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.

Get It Done
Ask THE Handyman St Louis

Get It Done THE St Louis Handyman “Outdoor Light Pole”

I have an outdoor light pole that doesn’t work. Have tried new light bulbs and no luck. Any ideas on how to fix?


Outdoor electrical post lights are pretty basic, but there two different types which you first need to identify.  Is the light 120 volt or is it a low-voltage light?

A 120 volt light would use your standard wiring and be connected to your circuit panel box.  Another way you can determine if it’s a 120 volt is by looking at the light bulb.  Normally, this type of post light would have a regular light bulb, like you would screw into a lamp.  It could have a smaller base, such as a candelabra, but the bulb is a normal incandescent light bulb.

If there is a switch to turn the light on and off, be certain that the switch is working correctly.  A simple electrical tester will allow you to see if it is.  (See previous Lifestyle article about testing a switch.)  If the switch is fine, or if there isn’t a switch, take the tester and touch one wire to the sides of the socket where the bulb goes in, and the other wire of the tester to the small tab at the bottom of the socket.  If you are getting a good connection, then it could be that the bulb isn’t making good contact with the bottom tab.

If you turn the appropriate circuit breaker off, you can then take a regular slotted screwdriver and gently pry up that small tab in the bottom of the socket, so that it will make better contact with the bulb.

Now, if your tester didn’t show a good connection, there is usually a small plate on the pole that you can remove.  Inside, you will usually see where the wires come up from the ground and connect to the wires from the head of the lamp post.  Try your tester with these wires as well.

If you have a good connection there, then you may have to get a new lamp post head, usually available through the hardware or lighting stores.  If you don’t have a good connection there, there could be a break in the line running into the house.  For this, call an electrician.

If the light is low voltage, there will be a small bulb (which is more like a bulb you would replace in your car).  You will also have a low voltage wire running underground into the house and this wire will be attached to a transformer, which will be plugged in to a regular household outlet.  The transformer is usually a small black box, which looks similar to the end of a cell phone charger that gets plugged in.  This transformer may be bad, but you’ll need a low voltage tester to find out.  This can get tricky, so you may want to consider calling the electrician to trouble shoot things.

Whether your post light is 120 volt, or low voltage, most lights have a dusk to dawn sensor in the post (a small round “eye”).  Many times, this can go bad, causing the light to stay on or off, regardless of the time of day.  A sensor for a 120 volt is easily replaced and available at hardware stores.  The sensor for a low voltage light is harder to find, but try some electrical supply stores for availability.  Both type of sensors can be changed easily and should come with specific instructions.

So, there really isn’t a single answer the question of how to fix it.  You have to go through a series of tasks to find out exactly what the problem is.  But once you fix it, your delight will be as bright as the post light!

Get It Done

THE St Louis Handyman