Ceiling lights are loaded with a lot. Not only do they have to provide adequate general lighting, but they also have to look good. An old-fashioned light fixture, like a tired painting or old wallpaper, can age a room. But, good news !, unlike these coatings, changing a light only takes about an hour.
Floor lamps and table lamps are easy to replace to freshen up a space, but if you haven’t purchased a ceiling-mounted fixture, you’d be surprised at the variety. From the bedroom to the kitchen or home office, there is a ceiling light to suit any architectural style.
Aside from the recessed lights, which are tucked away in the ceiling, the hanging lights from the ceiling come in different styles. Flush and semi-flush mountings are the most common and cheapest. These hang just over the ceiling or are hung a few inches below, usually on stationary arms. Chandeliers and pendant lights, a group sometimes referred to as pendant lights, can be much larger and typically what you’ll find in dining rooms or foyers with taller ceilings to accommodate a long hanging chain or descending rod.
Whatever type of lighting you have in mind, if you are wondering how to change a light fixture, we have put together a step-by-step guide below.
Do i need an electrician to change a light fixture?
Typically no. If you already have an existing fixture that works well and can easily reach it with a stepladder or ladder, replacing it with a new fixture is a fairly straightforward wiring process.
Still, there are a few cases where leaving the job to a pro makes more sense:
- If you know your home has aluminum wiring, you’ll want to leave it to a licensed electrician who is familiar with this type of wiring.
- If the new light fixture is too big or too heavy for you to install it safely, you may want to get a second pair of hands to help you or hire an electrician.
- Finally, homes built before 1985 have wiring that is not always comparable to modern light fixtures, which can generate too much heat for the insulation wrapped around the wires. If this describes your home, purchase a fixture that does not include a sticker that says it is approved for use with a wire rated at least 90 degrees C.
Modern fixtures come with brackets, wires, and wiring nuts that you will need for installation. However, your lighting may not be compatible with your ceiling electrical box, so get a package of additional metal mounting brackets just in case. Fixtures are often packaged with inexpensive all-plastic wiring nuts, so get a bunch of metal and plastic wiring nuts in different sizes – they’ll bite wires better. You will need a wire stripper, a multi-bit screwdriver, safety glasses, a work light, electrical tape, and a non-contact voltage detector. You will probably also need some kind of stool or ladder.
How to change a light step by step
Once you’re sure your project is a good DIY candidate and have the right tools, here’s how to change the fixture.
Step 1: Turn off the power to the device
The first step is to make sure that you will be able to work on the light safely. Head to the electrical panel, find the switch that controls the power to the light you are going to be working on. Flip the switch to the off position. Then head to the light fixture and set up a ladder or stepladder. Now also turn off the wall switch that controls the light fixture you are going to be working on.
Step 2: Remove the old light and confirm the power is off
First remove the shade or cover from the existing light fixture, then the bulbs. Then remove the trim that holds the canopy of the fixture to the ceiling – there are usually one or two decorative caps or screws. Sometimes the electrical box on the ceiling may contain wires from other circuits. So while you flip the circuit breaker, some wires may still be live.
With the fixture suspended from the ceiling and the wiring exposed, keep a non-contact voltage detector on each of the wires before loosening one of the nuts. If the detector turns on, one or more of the wires are still live. Go back down to the basement to turn off other circuit breakers, then return to the light fixture with the detector to confirm that the other wires are not carrying electricity.
Step 3: take a photo
With the fixture hanging from the ceiling, remove any electrical tape around the connections and take a photo of how the light was wired, making sure the colors of the connected wires are clear. Now unscrew the wire caps and remove the old device, putting it aside.
Step 4: Check the box
It is good practice to ensure that the box is securely attached to the structure above the ceiling. Wiggle the box, if it moves, tighten the screws that hold it in place. The box must also be grounded to meet building code. If the ceiling box is an older metal style, there may not be a bare copper or green coated copper ground wire.
You can add a ground wire to the case, but first check that the case itself is grounded. To do this, turn the circuit back on at the circuit breaker, then using a circuit tester with two probes. Touch one to the hot wire of the box (usually black or red) and the other to the canister itself. The tester should indicate that the enclosure is grounded. If it doesn’t, you’ll want to call an electrician to ground it – that’s not a job for most DIYers.
Step 5: Prepare the New Fixture
Start by adding the new mounting bracket that came with your light fixture to the electrical box. Typically, these have a hollow threaded rod that extends downward which will eventually support the weight of the device. Before rewiring the housing, have a partner hold the fixture while you make the connections, or if you are working alone, hang the fixture from the bracket with a length of hanger or a piece of wire. Removing the weight of the device from your hands frees you to make connections easily.
Step 6: wire it correctly
Follow the light manufacturer’s instructions for wiring the light fixture to your home. If you’re confused, check out the photo you took earlier. Typically, you will connect the black hot wire from the fixture to the black wire from the housing, then the neutral white to white, and finally the ground wire from the fixture, which is usually bare copper or green, to the screw or wire of the fixture. grounding of the electrical box. Use the wire strippers to remove the insulation from the wire so that about 5/8 of an inch of bare copper is exposed. Then hold the two wires you want to join, place a wire clamp on each of them and twist them together in a few turns. Repeat for the other wire. Then wrap the light fixture ground wire around the housing green ground screw or ground wire. Wrap wire-to-wire connections with electrical tape, starting just below the nut and wrapping it around several times.
Step 7: Complete the fixture installation
With supported fixtures, push the wires up into the box above the mounting bracket. Use the light hardware to secure the base or canopy of the light fixture to the electrical box. Tighten the hardware so that the light fits snugly to the ceiling. Install the included or recommended bulbs. Now go back to the circuit breaker and restore power to the light fixture and turn on the light switch in the room. If the light comes on, complete the installation by adding trim and cover pieces. If the light does not come on, turn off the power at the circuit breaker and switch and check your connections. If your light is hanging from a chain, you may need to remove a few to set the correct height.