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Replacing A Recessed Light Fixture

Recessed lighting sits inside your ceiling encased in a metal canister. Oftentimes these canisters will overheat and burn the socket wire insulation, making them malfunction. Recessed lighting is typically set up so that several lights are activated by one switch. If the entire set of lights is malfunctioning, you should determine if the wall switch is to blame using a continuity tester.

How To Replace A Recessed Light Fixture

a. Turn off the power at your breaker box. Test to make sure the power is off by using a circuit tester.
b. Remove the switch from the switch box without disconnecting any wires. Attach the continuity tester's clip end to the common terminal screw.
c. Touch the probe to the other terminal screw(s). Flip the switch on and off each time. The tester should light only when the switch is in the ON position. If not, replace the switch.

If, however, the other lights are working, it is safe to assume the switch is fine and the light needs to be replaced.

Removing the Recessed Light Fixture
First and foremost, turn off the power to the fixture at your breaker box! Only then should you:

1. Remove the bulb, decorative trim and the metal casing, careful not to lose the clips or springs that hold the casing in place.
2. Loosen (but don't completely remove) the screws inside the metal canister. Once loose, carefully push the canister into the ceiling and set it aside on the ceiling floor.
3. Inside the ceiling you'll see a wire connection box. Remove the cover plate, careful not to touch any bare wires. Test to make sure the power is off using a circuit tester.
  • Touch one probe of the circuit tester to the grounded utility box. Now insert the other probe into each plastic screw-on connector (the plastic caps joining the wires). You want the probe to make contact with the bare wire ends hidden inside each of the plastic caps. If the circuit tester's light comes on at any point, return to your breaker box and try
  • 4. Once you know the power is off, remove the plastic screw-on connectors and disconnect the wires. Now free the armored cable wire (the cable that looks like a metal snake) from the wire connection box. Once it is disconnected, carefully lift the old canister down through the ceiling hole.
    5. Inside the canister you'll see a socket. Test it with the continuity tester:
  • Place the tester's alligator clip on the bare end of the black wire. Touch the probe to the metal tab inside the socket. The tester should glow.
  • Now clip the alligator clip to the bare end of the white wire. Touch the probe to the metal threading inside the socket. The tester should glow.
  • If either test fails to light up the continuity tester, replace the fixture.
  • Replacing a Recessed Light Fixture
    Replacing a Recessed Light Fixture
    Replacing a Recessed Light Fixture

    Installing the Recessed Light Fixture
    Once you have removed the old fixture (see Removing the Recessed Light Fixture), and with the power still off, you're ready to install the new one.

    1. Once you have purchased a new recessed light that is identical to the old one in rating and style, gently push it up into the opening in your ceiling and set in down on the ceiling floor. Insert the new black and white lead wires through the hole in the metal connection box. Feed the armored cable into the box until it is secure.
    2. Connect the white black lead wire to the black circuit wire and secure with a plastic screw-on connector. Do the same with the white wires. Replace the box's cover plate. Make sure any home insulation is at least 3 inches away from the entire fixture.
    3. Position the canister so it sits atop the opening and secure it with the mounting clips or screws. Reattach the casing and trim. Replace the light bulb with one rated to be used in the fixture and restore power.
    4. Gloat, because you rule!

    Replacing a Recessed Light Fixture

    Hey, now that you survived these projects without electrocuting yourself or burning down your house, why don't be tackle some common problems with household appliances?

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