Wiring a Florescent Fixture

Dear NH,
My question is on wiring a florescent light fixture. I purchased six florescent shop lights which I intended to install in a new workshop I recently built. When I opened the shop lights I discovered that they had standard three prong plugs. Since I wanted to direct-wire these lights to come on with a wall switch I decided to cut the plug off. After cutting the plug off I discovered that there was no way to determine which wire is which except that the ground wire was green. Does it matter which of the other two wires goes to the hot wire or can they be wired either way?

Dear BC,
No, they cannot be wired either way. By switching the ground, hot, and neutral wires you may inadvertently produce an electrocution hazard in the metal frame of the fluorescent fixture. You will have to remove the cover on the fixture that hides the ballast and determine which wire in the cord is hot. The hot wire on the ballast is black, and the neutral is white. The other colors are the wires that connect the ballast to the fluorescent tube holders and to each other.

These non-commercial fixtures are generally not UL-approved for hard wiring unless there is a manufacturer's fact sheet that says it's OK. So if there is no indication that hard wiring is approved, you will have to install new replacement three-prong plugs at the now cut ends of the power cords. These plugs are available at any hardware store. To solve the ON-OFF problem, simply install an outlet box or boxes near the fixtures, and wire the boxes so that they are controlled by a single wall switch!


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