Light for Kathy’s Cage

For a few months now, half the basement has been dark.  There are 4 sets of fluorescent ceiling lights down there, but 2 had burnt out.  Unfortunately the half that’s been dark is my neighbor Kathy’s – her cage is in a separate room of the basement and been basically pitch black.  I knew I needed to get replacement bulbs, but I’ve been sick for so long and so exhausted that I kept forgetting.  Every day I’d get home from work and take a nap.  And every weekend I slept.  Kathy texted me 2 weeks ago to say she’d bought replacement bulbs at the local hardware store but they weren’t working.  She suspected an issue with the electrical.  She was going to call her landlord but I told her I’d take care of it.  As head of the Condo Association I get to make the decisions and I decided I’d rather do it myself than pay an electrician 🙂  Plus I’m always excited to play with electricity.

I finally got my butt in gear yesterday [I’m sorry you had to go another 2 weeks without light, Kathy!] and bought replacement bulbs [Kathy had returned hers].  First I replaced the 2 in the fixture outside the 2nd condo’s cage [our cage is on the left with the holiday lights], which is kind of in the common area.  Here’s a before [from last year after I’d cleaned the basement] and an after from today [plllllllleeeeeeease ignore the mess]:

i shop-vac'd our basement common area #1        

I guess there’s not a huge difference, except in the amount of boxes I need to cut up & recycle…  Here’s a shot showing the actual light on the right:

Then I moved into Kathy’s cage and put the 2nd set of fluorescent tubes in.  As Kathy said, they did nothing.  But the fixture hummed, so I knew it was getting current.  The fixture was pretty ancient:

After much searching online at both Home Depot & Lowes, I learned 2 things:  [1] “fluorescent lights” are called “shop lights”.  So if you need to buy one for your garage or basement, search for “shop light”.  And [2] they don’t make 3′ ones anymore, only 2′ and 4′ [and 6′ and 8′].  Bitch.  My local Home Depot only had plug-in ones and I needed a hard-wired model.  I found a 4′ hard-wired one at my local Lowe’s for $25:

        

So I drove up the line and bought it this morning.  The Condo Association will reimburse me for the fixture & bulbs.

After unscrewing the old fixture from the ceiling I tested the wires for current:

        

All clear!  [I actually tested them at every stage of the game because instead of trying to figure out which circuit controlled the light fixture [I’ve mapped our condo’s circuits but not the basement circuits] I just made sure the switch for the fixture was off… not the recommended way to do things, but it worked].

Since the new light is a foot longer than the old one, I ran into some issues with placement.  The electrical box for the light is located right at the front edge of Kathy’s cage, and the heat detector is placed in such a way I couldn’t situate the new light horizontal to the cage frame.  I had to place it at 90° [like the original had been], but that meant it would stick out of the cage a few inches.  Meh.  I also ran into an issue where one side of the fixture would be screwed into the cage frame, but the other would be screwed into the ceiling joists, which are a few inches higher.  So I had to screw 2 pieces of scrap wood to the joist so the light would hang evenly – you can see them in this picture [the fixture is screwed in on the right but still unesecured on the left]:

I made the lower piece longer to accommodate the pre-drilled screw holes in the fixture.  However, I quickly realized I’d need it even longer because I needed to screw the grounding wire to the fixture and it was too short to reach either the joists or the cage frame.  I used my miter saw to rip a longer piece of scrap wood and screwed that to the ceiling instead.  You can see it running along the top of the fixture.  I was able to screw the fixture to it on one end and the grounding screw to it on the other:

         

Then I twisted the fixture’s wires to the electrical boxes’ wires and secured them with wire caps:

         

It took a while to get the cover onto the fixture, the fixture frame was a bit bent on one edge so I ended up wrapping the middle with white electrical tape to make sure it wouldn’t come loose:

I screwed in the 2 bulbs I’d bought, flipped the switch… and LIGHT!  First try woohoo!!!  Kathy finally has light again:

         

The project took exactly one hour once I got home from Lowe’s with the fixture & bulbs.  Now it’s nap time.

Happy Veteran’s Day and thank you to all our veteran’s out there, my father and paternal grandfather included.

In health news, I am getting a Tonsillectomy a week from Tuesday.

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8 Comments

  1. Congratulation,you are a good handyman.
    Gratulation, du bist ein guter Heimwerker.
    Liebe Grüsse

  2. If you heard humming, probably didn’t need to replace the whole light fixture. Probably had a bad ballast. Depending on how much work you want to put in, might consider replacing ballast next time (http://www.instructables.com/id/Fluorescent-shop-light-repair/)

  3. I hope the tonsillectomy does the trick. Good luck! I have cataract surgery on my second eye next Thursday … looking forward to seeing clearly again! 🙂

  4. You’re amazing!

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