How to Replace Fluorescent Light Fixtures

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When fluorescent bulbs begin to flicker or completely go dark, the bulb or the ballast could be responsible. Instead of trying to troubleshoot a potentially bad ballast, a homeowner might opt to replace fluorescent light fixtures entirely.
For those with DIY electrical skills and who want to save the cost of an electrician, it is possible to replace the fluorescent light fixtures on your own.

Materials Needed

  • Circuit tester
  • Cordless drill and bits
  • Needle nose pliers
  • Pencil
  • Safety glasses
  • Screwdriver, usually flathead
  • Tape measure
  • Toggle bolts or wood screws
  • Wire nuts

How to Replace Fluorescent Light Fixtures

Step 1: Turn off power to the fluorescent light fixture. Above all, practice necessary safety precautions. While simply flipping the switch to the off position may seem sufficient, there may still be power going to some of the wiring. Turn off the power at the circuit breaker box by flipping the circuit that powers the fixture to the off position.
Step 2: Remove light panel and bulbs. Wearing safety glasses for the rest of the process, remove the light panel or lens by unclipping the plastic holders and lifting the panel off. Then, carefully lift the plastic or metal clips holding the bulbs in place, and lift one end of the bulb up. Slide the bulb out of place, and dispose according to local waste disposal regulations, as there may be mercury in the bulbs.
Step 3: Test the wiring to ensure the power is off. Uncap the black and white wires, then place the tip of the circuit tester to the exposed wire. If nothing happens, there is no power. If the tester lights up or beeps, there is still power, and another circuit breaker must be flipped to the off position.
Step 4: Remove the base of the fixture. Using a flathead screwdriver, unscrew the screws holding the fixture’s base to the ceiling. As the wiring is still in place, the fixture will not yet come off.
Step 5: Separate the wiring to remove the fluorescent light fixture base. Untwist the wiring attached between the ceiling and the fixture using needle nose pliers. Be sure to hold the fixture with one hand as the last set of wires are untwisted, because nothing will remain to prevent the fixture from falling.
Step 6: Mark the positioning for the new light fixture. Hold the new fixture to the ceiling in the desired position. Mark the holes for attaching screws with a pencil.
Step 7: Drill holes for mounting. Using a drill bit sized to fit the openings on the new fluorescent light fixture, drill holes where the pencil marks were made. If there is no resistance during drilling, you will use toggle bolts to attach the fixture. If there is resistance, indicating the presence of a ceiling joist, you will use wood screws.
Step 8: Attach the wiring on the new light fixture. Thread the wiring through the center hole of the new fixture and twist like-colored wires together with needle nose pliers, then cap the ends. If instructions for the new light fixture include a different wiring configuration, follow the instructions instead.
Step 9: Attach the new fixture to the ceiling. If using toggle bolts, push those through the mounting holes in the ceiling. Then, turn the screws clockwise through the fixture base holds into either the bolts or the ceiling joist, depending on the type of screw needed.
Step 10: Place the fluorescent light fixture panel. Press the light fixture panel onto the exposed outside of the fixture to cover the bulbs. Make sure the clips are in place.
Step 11: Test the new fixture. Turn the circuit switches back on and flip on the light switch to make sure everything works.
If any issues arise in the process, never hesitate to contact a professional electrician.

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