This is what happens when good lights go bad… or at least when you wire them up badly. They eventually burn out and die. So after about a year and a half I had to bite the bullet and rebuild all four lights for the cool vivarium. Because one after one, they had all started to give me trouble this fall. Light being an absolute key ingredient in vivarium culture, this was serious business.
It all started with one of them not coming on sporadically. I figured I might have a bad ballast, so I ordered a new one and replaced it. But no dice. The light would still refuse to come on intermittently, and when it did come on the light would glow ominously red for the first 15-20 seconds or so before getting warm and the ends of all the lamps were slightly blackened for the first 5-10 cm. After a few more weeks of this it failed to come on all together. If I would tap the ballast it might flicker a little bit, like it wanted to come on, but soon it would do none of that either. Then the remaining three lights would begin to act up as well. I knew it was just a matter of time before they would all fail, so I really needed a plan for how to fix this… and fast!
I still cannot find any factory made fixtures for these lights, and I really don’t understand why? My fixtures are crude and home-made, so I guess it does not come as a complete surprise that something would go wrong. I tried talking to the local electrical shops, but they had no clue what so ever… I tried searching on the internet high and low for advice. Dear husband even tried rewiring all the lights for me, but no luck!
Then I remembered getting some really nice help from the UK lighting store where I bought my replacement lights for the growing window earlier in the year. So I wrote them a fairly confusing email asking for help. I was desperately hoping they might be able to figure out what the problem was. To my surprise, and great relief, I actually did get a reply with a solution. Turns out I had been given bad advice on how to wire them up initially, that on top of being sold the wrong kind of wire eventually lead to this complete failure.
Apparently the blackening at the ends showed that the lamps had lost most of their emitter material and that none of them soon would start. The million dollar question question was of course why. Apparently there were two likely scenarios… either the electrical connections from the ballast were wrong, or there might be a faulty lamp holder – or the connections (the wiring) between the ballast and lamp holder were wrong or loose. I am betting money it is the latter, bad wiring – not faulty equipment, since I had four light all failing more or less at the same time. Since each switching on/off cycle causes sputtering of emitter material, the lights have just burned out prematurely. The recommendation I got was to replace both the lamp holders (luckily not very expensive) as well as the lamps. They even included some of the correct wire, free of charge, so I could wire it all up correctly this time.
Originally I was told to wedge the wired in the slots on top of the ballast, which I always felt was a bit strange as they did not seem to get very good contact… turns out they really needed to go into the holes underneath (finally got an answer out of Osram despite not being a professional electrician). The large stranded wire that I was originally using would not fit there, but the new wire would! It is about half as thick, and a single copper wire instead of the difficult to work with stranded kind. Much better!! That also meant having to wire up the pigtail (the plug providing the electricity from the wall) using the new wire and a grounded electrical junction box. Easy as pie! Dear husband helped me wire the lights back up with new lamp holders and brand new Dulux 80W lamps (he’s quite handy to have around that man), and voilà! All lights are now up and running again and it looks like a solarium in there, he he…
Thank you Paul from CP Lighting, you are a life saver! By the way, I warmly recommend this seller. Helpful (above and beyond), good selection and very good prices despite shipping charges to Sweden. I am soooooo relieved I finally got this sorted. It has caused me sleepless nights for weeks, months!