Flourescent Light Not Working – Ask THE Handyman St. Louis – Get It Done

I have a florescent light in my kitchen that isn’t working properly. I’ve changed the bulbs, but sometimes it works, and other times it doesn’t. Do I need a new fixture?

Fluorescent lights can be troublesome at times; however, repairs are fairly easy. My first suggestion with problem lights is to simply replace the bulbs. But since you’ve already done that, let’s go to the next step.
With the switch on, try rotating the bulbs slightly, making sure that they have good contact in the bulb pin holders at each end. Sometimes, these sockets or bulb holders need to be replaced. If turning the bulb slightly brings the light on as it should be, wait and see if the problem persists. If it does, replace the sockets (two per bulb).

If rotating the bulb doesn’t help, it could be either the ballast or the starter that is bad. Older fluorescent lights have a starter, which is usually a gray, round device, about 1” long and the circumference of a nickel. You will usually see the starter with the bottom half being exposed. Sometimes you have to remove the bulbs to see them. To remove a starter, simply twist it one-quarter turn counter clockwise to remove it. The starters are usually less than $1 and are available at any hardware store.
If your fixture doesn’t have a starter, then it will have a ballast. A ballast is a transformer that will boost the 120 volt house current up to about 300 volts in order to light the bulb, then reduce the voltage down to keep it lit. Replacing a ballast can be done, but it may take a first timer about 30 minutes, as there are numerous wires to connect. Also, the cost of a new ballast can be $20 and higher, which means that sometimes, it may be less expensive to simply buy a new fixture, especially if the fixture is simply a shop light type.


If you decide to replace the ballast, be sure to look closely when buying the new one, as there are many different types. It would be best to remove the old one and take it to the hardware store with you.

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Adding an Exterior Outlet – Get It Done – Ask THE Handyman St. Louis

With the recent holidays, I’ve decided I no longer want to run the power for my Christmas lights using an extension cord that has to be run under my garage door. Is there an easy way to add an outside outlet?


I’ve been through the same frustration as you have, so I’m happy to tell you that adding an outside outlet usually isn’t a difficult task. If you have to have the outlet in a particular location, it could be more difficult, so being flexible will help you a great deal.

The easiest way to add an exterior outlet is to tap into an interior outlet along an outside wall. In other words, look for outlets along an outside wall in the front of your house and determine if you can find a location that if a plug were located in the same place on the outside, it would be convenient to plug your lights into. Once you’ve found the spot, you can tap into it and install the new exterior outlet. This can be done no matter where the interior outlet is, as long as it isn’t through a foundation wall. NOTE: Also, you don’t want any phone lines, gas lines, air conditioners, etc., to be in the way.

Once you have your interior outlet location chosen, turn off the power to this outlet. Then remove the outlet cover and verify that the power is off. Then drill a hole through the back of the electrical box to the outside. The hole will need to be about 3/8” wide in order to fit the romex wire through the hole.
Using 12 gage romex wire, feed the wire through the hole, giving yourself about one foot outside the hole and one more foot of wire on the inside. If the original wires you see are silver colored, then you have aluminum wiring and you’ll need to add an “anti-oxidant joint compound” to any wires which touch copper wires. For exact wiring information, see previous articles concerning outlets and GFCI’s in past Post Dispatch articles.

If your interior outlet is a GFCI you can install a regular 3-prong outlet on the exterior. But if the interior outlet is not GFCI protected, you will need to install a GFCI outlet of the outside. Attach a weather proof box to the outside of the house, then install your new outlet to the box and wire it accordingly. It is also a good idea to install a “perpetual cover”, which will allow you to keep something plugged in and still have the outlet covered.

You will be amazed at how often you will appreciate having this outlet!

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