I have been using these FC12 T9 Circline 32w fluorescent bulbs for many years. https://www.lowes.com/pd/GE-32-Watt-12-in-4-pin-Circline-4100-K-Cool-White-Circline-Fluorescent-Light-Bulb/3400530

The bulb just burned out, as usual with blackened ends. But my spare bulb won't light properly. Only the first 1-2 inches lights, and the other end merely glows yellow. When I flip the 4-prong plug, both ends then light only 1-2 inches. My other spare bulb behaves the ~same. So either (1) the ballast is bad, but not dead, or (2) both spare bulbs are from a bad batch.

The ballast was working just fine every day before the bulb burned out, not slow to light up and always consistently good. It was a very humid and rainy year, btw.

The fixture is roughly 4 years old. The previous fixture lasted probably over a dozen years, but then again things are made these days to fail quickly. It seems less expensive to buy a new fixture than to buy just a replacement ballast (with $10 flat rate shipping, plus the problem of whether it will fit). The ballast is square-ish like here: Ballast TLE54 won't light 2 circline bulbs

The spare bulbs are unused but around 2 years old. This says they don't degrade over time: Fluorescent bulb shelf life

No, I don't want LED. Is there a way to test without ordering and waiting for a new fixture? I could buy a new bulb as a test, but then if that won't light then I have 3 unused bulbs on hand and still have to then order and wait for a new fixture.


Might Phillips bulbs (HomeDepot) be better than GE (Lowes), or do they all just come from the same mega-factory in China?

[edit: I have uplugged/re-plugged many times, in case the connectors had acquired a coating]

1 Answer 1


but then again things are made these days to fail quickly

It seems less expensive to buy a new fixture than to buy just a replacement ballast

or do they all just come from the same mega-factory in China?

I think this is the root of your problem. You have talked yourself out of optimizing for quality, because you deem quality nonexistent, fraudulent or out of reach.

That is certainly not my experience. I do chase quality, and I do a lot with real fluorescents even today. They are eminently reliable for me, with GE and Philips ballasts. I am gobsmacked that you are only getting 4 years out of a bulb on a rapid-start (not instant) fixture. Nevermind a ballast.

No doubt of it, this ballast is munching your bulbs, which is a failure mode I normally expect to see in old magnetic ballasts.

The fixture is just metal, so its quality doesn't really enter into it. If it were me I would get off that merry-go-round and find a top quality ballast for that fixture. From GE, Philips, Sylvania etc. Ideally, get a programmed-start ballast, which will soft-start the bulb and give very long bulb life.

  • Thanks, but it seems impossible to get a name brand ballast for FC12T9 Circline anymore. I am lucky to find an off brand Radiant with the center hole like this: bulbsdepot.com/bd-rcb64.html That model has TWO outputs for 32W. I have only the one 32w bulb. If one 32w circuit of the ballast burns out, then would the other one still likely be good? On other words, is that model like getting 2-for-1? ........................P.S. Bravo on Reinstate Monica.
    – Bob White
    Sep 26, 2021 at 16:00
  • The light gets turned on maybe <7 times per day, that doesn't seem excessive. The bulb lasted 2 yrs, the ballast ~4 yrs. No where near the claimed hours for the bulb. The original ballast is (now defunct) "Energy Pro" TLE54.
    – Bob White
    Sep 26, 2021 at 16:10
  • 7 starts a day is 2500 starts a year, so a tube only lasting 5000 starts indicates a ballast problem. These ballasts are supposed to be rapid-start (pre-heaters, 4 wires) and I would expect more like 25,000 out of a rapid-start ballast, and 40-60k out of a programmed-start ballast (which runs the preheaters as long as is necessary). That "off-grand Reliant" has the same amateur markings as the one from the other question, so that probably did come from the same Chinese factory. I could swear I saw Robertson and Keystone over on ballastshop.com. Sep 26, 2021 at 17:19
  • @Bob But no, do not use a rapid-start ballast that says it's for more tubes than you have. When they say for 2 tubes, they mean it - they are not in parallel and will not run independently. Removing 1 tube will snuff the other one. Sep 26, 2021 at 17:21
  • Well, (1) ballastshop.com/search/searchresults/… has none with the center hole for the threaded rod/hangar, as shown here: diy.stackexchange.com/questions/123198/… (2) On my own bad ballast, there has always been a 2nd, unused socket/cord for 22w 8"; but there are no spring clips on the fixture for that 2nd tube.
    – Bob White
    Sep 26, 2021 at 19:17

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