Circline Fluorescent Kitchen Ceiling Light Replacement

Posted in Uncategorized on December 11, 2016 by marksun

December 10 2016 – the kitchen light stopped working.   This is a 20″ square fixture to replace the original which featured two “circline” fluorescent tubes, 16″ 40W (2500 lumens) and 12″ 32W (1600 lumens) and VEB82234 solid state ballast.

LED’s … looked into a Costco 14″ LED fixture at $27 but it produces 1400 lumens at 21 W-  would need three of them to light up the kitchen.

These things seem to last a few years but this is the second such unit to fail over the years -not sure how old this unit is.  Because the third time is a charm, I got a replacement from City Mill for $55.  I’m not sure exactly which component ( tube, ballast) failed but I suspect the ballast.  Searching you tube and the web, the power transistors seem to be the weak point – they get hot and burn out.  Why now?   I put the old unit on the bench and powered it up but no light.  If the fixture was in good shape I would consider a repair, replace the ballast ($20) and tubes ($20) but you can see already this $40 worth of parts, but the fixture has four broken plastic clips that hold the 20″ x 20″ plastic diffuser cover.  I’d have to find or make replacements, then start by replacing the fluorescent tubes.  Planned obsolescence? So $55 seemed to be the better bet with a brand new, returnable full replacement.

Check the transistors for shorts or opens – might as well find out.

In the failed unit, the entire fixture is down – neither tube works and both are black near the terminals, BUT they did flash a few times while I was messing with them in the ceiling – so most likely the ballast “blew out”, whatever that means – which component?  Transistors seem to be the week point.  Lets take a closer look.

A youtube video talked about the fact that certain power transistors cannot be obtained on the market — e.g. PHE13007 transistors – neither Mouser or Digikey carries them.  So they are hard to get – maybe a trade secret limited production, which is dumb … costs everyone money.

No clue.  No obvious signs of burning or leaking in the ballast – I checked diodes, inspected the caps.  I will bench check the new unit so at that time I can test the tubes.  I think the thing works with one tube down – we’ll find out.

This is a good intro to how ballasts work :  There is a black art to fluorescent circuits with tradeoffs on tube life, brightness and the electronics and a lack of good information. Interesting.

One of the trade-0ffs with fluorescent tubes is that they blacken at the ends and put out less light.  This is certainly the case here – but I think the tubes are OK since they showed no sign of flicker or dimming, except now, this sudden complete failure.


Patio sliding door and screen – fix

Posted in home repairs, Uncategorized with tags , on November 28, 2016 by marksun

These sliding patio doors have been difficult over time and the glass door has gradually required more and more muscle to close until now, it’s ridiculous.  Construction is aluminum, heavy aluminum in the case of the glass and surprisingly seems to be of good quality stuff – it has held up over 30 years.

Removal of the screen, repair of rollers is doable and I’ve done it for the screen. The frame though has serious corrosion and replacement is the only way – procurement is a different problem.

Glass door removal looks difficult for lack of clearance.  Some internet articles are available and I looked at them.  The door is heavy – four arm job I think, and there is risk of trying an “adjustment” but it could be a “brokanic” action as well and I see risk. Maybe it isn’t necessary until I get some help?


I used a birthday candle to lubricate the aluminum rail the door rollers ride on. Now the door slides easily. It’s too easy, I’m suspicious.  Sooner or later the rollers will have to be replaced I’m sure but for now we have a fix.  I also tried a stiff waxy grease used in  radio control car transmission gearboxes. It didn’t work well for me in a gearbox but this is a good application,  especially on the top slide channel of the glass door.

Amazon Fire Remote Stops Working

Posted in house tech, household appliances with tags , , , on November 9, 2016 by marksun

The Amazon Fire started complaining about low batteries in the remote one day.  After a while I got tired of that so I replaced the batteries with new Duracell alkalines.  Then the remote stopped working altogether.  Lucky I have an Android app for fire TV which works. In the meantime- after a few tries to reseat the batteries, it started working again.

Couple days later, the remote is intermittent.  It turns on the device, we watch something, try to pause, the remote is not working.

This time, I tried Corrosion Block with a qtip, reinsert batteries.  Remote doesn’t work at first, then starts working.

Two possible things going on.   1) clean contacts may be necessary.   2) blue tooth or wi fi pairing may have to occur

A YouTube video demos  Amazon advice to hold the home button for five to ten seconds. This apparently starts the blue-tooth ( or possibly wi-fi direct) pairing process.  Once started, pairing completion can be immediate or longer – maybe many seconds, who knows.  My experience sounds like pairing lag and suggests that this time can vary. Wireless networking auto-connect is one of those voodoo processes that are hard to second guess.   When it works well great, but sometimes it take a while before it starts to work (or break, again).

Somehow I bet that it is the blue-tooth all along and the playing with the remote got the pairing started.  But I’m not sure about this.   Whatever, remotes working now.

Good luck – hope this helps.

Frigidaire washer repairs in the rental: this time, the drain hose

Posted in Uncategorized on October 6, 2016 by marksun

Here’s the latest worn out item in the round house… the drain hose.

screen-shot-2016-09-16-at-12-18-39-am  screen-shot-2016-09-15-at-11-50-27-pmscreen-shot-2016-09-15-at-11-49-29-pm


Frigidaire 131461200 Drain Hose

Sugar loving Ants

Posted in ants, house tech with tags on October 6, 2016 by marksun

6 Oct 16 Sugar loving ants have become a pest in the kitchen.  I found the little bottle of prepared borax based ant killer (Terro  Ant Killer) and put out some feeding stations.

