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How to replace a bulb in a spotlight

Updated April 17, 2017

Since 1880, when Joseph Swan installed the first domestic light bulb at his home in north east England, lighting technology has developed radically. By the late 1990s, the average British household used more than 20 light bulbs, most of which were incandescent, according to a 2006 report by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. At time of publication, homeowners are increasingly opting for multiple LED or halogen spotlights when choosing interior light fittings. Replacing the bulb in a spotlight may be necessary after a failure, or when more energy-efficient lamps become available.

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  1. Switch off the power to the spotlight that requires a replacement bulb. If you cannot see the light switch from the position of the light fitting, isolate the lighting circuit at the consumer unit. This will prevent another person switching the light on while you are working.

  2. Check access to the spotlight. If the spotlight is at high level, position the stepladder or stool under it. Ensure that you have secure, stable access to the light fitting. If in any doubt, have another person hold the ladder while you work.

  3. Check if the light fitting has been in recent use. If it is still hot, let it cool until you can work on it safely.

  4. Note whether the spotlight has a cover and, if so, remove it and put it somewhere safe. Often, rotating the cover anticlockwise (when viewed from below) will be sufficient to disengage it. Some spotlights have screws that hold the cover in place, in which case, remove them with a suitable screwdriver and put them with the cover.

  5. Check the replacement bulb to determine which type of fitment you have. Several methods of securing bulbs are common.

  6. Remove the old bulb. You may have to twist the bulb anticlockwise to release it; if you have a threaded bulb, unscrew it. Alternatively, some light fittings have spring clips that hold the bulb in place, in which case, release the clips and pull the bulb directly out of the fitting.

  7. Fit the replacement bulb by inserting it into the fitting. Secure it in the same way that you released the old bulb.

  8. Replace the cover, if one was fitted. Secure it in the same way that you removed it.

  9. Remove the stepladder or stool, if you used one. Dispose of the old bulb safely.

  10. Turn on the power and switch on the light. Check that the new bulb works correctly.

  11. Tip

    If the new bulb does not work when you turn on the light, check that the lighting circuit is not still isolated at the consumer unit.


    Do not insert your fingers or any tools into the lamp socket, as you could receive an electric shock. If you are uncertain about any aspect of the task, consult a qualified electrician.

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Things You'll Need

  • Stepladder or stool
  • Screwdriver
  • Replacement bulb

About the Author

Based in Reading, England, Mike Bailey has been writing since 2008. He covers topics such as business, travel and technology for numerous online publications. Bailey holds a Bachelor of Arts in engineering from the University of Cambridge.

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