had been shut off. Later when they repaired the fixture, I remember that a Sylvania lamp was installed. They probably had an outside contractor do the work, because our school district always used Philips/Westinghouse.

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Jul 24, 2011 at 09:57 AM Author: Powell
The now gone Winn Dixie ( grocery store ) in a strip mall, years ago was burned up due to ballast failure. They used F96T12 slimlines. My father decades ago had a lamp in a F96T12 go bad (in the lead section. He finally changed the bulb...and the next day at work he noticed it getting brighter and brighter and then hot tar started coming out and he turned it off right then. He replaced the ballast as the fixture hung over the spotting board in his dry cleaning plant.

NNNN!

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