How to Change the Bulb in a Recessed Light Fixture

Due to their sleek styling, removing bulbs in recessed light fixtures to replace them can sometimes prove to be frustrating. Open recessed lights, where the bulb is visible, often leave no room between the fixture and the bulb. Some fixtures have covers which seem impossible to remove. Changing the bulb in a recessed fixture requires a little ingenuity. Replace fixture bulbs with the correct wattage for your system. Look at the top of the previous bulb to see what wattage bulb is in your fixture.

Turn off the switch to the fixture. Place a step ladder under the recessed light so you can reach the bulb.

Tear a 12-inch piece of duct tape from a roll. Press the tape onto the centre of the light bulb. Fold the two ends of the tape over itself so that you have two handles.

Turn the tape handles counterclockwise with your fingers to turn the bad bulb. Once the bulb is beyond the recessed fixture ring enough that you can grab it with your fingertips, turn the bulb with your hands to remove it completely.

Thread a new bulb into the light fixture. Once the bulb is even with the ring, place your fingertips on the head of the bulb and continue turning until the bulb is tight in the socket.

Turn off the light fixture switch and place a step ladder under the fixture.

Slide a putty knife between the fixture retaining ring and the ceiling to pry the ring down. The ring connects to the fixture with two spring clips and the cover sits in the centre of the ring. Pull the ring down until the spring clips fully extend.

Reach between the ring and the recessed fixture with your fingers to grasp the bad bulb. Rotate the bulb counterclockwise to remove it from the fixture socket. Carefully pull it out between the fixture and the ring.

Insert the new light bulb between the fixture and the ring. Thread the bulb into the socket until it is tight. Push the fixture ring back up towards the ceiling until the spring clips engage.


Hardware stores sell extension poles with suction cups to assist in removing high ceiling bulbs of all types. The suction cups work the same way that the duct tape method does.

Things You'll Need

  • Step ladder
  • Duct tape
  • Putty knife
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About the Author

Kenneth Crawford is a freelance writer with more than 10 years of experience. His work has appeared in both print and online publications, including "The American Chronicle." Crawford holds an associate degree in business administration from Commonwealth College.