Why Does My Fluorescent Light Have Swirling Lines?

You look up. Movement. What is this? It looks like your fluorescent lights have come alive! They’re swirling and spiraling, like each one has an angry snake inside. This is no good. The light level in your room isn’t even. The fixtures flicker, annoyingly, and your eyes start to feel overworked and tired.

While this problem sounds pretty bizarre, it’s not uncommon for fluorescent tube lights to have swirls, spirals, or striations. Check out this YouTube video featuring a swirling fluorescent:

Surprisingly, this is just an undesirable visual condition – it rarely indicates anything terribly wrong with your lights, and often times it will go away on it’s own. To make your lights calm down and stop swirling, here are a few things you can try:

1. If your lights are new, and they just started acting this way, give them some time to adjust. Try turning them on and off a few times at 30 minute intervals. If the swirling persists, keep the lights on continuously for 24-48 hours, allowing them to season properly in their new surroundings.

2. Monitor the temperature around the lights, because excessive cold can also cause fluorescent lights to behave this way. For indoor lights, make sure your air conditioning and fans aren’t blowing cold air directly on them. For outdoor lights exposed to cold air, verify your ballast is rated for conditions below 50°F. If it’s not, upgrade to one that is. 

3. In rare cases, this condition can also indicate a poor electrical connection caused by a broken wire in the wire nut. Make sure all the wiring connections (splices) are in place and secure. For lights powered by a ballast, use a multimeter to find out if it’s receiving a constant amount of input voltage.

Where have you encountered swirling fluorescent light bulbs? We want to hear about it!

Annie Josey

Annie was the E-Commerce Marketing Specialist at Pegasus Lighting from June 2012 to October 2013. She has a background in English literature, and loves using language to help illuminate the world. So covering lighting news and tips naturally fit her interests. In her personal time she enjoys painting, biking, and reading.

2 thoughts to “Why Does My Fluorescent Light Have Swirling Lines?”

  1. I just ran into this problem with flukers 5.0 uv T8 24 inch 20 watt bulbs, their a florescent bulb for reptiles. it is not rolling crazy like in the video, it looks more controlled like a rolling pin spinning at a set rate. it has gone away on its own, but then the first bulb that did that has turned pink like from a loss of mercury and it is only 30 days old / in use.

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