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How To Change Recessed Lighting

    Being that recessed lights are, well… recessed, you might be left puzzling about how you’re supposed to access the bulb to switch it out when it dies. Yep, it’s a real head-scratcher, but I’m here to provide your lightbulb moment!

    How To Change Recessed Lighting

    Today, I’ll be giving you a few ideas as to how to approach changing the lightbulbs in your recessed lights. It may seem like a confusing task, but it’s actually very simple in most cases.

    I’ll begin by discussing the changing of regular lightbulbs, and then I’ll move on to a quick guide on switching out LED pot lights, as they’re a different kettle of fish. Let’s get to it!

    How To Change Recessed Lighting Bulb: A Step-By-Step Guide

    There are actually quite a few different methods to change the bulb in recessed lighting. Which one you go for depends on the type of lighting you have.

    Method 1 — By Hand

    If you can physically reach into the fixture and touch the bulb, then you can simply remove it by hand like the bulb in any other non-recessed light fixture.

    • Turn the light off at the wall. If it’s already dead, make sure the switch is in the off position.
    • If the bulb has been on, allow it about 3 minutes to cool down.
    • Use a step ladder to reach the fixture. Ask somebody to hold the ladder as you do this if you’re concerned about safety.
    • Gently turn the bulb counterclockwise until it unscrews from the fixture. Don’t sweat it if you’re feeling a little bit of juddering as you do so; most recessed lights are fitted with springs in order to keep the socket in place.
    • Grab a new bulb and turn it clockwise into the fixture.

    Method 2 — Duct Tape Tool

    If the bulb enclosure is flush against the collar of your recessed lighting, and you can’t reach inside to gain purchase and twist it free, you can use some duct tape to get it out.

    • Grab some duct tape and make a loop, sticky side out.
    • Head up your step ladder and stick the tape to the bulb enclosure. Flatten it out against the surface to ensure good adhesion.
    • Next, think of your tape loop as a handle, and turn it counterclockwise to start unscrewing the bulb.
    • Take the bulb with you to the hardware store to find a suitable replacement.
    • Fit your new bulb using the same duct tape technique, but this time you’ll of course be twisting the enclosure clockwise.

    Method 3 — Light Bulb Changing Pole

    As long as you don’t mind forking out for a lightbulb changing pole with appropriate attachments, you’ll have the job done in a matter of minutes — No ladders, no messing around with duct tape.

    • Choose the correct attachment — These poles typically come with three different attachments, so no matter what kind of recessed light you have, you can retrieve the bulb.
    • The suction cup is a perfect replacement for the duct tape method above, as it sticks to the flat surface of the bulb enclosure, allowing you to twist it free.
    • The spring cage allows you to grab loose, round bulbs without climbing a ladder.
    • The pin attachment is for retrieving the base of smashed bulbs from a fixture.
    • Secure the attachment on the end of the pole. This will either involve using the thread on the end of the pole or a tightening thumb screw on the side of the attachment.
    • Align the attachment with light, then steadily reach out towards the fixture. If you’re using the broken light pin attachment, be sure to wear some safety goggles, as there could well be some broken glass still attached to the base.
    • Once you have a grip on the bulb, twist it counterclockwise to loosen it.
    • Replace the bulb, grip it with the attachment, and secure it back in the fixture.

    Method 4 — Removing The Collar

    If you can’t twist the bulb out of your recessed light, your only option is to remove the whole fixture to access it.

    How To Change Recessed Lighting (1)
    • Turn the light off at the wall.
    • Being that you’re going to be getting quite close to wires here, it’s also a good idea to cut the power at the breaker, ensuring you won’t get shocked if something goes wrong.

    With any luck, your circuits will be labeled, but no worries if not. Turn them off one by one until you find the one connected to your recessed light.

    • Climb a step ladder to reach the fixture.
    • Pry the collar from the ceiling a couple of centimeters with your fingers, or failing that, wedge a paint scraper between your ceiling and the collar of your recessed fixture.
    • If the collar has a painted trim, you’ll probably have to score the perimeter to free it up.
    • Gently slide your fingers or putty knife around the collar in search of the prongs or clips holding the fixture in place.
    • Pushing your fingers or putty knife against the prongs or clip, steadily increase the pressure of your leverage, and eventually, the whole enclosure should pop out.
    • Swap the bulbs and reinstall the enclosure.

    How To Change Recessed Integrated LED Lights

    You can use method 4 detailed above to remove an integrated LED fixture from the ceiling, but instead of simply switching out the bulb, you’ll have to replace the whole unit.

    • Once it’s away from the ceiling, hold the fixture in one hand, then use your free hand to disconnect it from the socket hidden nearby above the ceiling.
    • Purchase an identical fixture.
    • Connect the wires to the hidden socket.
    • Fit the enclosure into the ceiling.
    • Flip the circuit back on and test to see if the installation went according to plan.

    Final Thoughts

    While recessed lights bring a number of benefits to the table, they don’t half cause some confusion when it’s time to change a bulb or fixture, but with this guide, you’re well equipped to get the job done in a safe and timely manner.

    To save you a lengthy trial and error process as you try and figure out which method you should use, I recommend consulting the user manual of the light or the manufacturer’s website for some clues on which method will work best.