How to Replace a Ceiling Light Socket

How to Replace a Ceiling Light Socket

Replacing an old or worn-out light socket is an important way of keeping your home up to code. Old sockets can be fire hazards, making this a good skill for amateur and pro electricians alike. By learning to remove and replace old sockets, you can help keep your home safe, following a few simple steps.

Use a step stool or a ladder to avoid having to hold your hands above your head to work or your shoulders will get tired quickly.

Prep the new fixture by removing glass cover and bulbs.

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There are typically two or three screws holding the fixture itself to the bracket. Lower the fixture down, exposing the wire connections. Once the fixture is down, use your hands or pliers to undo the wire nuts.

The wiring from the fixture should be exposed and ready to be attached. Its sometimes helpful to set the new fixture on something to allow you to work on it without it hanging down, if possible, like the top of a ladder.

Any time youre working with electricity, you need to locate the breaker that corresponds to that particular fixture and shut it off. You can test the power by flipping the light switch and making sure that it doesnt turn on. Its also a good idea to use anon-contact voltage testerto make sure the fixture isnt getting power.

Decorative fixtures like globes will need to be removed first, gently unscrewing or unfastening the connections and putting the piece aside. You might need to use a screwdriver, but most fixtures will probably just use thumbscrews that you can remove by hand. Remove the lightbulb or bulbs, as well to expose the socket itself for examination.

The length of the exposed wire should match the manufacturers recommendation for the wire nuts, usually around 3/8ths to ½ in of exposed wire.

Separate the wires coming out of the ceiling and leave the junction box alone.

If they are not, carefully remove the rubber covering from the 1/2 of the ends of the wires using wire strippers.

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If it doesnt turn on, most likely culprit is a loose connection. Check to make sure that the wires didnt come loose while you were tucking them into the box. Also, check that bulb is the proper type or that another switch isnt interfering with anything.

ALWAYS turn off the circuit breakers to any appliance you are working on. 120V (230V in the EU) can be a nasty surprise when you grab a wire.

What can I doif I have a hanging light in my kitchen?

A razor, to cut around fixture if theres paint

If there is, either remove the nut, trim the exposed end, and replace the nut, or cover with electricians tape. Give a quick tug on each wire to make sure theyre not going to come loose.

Some of the wires may be loose, or you may need to use pliers to untwist them. If ends of wires are damaged or bent, you may need to clip them and strip them again.

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Fold all the wires back gently into the junction box.

Write down which wires are connected to which and label them.

You can use either the old wire nuts or the new ones provided with the fixture. To use the wire nut, place the stripped ends of each wire next to each other, with their points facing the same direction. Then place the wire nut over the ends and twist clockwise until the wires are secured inside the wire nut.

Always follow the instructions (if any) provided with the fixture.

Once all connections are made, gently tuck them back into the box as youre lifting the fixture up. You dont want to overstuff. Once the majority of your wires are in the box, you can loosely screw in the fixture to the bracket. Once its installed but not fully tightened, make sure you wont pinch any wires and tighten the fixture.

Remove the screws or post connecting the socket.

Make sure no exposed wire is sticking out beneath the wire nuts.

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Connect the wires to the new fixture.

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Use pliers to twist the ends of the wires together before trying to screw the wire nut on. This is especially helpful for houses with smaller gauge (thicker) wires. Dont over-tighten because the wire-nuts will twist the wires even more and will risk breaking the wires if they are too tight.

How can I connect a light socket with nine wires?

Make sure the ends of the wires from the fixture are stripped about 1/2.

Not all fixtures are a simple set of wires coming into the box, especially in large houses. Some fixtures are wired in parallel with others, making the tangle somewhat confusing. The wires from the fixture will the connected to wires of the same color coming from the ceiling. In some countries, different color codes apply to wires, especially in older installations.

Once your fixture is installed to the bracket, youll install the bulb following manufacturers recommendations about the wattage. Then you can flip on the circuit and check your work.

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Disconnect the power by flipping the breaker.

There is no right watt for any light socket. Usually they take any watt bulb, you just decide what watt bulb to put in based on how bright you want the room to be.

Lower the fixture and let it hang to examine the connections.

Yes. If they are not there, there are are screw mounts within the box you may use, provided the box is grounded.

Always use the new hardware (if any) provided with the fixture. Dont use wire-nuts that are too loose or the wires will short and you will have to fix the faulty fixture later. I keep all the old wire-nuts in my electrical tool kit and I use tighter wire nuts than those that come with the fixture when needed.

You need to figure out how the fixture is attached to the ceiling, before you go unscrewing it. Most fixtures are attached in one of two ways. The first method involves simple screws that go through the fixture into the junction box in the ceiling. The second involves a threaded post that extends through the fixture from behind and attaches with a decorative cap nut, usually a small knob in the center of the fixture.

Have someone help you to hold the fixtures while you are working on the wiring. It is never a good idea to have the appliance hanging by the wires alone.

The wires should be reattached in the same places as the old fixture, usually white to white, black to black, and ground (bare copper) to the metal junction box. Neutral wireusually whiteshould be attached to neutral wire. Twist the wires two or three times together clockwise, or the same direction you turn the wire nuts.

The junction box is a round, square or octagonal box, usually made of plastic, in the ceiling under where the fixture used to be. Normally there will be white and black wires.

Most home improvement stores will show you step by step in the store how to install any fixture, and some even have set-ups to let you try it yourself. Call ahead and ask.

Wire nuts are the plastic cone-looking pieces covering the ends of where the wires come together, connecting the black and white wires coming from the fixture to the wires coming from the ceiling. There might also be a ground wire from the fixture attached to the metal of the junction box in the ceiling by a screw.

How do I pick the right watt bulb for my light socket?

Dont be intimidated. With the electricity off, the wires are harmless, and everything is color coded (black and white, or, outside the US, brown and black.).

Assemble the necessary tools and parts.

To replace a light socket in the ceiling, youll need some basic electricians tools to complete the job safely. Its good to have:

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