Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Fluorescent fixtures - T12 to T8 conversion

We have a 4 lamp fluorescent lighting fixture in our kitchen.  It had four T12 lamps in it originally.  Two days ago two of the lamps stopped working and it smelled bad.  One of the ballasts had died.

I took the opportunity to replace the ballast with a T8 ballast and start running T8 lamps on that side.  The old ballasts were electronic so they started pretty fast but the T8 starts even faster (fractions of a second difference though).  The T8 seems to be at full brightness immediately, the T12 takes a few seconds.  Also the T8 is a tiny bit brighter and apparently the bulbs last longer and burn bright for longer, and use less energy (32 versus 40 watts for a 4 foot fixture).

If you have a ballast on a T12 fixture burn out and you don't have a lot of spare T12 lamps to use up (or like us you have other fixtures to use them in) I would definitely recommend moving to T8 and switching all your fixtures over as you replace ballasts anyway.  I don't plan to buy any more T12 lamps - when we run out of spares I'll replace the ballasts on existing fixtures.

FWIW the wiring is a little different on T8 lamps but it's very, very simple - anyone who should be touching wiring at all will have no problem with it.  There's a diagram on the ballast.  Basically you just need one common for all tubes, one separate wire for each tube.  T12 usually has two wires going to each end of each tube.  So you go from 8 wires for two T12 bulbs to 3 wires for two T8 bulbs.  Much less wiring to do.  I assume the T8 ballast uses a very high kick voltage at the beginning so the filaments at the ends are not needed at all.

I used a Philips ballast from Lowes - it was about $24.  I could have gotten it cheaper at Amazon but I wanted the light back in service ASAP.  Payback is rather long on this (at least 4 years) to just replace proactively but if you are replacing a ballast anyway, definitely go this way.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Great new software of the month

Today I started playing around with BitTorrent Sync.  It may very well be the best piece of software released this year.

It allows you to do flexible synchronization between any number of machines using the BitTorrent protocol.  Setup is ridiculously easy.  You share directories with yourself (on other PCs) or with others by simply pasting in a secret code (which is 40 characters) on the other end.  There is support for Windows, Mac, Linux and FreeBSD.

Since all the storage is on your machine, there are no limits.  You don't have to set up an account anywhere and your data is never stored on the cloud so there's no security risk there.  Data is encrypted in transit.

It's a great way to share data among friends, or to maintain a constant offsite backup of your important data. You could sync your "my documents" folder between your PC and your spouse's, so you'd have a backup in case of a crash.  You could sync your family photos to your mom's PC, or to work, and you'd always have a backup and mom could have your photos minutes after you pull them off the camera, with neither of you having to do anything.

I think it's pretty brilliant.