How to replace recessed light bulbs

Updated February 21, 2017

Replacing recessed light bulbs is more complicated than replacing any other bulb. Recessed lighting is in the ceiling and must be reached using a ladder. There are several different trims that can be attached to a recessed housing and each trim requires a different bulb. You must replace your recessed light bulb with a bulb compatible with both the trim and the recessed housing to avoid your light cycling off and on due to a build up of heat. The wrong bulb could also create a possible fire hazard.

Turn off the recessed light by turning off the switch or by turning off the circuit at the main electrical panel.

Remove the trim from the recessed fixture to gain access the light bulb. Grasp the outer edge of the trim at the ceiling and pull down, exposing the butterfly springs. Use your fingers to squeeze the butterfly springs toward one another, releasing the trim from the L-bracket inside the recessed housing. Do not remove baffles, open rings or eyeball trims.

Turn the light bulb counterclockwise to remove. If you are unable to grasp the bulb with your fingers, use a 9-inch piece of duct tape and attach the centre of the tape to the face of the bulb, leaving 4-inch tails as a handle to hold in your hand. Turn the bulb counterclockwise to loosen and continue to turn using your fingertips and remove the bulb.

Replace the light bulb with a compatible bulb. Look for the compatibility listing printed inside the recessed housing, listing each trim and its bulb goes with it. Reinstall the trim if you had to remove it.

Things You'll Need

  • Step ladder
  • Duct tape
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About the Author

Cecilia Harsch has been writing professionally since 2009. She writes mainly home improvement, health and travel articles for various online publications. She has several years of experience in the home-improvement industry, focusing on gardening, and a background in group exercise instruction. Harsch received her Certified Nurses Assistant license in 2004. She attended Tarrant County College and studied English composition.