In an hour or so, the ants found it and eagerly mopped up what must appear to them to be a mountain of sweet syrup.  They got more to what is about 1cc or ml, total.  I also followed them around and soon traced them to a gap in the lanai wall.  Soon there will not be a gap there but first lets see if the poison works.

Jan 27 2017 – the ants are now potato chip loving ants.  Wierd.  They are still around.  It has been very dry all of January.

Washer Repair – September 2016

Posted in house tech, household appliances with tags , , on September 16, 2016 by marksun
Screen Shot 2016-09-16 at 12.18.39 AM.pngThe washer stopped working on a  Frigidaire Model GLEH1642FS1 Washer Drier combo unit in the rental unit we call the Round House.  When I get there, there is  water in tub that won’t pump out.  The timer dial does not work.  “Door Lock” light is on.
I was introduced to a website called Parts Select with good troubleshooting and repair information for this specific model.
Ordered the part below  and installed it.  It is possible to shop around – and I suppose that the buyer be best aware of the possibility of cheap knockoffs.
Screen Shot 2016-09-15 at 11.50.27 PM.png
In testing I note that the “door lock” light stays lit through the whole cycle – makes sense, the door is locked.

Hot but no cold water wash

I also found out (after ordering the door lock/switch)  that for some time, the washer can only wash with hot water.  Cold water does not flow into washer.
Screen Shot 2016-09-15 at 11.49.29 PM.png
Indication is that the main water valve is bad and should be replaced.

This repair is pending
partselect information link this video

9/22/16  Sourced
Other items to put the washer back online:
1) REPLACE THE RUBBER HOSE WITH BRAID or STEEL – (bursting hazard so it will protect the house in the long run – hoses are already kind of old)
2) put the cover back on the back ( big spinning drum should be protected )
This unit has required maintenance over the years, mainly do it yourself, but fortunately, parts are readily available.  Frigidaire, and other brands use the same OEM parts, so underneath all the branding, there is some convergence of common parts.  I wouldn’t go so far as to call this standardization, but it is a good thing.  This particular washer drier OEM says Electrolux on the label inside the door.
We thought about replacing the unit but after seeing the ready availability of parts, it seems worthwhile to just keep repairing this thing.  It is space saving and a good size for a rental.  The dual unit does have obvious drawbacks and makes replacement problematic down the line as it is likely only the washer OR drier will fail, so you’d end up chucking a working unit.  I did note that the washer is a one size load – no small medium large as I am accustomed to with a normal full size washer.

Tivoli PAL won’t run on batteries unless you plug it in first…

Posted in Electronics with tags , on August 31, 2016 by marksun


This is a seasoned Tivoli PAL AM/FM radio which I love for its retro simplicity, great sound, versatility, and clean build.  These things don’t last forever and the years take their toll. For example, when I first got it (lightly used) I had to replace the battery pack with a home build 4-pack of NiMH AA cells soldered together. I removed deteriorating tacky blue rubber finish.   Now, recently, after considerable usage, even if the battery is charged, the radio won’t turn on until the power supply is plugged in. Once it is on, I can unplug the power supply and the radio will play from the batteries.  ???


I opened it up and found I can jump start the radio without the power supply plugged in by shorting two points on the Tivoli circuit board which I found by following the 7.3 V of the battery B+ and 13.8V of the external power brick. Without a schematic or desire to trace out the circuit I decided on a hack  with a miniature momentary switch that are becoming easy to get and widely used.  Turn the radio to FM (or AM) , short press the switch, and the radio turns on.

A not pretty solution but the radio works on batteries now, and life goes on.


Soldered #28 wirewrap leads to the two contact points  to and threaded the wires out the hole used for the external power supply.  The two wires were attached to the miniature switch. I borrowed one of the recessed screw tunnels for the switch seat.  Used BONDIC to hold the switch and wires in place.   Done.

Technical note.   I don’t know the underlying cause and did not isolate the bad component.  I suspected the big 2200 uF electrolytic near the  power input jack. One of the  shorting points is connectected to the positive lead of this cap.  Later experiments to replace the cap did not fix the problem.

Below, a better shot of the two leads for jump starting the PAL.  The lead on the right is soldered directly to the + pin of the C11, the 2200 uF cap.  The other lead is soldered to a trace which carries 7.2V from the B+ battery lead.


B+ and B- connect here (below)…  That 9 pin row above it are the pins from U5 – which so far is unidentified.




Above – top view of the board.  C11 is the 2200uF cap.

Update 1/23/17 : I unsoldered the 2200 and substituted a new 5500uF low ESR cap using jumpers to the solder pads, but that did not fix the problem.  I reinserted the 2200 to get back to square one.   1/31/17 – another experimenter tried replacement of the 2200 with a new one without result.

Status: no fix yet.

Miscellaneous :  The 7.2v batter pack connects directly to U5, a mystery component.  Some circuit seems to switch in the battery pack when the power switch comes on if there is not charger or external power applied.  The PAL has a fast charging circuit, and a trickle charging circuit which switch in automatically to charge the battery pack from a 12V source.  We’ll have to think about how that circuit works.

Here is a really good site: harrysradios.  Harry did a lot of work and had a serious go at reverse engineering the radio to produce schematics.  The schematic does not include U5 which would solve the mystery of the 7.2V battery circuit.
Unfortunately, no contact information.  Harry are you out there?

Please contact me if you have an idea or solution fix this problem on this very cool radio.