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- Although there are many different types of light fixtures, the basic procedure tends to remain the same when removing each type. Remove the light shade or bowl first, then the bulbs, and then the fixture plate to expose the wires.
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Changing a regular lightbulb is child’s play. But, removing a screwless light fixture can seem like a puzzling task. But once you know which kind of light fixture you have, you should be able to dismantle it in next to no time. Following the steps mentioned above makes putting it back together just as easy.
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Check the Electrical Box for Capacity and Strength
Heavy Fixtures Require Strong Boxes
If you choose a heavy light fixture (the one we bought weighed in at a hefty 25 lbs.), check your electrical box to make sure it will support the weight. The National Electrical Code (NEC) allows you to hang up to 50 lbs. from any electrical box that is threaded to accept No. 8-32 machine screws for attaching the crossbar (see “Mounting with Screws and Cap Nuts” and “Mounting with a Threaded Pipe” in Additional Information below). This includes almost every type of ceiling box.
For practical purposes, make sure your electrical box is securely fastened to solid framing before you hang a new light fixture from it. If your light fixture weighs more than 50 lbs., it has to be supported independent of the electrical box. An easy solution is to install a fan brace box (available from home centers and hardware stores) that’s designed to be installed without cutting any additional holes in your ceiling. Check the label to make sure the box is designed to support more than 35 lbs.
Most ceiling boxes are large enough: The NEC dictates how many wires and clamps you can safely put in an electrical box. Typical 1-1/2 to 2-in. deep octagonal or round ceiling boxes are quite large and overcrowding is rarely a problem. Even so, you should run through the calculations to be sure. See the section on “Calculating Box Sizes.” But if you encounter a round box that’s only 1/2 in. deep, replace it. Once again, the easiest way to install a new electrical box in an existing ceiling is to use a special fan brace and box made for retrofitting.
Calculating Box Sizes
To figure the minimum box size required by the National Electrical Code, add: 1 for each hot and neutral wire entering the box, 1 for all the ground wires combined, 1 for all the clamps combined, and 2 for each device (switch or receptacle, but usually not light fixtures) installed in the box. Multiply this figure by 2 for 14-gauge wire and 2.25 for 12-gauge wire to get the minimum box volume in cubic inches. Plastic boxes have the volume stamped inside.
Test for Ground
Touch the leads of a neon voltage tester between the hot wire and the metal box (or between the hot wire and bare copper ground wire if you have one). If the tester lights, the metal box or bare copper wire is grounded and you can proceed. If the tester doesn’t light, indicating there is no ground, call in a licensed electrician to supply one. (It’s often difficult.) Turn off the power at the main circuit panel before continuing.
Every light fixture is a bit different depending on its style, but almost all of these fixtures will be screwed into the ceiling with a few screws. Find those screws and use a screwdriver to unscrew them. This will allow the fixture to detach from the ceiling.
Rookie tip: Even though you have unscrewed the fixture from the ceiling, the wires are still attached. You may need an extra set of hands to hold the fixture (especially if it’s heavy) while you move onto detaching the wires.
Every fixture is slightly different depending on design, but most of them attach to the mounting strap with screws (provided with the fixture) and a screwdriver.
ADDENDUM LED LIGHT SYSTEMS
LED light systems are equally or more complex. I have the following model installed in my bedrooms: dl13smd3000k ip44 saa.
I found a clip on this that comes off. I suppose that will allow other similar ones to be installed.
Lawrence Leibowitz sent me this on 10 October 2017:
He asked: “How do I remove for replacement? No visible screws. Bar does rotate about 15-20 degrees in either direction so maybe that’s the key but I don’t want to force it any further.”
4) COMPLEX: Turn and pull down (SLOTTED CONNECTORS)
Some have slotted connectors so that you turn it about 1/8 to 1/4 turn and then pull down, similar to the way a smoke detector is removed from its base.
Hi there – we’re Heather and Matt, the folks behind Little Upgrades. Life gets so busy, that there’s not much time left for home improvement projects. So, we decided to focus on the “little upgrades” we can make, that will have the biggest impact on the place we call home. We started this blog to record the lessons and tricks we learn along the way. Welcome to the site!
Problems With Integral Switches or Pull Chains
Many ceiling fixtures, especially those found in utility spaces, are controlled by switches or pull chains found on the fixture or socket. To diagnose these:
- Check the lightbulb to see if it is loose in the socket, or has burned out. Tighten the bulb or replace it, as needed.
- Check the socket tab in the center of the socket. If it’s flattened, you may have to pull up on it in order for it to make contact with the bulb. Shut off power to the circuit before touching a bare metal light socket.
- With the power shut off, check the wire connections on the switch to make sure they are all tight. Remove the switch from the circuit and test between the wires with a continuity tester or with an ohm meter.
- Check the wires to the light bulb socket. If they are loose or have a burnt appearance, replace the socket.