Photo courtesy of Milwaukee Electric Tool Corp.
New tool tests fluorescent bulbs and ballasts, in some cases, without a ladder.

The electrician who walks around the office all day with a cart full of bulbs may be eager to try out Milwaukee Electric Tool Corp.'s new fluorescent-lighting tester, which combines bulb and ballast diagnostics in one handheld tool.

Because few options exist to test fluorescent bulbs before replacing them, lighting technicians “have adopted a replace-and-hope strategy,” says Jon Morrow, director of product marketing for Milwaukee's testing and measurement line. “There is no meter out there to test and diagnose lights,” he adds.

ENR got a demonstration of the unit last month. The tool's antenna telescopes out 2.5 ft so the bulbs and ballasts in a ceiling fixture can be probed—in some cases, without having to set up a ladder.

The device excites the gases in the fluorescent bulb, which blinks when it is in good condition. It includes a tester for bulb prongs and a setting that gives an audible indication as to whether a ballast is operating properly.

As with all its testing and measurement tools, Milwaukee has obtained Underwriters Laboratories certification for the bulb tester, which basically acts as a portable electronic ballast that puts out a high-frequency voltage. The certification process was arduous.

“When we brought this to UL, they said, 'We have no idea how to test this,' ” Morrow says. Milwaukee says the bulb and ballast tester will cut the time it takes facility managers to diagnose and repair lights by 50%.

Available in February, the Model 2210-20 fluorescent- lighting tester operates with four AA batteries, which last for about 25 hours of testing on a single charge. The tool sells for just under $200.