How to Remove Light Fixtures

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Whether you’re just replacing an outdated fixture or undergoing a major remodel, few things can transform the look of a room more than a new light. Of course, before a new fixture can be installed, the old one must first come out. Here’s how to do it safely.

1. Cut off the power to the room

To mitigate the danger of getting shocked, flip the breaker on the circuit board responsible for the area of the light fixture to the off position.
When in doubt as to which breaker is the right one, it’s a good idea to flip the main switch to completely shut off electricity in your home. You will be using the natural light in the room or a flashlight anyway, so it’s better to err on the side of caution.

2. Remove the extras

To create a more work-friendly environment and prevent breakage, remove all “extra” parts of the light fixture (globes, screens, and fan blades, for example). While it’s not absolutely necessary, removing these extraneous parts may make it easier to maneuver around the fixture as needed.

3. Loosen the mount

Using the appropriate screwdriver, remove the screws holding the light fixture mount to the ceiling. Then, pull it down to expose the wiring and mounting bracket. Remove the screws holding the bracket, which is a thin metal bar, and also the screw that attaches the ground wire to the bracket. The bracket will then pull off. The light fixture will not fall, as it is still connected through the wiring.

4. Disconnect the wiring

Uncap the wire ends by twisting the plastic coverings resembling hats until they come off. Using needle nose pliers or your fingers, untwist each of the three sets of wires. There should be a set of neutral white wires, a set of hot black wires, and a third set of exposed or green ground wires. Be sure to hold the light fixture in one hand while disconnecting the wiring to prevent the fixture from toppling to the ground.

5. Dispose removed light fixtures

Disposal can be tricky due to the potential for hazardous materials inside the fixture, so merely tossing the removed fixture into the trash is not the best option. If a light fixture is still usable, you could donate it to Goodwill, Habitat for Humanity, or a similar organization for reuse. Another option is to contact your local recycling center.
If no recycling center in your area is equipped to handle light fixtures, reach out to your local waste disposal facility for guidance. There are often local regulations in addition to state and federal regulations regarding how to properly dispose of certain types of light fixtures, and your area waste disposal facility will know what to do.

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