Look What We Found! Scary Electrical Discoveries
On occasion when we are doing repairs we make some very scary electrical discoveries. In most cases the work is not really dangerous. It is just sloppy or inefficient. However, sometimes we come across situations that are potentially dangerous. Here are a couple of photos of a pole sign in the Dallas area that had been retrofitted with electrical hardware that is designed for interior, residential lighting. We were shocked when we removed the sign face. We saw pairs of fluorescent lights plugged into a dozen electrical sockets. These sockets were not rated for external use and posed a significant risk for catastrophic failure. At least they were smart enough to keep the electrical off the bottom of the sign where water can collect and short out unprotected circuits.
Worldwide Chain – Bad Electrical
Recently, this has occurred when we took over sign and electrical maintenance for a large, International restaurant chain. We repaired several external lights for one of their local restaurants. We found that a ballast had been replaced for one of the lights, however, the ballast was physically larger than the one being replaced. The problem was the new ballast was too big to fit in the protective enclosure. As a result the ballast was attached to the wall exposed to the elements. Our assumption is that the previous electrician did not want to get the right size ballast and so used the one they had on the truck even though it did not fit. Now it no longer works.
Ballasts and Tubes Should Match
We have replaced numerous interior lights in high ceilings over the last year. At three separate locations we found that mismatched hardware was a contributing factor to the failure of the lights. Ballasts and fluorescent lights are rated for their output. If the tubes are not rated the same as the ballasts then one, the other, or both will fail much sooner than they should.
It is not necessarily dangerous that they are mismatched but it can contribute to a ballast burning out early. Or the ballast can overheat which will cause the units internal switch to shut the ballast off. Once the ballast cools down it will activate again. If too much power is forced into a fluorescent tube it will begin to develop dark spots near the ends as it overheats. Dark spots are a natural consequence of tubes burning out but it should be years not months for this to occur.
To avoid your own scary electrical discoveries find a sign shop that has a history of providing high quality installation and repair work.