Home Improvement: How to Install New Overhead Lighting

Surprisingly few people like to tackle electrical projects. The fear of electrocution or of causing a tragic fire scares them away from electricity. In reality, neither of these things needs to happen if you just follow some simple precautions as you do the work. Installing a new overhead light fixture is a relatively easy project in most cases.

Turn off the breaker that controls the fixture being installed.

You may think that turning off the switch to the fixture is enough. If the fixture shares power with other outlets, there could be a hot and ground wire inside the junction box with live power even with the switch turned off. Turning off the breaker should assure that the wires entering the box above the light fixture are dead. You can use a circuit tester to make sure if you are squeamish about putting your fingers inside the box.

Remove the old fixture.

Start by removing the globe if there is one. Remove the light bulbs to keep from breaking them during the de-installation. Check the cover near the ceiling for screws or fasteners. Most will have screws going through them toward the ceiling and into the junction box behind the cover. Remove the screws. This should allow the fixture to drop down so you can access the wiring.

Disconnect the wiring to the fixture.

There may be tape covering the wire connections. Remove the tape. If the wiring is not extremely old, you will find wire nuts either under the tape or without any tape. Unscrew the wire nuts and set them aside. You should see the ends of the wires under the nuts. Untwist them, if needed, and separate the wires from the fixture from the house wiring. This should let you remove the fixture.

Remove the new fixture from its packaging.

Look for the directions for the new fixture. Assemble the fixture according to the directions before installing it. The new fixture should have three wires coming from it. Some will have separate wiring for each bulb. Unless there are specific instructions against it, you will group the wires by color. Generally, the wires will be black or red, white, and bare.

Install any extra hardware that is specific to your new fixture.

Some fixtures have special screws that allow you to fasten it to the ceiling. You may have plates or adapters that must be attached to the junction box allow you to adjust the screws for the best fit of the fixture to the ceiling. Usually the adapters screw into the outside screws on the box. The fixture then slides over the special screws and turns to lock it into position.

Lift the new fixture to the ceiling.

With any additional hardware already installed, wire the new fixture to the house wiring. This is almost always a matter of matching up the colors of the wiring. Put the ends of the wires from the fixture next to the same colored wires from the house and twist them together with a wire nut. Make sure the connection is very snug. Do the same with the other wires. Ease the wires up into the box.

Push the fixture over any special screws you have installed and lock it into place.

If this is not the type of fixture that you have, you will need to install the screws that came with the fixture through the base of the fixture and into the junction box. If this is a pendant light, you will have to install the appropriate wiring to suspend the light at the right length.

Install the bulbs.

Turn the breaker back on once all of the covers are in place at the end of the installation. Try the switch. Your installation project is over when the fixture lights up.

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