How to Install a Ceiling Light Using the Old Wiring

Written by michael logan
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How to Install a Ceiling Light Using the Old Wiring
Decorative lighting adds style and function to room decor. (Photo by Matt Reinbold)

Styles and fashions change; the light fixture you once loved now looks dated and old. Upgrading to the latest style will give new life to your decor. You might be considering hiring an electrician to install the new fixture you picked out, but you don't have to. With the wiring already in place, the job is simple and safe if you follow just a few simple steps.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Step stool or ladder to reach the ceiling fixture
  • New light fixture
  • Screwdrivers
  • Pliers
  • Side-cutters
  • No contact voltage detector

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    Removing the Old Light Fixture

  1. 1

    Turn the power to the fixture off. Locate the circuit breaker or fuse for the fixture and turn it off or remove the fuse.

  2. 2

    Remove any light bulbs from the fixture and unfasten the fixture from its box. Carefully lower the fixture and observe which wires are connected. There should be three connections to the fixture: A hot wire that is any colour but green or white, a white neutral wire, and a green or bare grounded wire. Use the no-contact voltage detector to ensure the power is off.

  3. 3

    Remove the wire nuts connecting the fixture to the wires. Unwind the fixture wires from the house wires and you are ready to set the old fixture aside.

    Installing the New Light Fixture

  1. 1

    Connect the ground wire on the new fixture to the ground wire in the box or to the box itself if there is no ground wire. If there is no ground wire in the box, there should be a green screw to attach it to.

  2. 2

    Connect the white neutral wire on the fixture to the white neutral wire in the box. Place the bare ends of the wires together and twist on a new wire nut until the nut is tight and a gentle tug won't pull the wire out.

  3. 3

    Connect the black wire in the fixture to the hot, coloured wire in the box. Hold the bare ends together and twist on a new wire nut until it is tight. A gentle tug should not remove the black wire from the connection.

  4. 4

    Push the wire connections into the box and attach the new fixture according the manufacturer's directions. Make the nuts or screw snugly tight, but don't over tighten.

  5. 5

    Install new light bulbs and turn the power back on. Test the new fixture to make sure it works properly with the switch.

Tips and warnings

  • Read the installation instructions for the new light fixture before beginning.
  • Some light fixtures and chandeliers have more than one set of wires to connect. All the black wires, all the white wires and all the ground wires need to be connected to their corresponding wires in the box.
  • Depending on the wiring for your particular situation, there may be wire connections in the box that don't affect your installation. Only make connections to the wires that were used to wire the old fixture.
  • It is possible that there will not be a white wire in the box attached to the old fixture. In this case it is important to observe which wires were used for hot, neutral and ground, and to make new connections accordingly.
  • Doing electrical work on your own may potentially expose you to dangerous electrical current. Always turn off the power before beginning, verify the power is off by testing and do not turn the power on until you are ready to test the new installation.
  • Although this installation is simple enough for any beginner to accomplish safely, if you are unsure or do not feel confident in your ability, hire a qualified electrician to do the work.
  • There are wiring situations that use different wiring methods than the one outlined in this procedure. If you are unsure of the wires used or unable to determine which wires you should use, hire a qualified electrician to do the work.

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