How to Easily Replace or Install a New Light Fixture

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Wiring In Your New Light

If you decide to do it yourself, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Always begin by ensuring that the power is turned off. This cannot be stressed enough. Once you’ve installed the new fixture into the wall, you’ll need to clamp the home wiring into the back of the fixture. This may also require using a grounding wire. The fixture box will then need to be anchored using the metal supports. Once this step is completed, you can connect the light fixture.

How to Install a Light Fixture, Step-by-Step

Now we’ll show you how to install a light fixture. If there was already a fixture in place that needs to be removed, then follow these first steps:

  • Before doing anything, ensure that the power is off at the circuit box. 
  • If there is a working light bulb in place, turn the light on before disconnecting power at the circuit box. When the light bulb goes off, you can be sure the power is off. Otherwise, double-check that the circuit you shut definitely corresponds to the power supply for the light fixture. 
  • Once you’ve established that the power is disconnected, take the canopy off the fixture to access the wiring and electrical box. The canopy is the outer covering that keeps all the less visually-appealing hardware in place. Each one’s a little different, but should be relatively easy to unscrew and remove. 
  • There should be just three wires connecting the old fixture to the electrical box – black, white, and a ground wire, which will be either green or bare copper. Unscrew the plastic wire nuts around the wire conn
  • Unscrew the plastic wire nuts around the wire connections, and then untwist the wires to disconnect them from the ceiling wiring leading up into the electrical box.
  • Unscrew the fixture from the bracket that’s in place. Your old fixture should now be freed up to set aside. Disconnect the bracket itself by unscrewing it and detaching it from the electrical box. 

Once the old light fixture is out of the way, or if you want to install a new light fixture and don’t need to worry about removing the old one, proceed as follows:

  • Disconnect power to the light fixture as described above.
  • Get your new circular bracket in hand and stick the three wires through the middle. Then, connect it to the electrical box by screwing in the screws on either side of the bracket. The electrical box is securely installed, so all you need to do is make sure the bracket is well-attached to it. 
  • Now, connect each of the three ceiling wires to the corresponding wire on your new light fixture by twisting the ends together. Place the wire nuts over the twisted ends, and screw on. For added safety, wrap electrical tape around the wire nuts and over the ends of the wires, so that the wires stay snugly tucked into the wire nuts. Feed all the wiring up into the electrical box. Th
  • Feed all the wiring up into the electrical box. This is especially important because the electrical box provides a fire-proof environment in case any of the wires send off a spark, so make sure that all the wiring is really in there. 
  • Once the wiring is all safely inside the electrical box, you can attach the canopy to your bracket. You can follow the manufacturer’s instructions, but in most cases the canopy is connected with just a couple of screws. 
  • Test your new light fixture and bask in the glory of a job well done.

Wiring a Switch and Light in a Double Outlet Box

This diagram is similar to the one above but both

This diagram is similar to the one above but both the receptacle and the new switch are in the same box at the end of a household circuit. When adding a new switch like this, a new double-gang box will have to be installed if a single outlet is used for the source. If there are two outlets in a box, one can be removed and a switch installed in its place to control a new light.

In this wiring, the hot source wire is taken from the receptacle and spliced to two pigtail wires. One pigtail is connected to the a switch terminal and the other connects back to the hot on the receptacle. The other switch terminal is connected to the black wire running to the new light. The source neutral is taken from the outlet and spliced with a pigtail back to the outlet neutral and to the white wire running to the light neutral terminal.

Cut the hole and run the cable

Locate the studs. Then hold the fixture against the wall somewhere between the studs to determine the best location and lightly mark the top and bottom of the canopy with a pencil. Center the remodeling box on the marks and mark the box cutout carefully, taking note of notches needed for the clamps and other protrusions. Cut out the hole (Photo 2). Next, punch out one of the knockouts in the top of the switch box and push the cable up to the hole (Photos 3 and 4). Prepare the remodeling box for mounting by stripping about 12-in. of sheathing from the cable and pushing it into the box through one of the cable entry points on the back. Make sure at least 1/4-in. of sheathing is visible inside the box. Leave some slack cable inside the wall to allow some leeway when you connect the switch (Photo 5). Then fit the remodeling box into the hole and tighten the clamps.

Open the Switch Box and Test for Power

Start the light fixture installation project by turning the power off at the main electrical panel, unscrewing the switch and pull it out the switch. Turn the power back on and use a noncontact voltage tester to locate the hot wire.

Important Saftey Step: Turn Off the Current

The first step is always to turn off the current. Turn the light on and find the correct circuit breaker in your breaker panel. If necessary, turn them off one at a time until the light goes out.

Do not depend on the light switch to turn off the power to the light; someone else could turn it back on, especially if there are only one of two or more switches controlling the same light fixture.

If you absolutely must leave the circuit breaker on, turn off the switch and tape it into the off position with a piece of masking or electrical tape. Repeat for all the switches that might control that particular light fixture.

This is not as safe as turning off the breaker, but hopefully, it won't be accidentally bumped on, and anyone trying to turn it on will at least pause and ask before doing so. As a professional electrician, I not only turn off all power but also check with a voltage tester to make absolutely sure there is no current at the light.

This is a new light with all the parts. The support bracket shown will not be used this time.1 / 4

Wiring to Add New Lights from an Existing Fixture

In this diagram, two new light fixtures are added

In this diagram, two new light fixtures are added to one that already exists. New 2-wire cable is run from the existing light fixture box to the first new box. From there, new 2-wire cable is run to the second new light box. If desired, more lights can be added after that by running new cable to each new light box.

At the existing light, the hot and neutral wires are removed from the fixture terminals and spliced to the new cable wires running to the first new light. A pigtail is also added to the splice to allow for reconnecting the existing light back into the circuit. At the first new light, the wires are spliced to the new cable running to the next light and to a pigtail to connect the first new light. If you want to add more lights after the second new one in this diagram, they can be spliced into the circuit in the same way.

Questions Answers

Question: Where do I hook the red wire from feed to light of 3-way circuit?

Answer: There are no specific color requirements for 3-way switches. The hook up at the light will be the black light fixture wire to whatever wire is terminated on the common terminal of the 3-way switch.

Question: Is it ok to cover the light fixture ground wire with tape?

Answer: It will cause no harm, whether it is a splice or simply a bare wire. But it still needs to be terminated on the new light fixture or on the metal pieces that hold the fixture.

© 2010 Dan Harmon

Reader Success Stories

  • Lovetra Sullivant

Nov 26, 2016

    Lovetra Sullivant Nov 26, 2016

    “It refreshed a couple things. It gave me a better understanding the way you worded different light bulbs of the heat values. ” …” more

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