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How To Replace a Ceiling Light Fixture

Replacing a ceiling light fixture is usually not a difficult job and the benefits can include better dispersal of light; a new, fresh look; and a stylistic consistency in a particular room or your entire home. Lighting fixtures, through design and illumination factors, have a huge affect on the atmosphere of any room. So maybe you’re looking for something retro or for indirect light or for a clean, streamlined look. The choice will be yours. Of course if a fixture is no longer functioning and irreparable then the benefit is clear— by replacing it, you’ll have light again.

Caution: Please read our safety information before attempting any testing or repairs.

Electrical work requires safe practices. Always turn off power at the circuit breaker or fuse box. Post a note that work is being done, to avoid someone turning the power back on. After turning off the power to the circuit, test the circuit to be certain that there is no power. Always use insulated tools for added safety. Check with your local building department for regulations and permit requirements before beginning work.

To do this job you’ll need a sound, appropriately sized ladder, screwdriver, and wire strippers. You’ll also need wire nuts if the connections in the old fixture are not secured in this fashion or if wire nuts are not supplied with the new fixture.

To replace most ceiling fixtures you’ll have to be elevated. Always use a safe ladder that will allow your head to be level or almost level with the fixture and will let you use your arms freely without excessive stretching. Be sure to refer to any manufacture’s instructions regarding the appropriate use of the fixture or special installation instructions.

The first rule whenever you engage in any electrical work is to turn the power off. Do this first before you do anything else. Locate your service panel (circuit breaker or fuse box) and turn off the appropriate breaker or remove the correct fuse. To insure you’ve disconnected the right circuit try turning on the light. If it’s not functioning go on to the next step. If it is working you still have to locate and turn off the correct circuit. After turning off power to the fixture, as a double safeguard place the switch that directly controls the light in the “off” position.

If possible first remove the bulb(s) from the fixture and then using a screwdriver loosen the screws that hold the ceiling fixture in place. While taking out the screws, hold the ceiling fixture stable with your other hand. If someone is helping you by holding the ceiling light, they should be on their own ladder

Once the fixture is free do not disconnect it. First, make note of how the wires are connected. If you need to, take time to draw a diagram or make notes. You will be connecting the new fixture in exactly the same way.

Now disconnect the wires by unscrewing the wire nuts and set the old fixture aside. Taking the new fixture you’ll notice that the connecting wires are stripped, probably exposing a small length of wire. Next, strip off enough insulation with a wire stripper to reveal ½-inch of wire.

Take the fixture and lift it in place. Splice, twisting the wires together, the incoming and fixture’s neutral wires (white or grey). Secure this splice with a wire nut and then pull on the connection, insuring it’s fixed firmly. Connect the hot wires (usually black or red; not green, white, or grey) in the same manner.

Finally, splice the ground wires and connect them to the box. Tug on all connections one last time. If any are loose, rejoin them.

Lift the fixture in place carefully tucking the wires into the box. Depending on the style of your new fixture you may need to extend the length of the mounting screws or drill new mounting holes if they don’t match with the old ones.

Screw in the recommended light bulbs and turn on the breaker. Turn on the light switch to make sure the new fixture is functioning.

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