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Buzzy fluorescent fixtures

I have been bothered by an occasional noisy light.  In one case I noticed 
the fixture was exactly like four others that I had.  All were magnetic 
"ballasts" and BTW all are about 30 years old.  They were in storage for 
20 years.  At any rate, I tried to determine the problem.  First I put in 
a new bulb which made a big difference.  However, it was still too noisy, 
especially compared to the three "good" fixtures.  While I am not exactly 
sure what the problem is, I suspect the little plates that make up the 
core of the ballast become "loose" which gives the opportunity for the 
light to double as a door buzzer.  The amplitude of the noise, I'm 
guessing, is a function of the load on the transformer (ballast).  

I can not imagine a manufacturer making 100% noisy fixtures, no matter 
how cheap.  I suspect a higher quality unit is less prone to door buzzer 
vibration but there are no guarentees. The fix would seem to be replace 
the ballast.  

On a related note, one of my ice cap electronic jobs goes into a high 
pitched buzz at times.  The fix for me is to turn off the lights for a 
second or so and then turn it back on.  This will usually fix the 
problem.  If the balast is left to buzz it gets quite hot and will 
eventually turn itself off.  It buzzes about once a week after start 
up and about 3 times a year the unit will turn itself off.  My other ice 
cap works without a problem.

My personal conclusion to all this is go ahead and try a cheapo light if 
you want and if the thing makes a lot of noise take it back and complain 
to the store.  If you have your receipt they should honor the return.  
There are a lot of great plant tanks running on shop lights that cost 
half of what a single 4' "fish" light would cost.  

A friend of mine recently set up a 20 hi and wanted plants so he bought 3 
15 watt "under counter type" fl lites at the local Wal-Mart for about $8 
each.  He is going to build a ligh shield/ hood around them but in the 
interim his tank is doing great and looks better than any product 
available in a fish shop.  

--Earle Hamilton from northern Michigan where coral once grew