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How to change a light fitting

A person changing a light fitting by connecting electrical cables to the terminal box of the new light fitting.

Knowing how to change a light fitting can be a useful skill, particularly if you’re renovating a new home or decorating your current one.

So if you’re efficient with a bit of DIY and have the electrical know-how to take on this task, then you’ve come to the right place.

In this article we’ll guide you through changing a light fitting and all the steps you need to take to make sure it’s done safely.


Table of contents

  1. Important safety message
  2. Do I need an electrician to change a light fitting?
  3. What tools do I need to change a light fitting?
  4. How to change a light fitting in 7 easy steps
  5. Common questions when changing a light fitting
  6. Prevent costly repairs with HomeServe Electrical Insurance

Important safety message

It’s important to remember that any electrical work should be carried out by a skilled electrician, who has the right level of competence to undertake the work safely. By ensuring the right risk assessments are carried out hazards can be avoided and work can be completed as safely as possible

Do I need an electrician to change a light fitting?

This all really depends on your experience and competence.

If you’ve tried changing a light bulb and found it hasn’t quite done the trick, then it might be best to contact an electrician. It could also be a light switch issue, in which case you could be looking at fixing a light switch or replacing a light switch altogether.

If you’re in the process of redecorating or renovating your home and you suspect a fault, again, you’re best to speak to an electrician before attempting anything yourself.

However, if you’re a competent DIYer then replacing the light fitting for redecorating shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

If you have any doubt when it comes to electrics, then you should call in a professional.

Safety first

You should never attempt to do work on your electrics unless you know for sure that the circuit is electrically dead – legally, only competent individuals should carry out this type of work.

What tools do I need to change a light fitting?

If you’re feeling capable of doing this job yourself, you should make sure you’ve got the right equipment.

Here’s a list of things you’re likely to need:

  • New light fitting
  • An electrical flathead or Phillips screwdriver
  • Wire cutters/strippers (if necessary)
  • Multi-purpose detector
  • Electrical tape
  • Ladder or step stool

How to change a light fitting in 7 easy steps

1. Turn off the mains power

An electrical fuse box with the switches turned off for certain areas of a house.

Safety first – make sure your power is turned off at the mains.

When it comes to electrical safety, you should never take any risks, so make sure to turn off your electricity at the fuse box. Identify the circuit you‘ll be working on and ensure this is turned off and a suitable measure is in place to prevent it from being accidentally turned back on while you’re working.

Before you undertake any work, always ensure that the circuit is dead. The best way to check this is by using a socket or voltage tester (if you have one) which will confirm if your circuits are safe.

2. Take down the old light fitting

A person unscrewing the wiring connections of a terminal box to remove a light fitting.

Now you’re ready to safely remove the old light fixture.

Firstly, you’ll need to remove the wires from your existing light fitting. There is a chance that they could be mounted within a terminal box.

Take a picture of how the light was wired

At this point, it’s a good idea to take a picture of the old fitting and the position of the wires so you can keep note of where each wire goes.

Use your electrical screwdriver to loosen the small screws in the terminal that are connecting the old light fitting to your mains wires.

Next, use your screwdriver to unscrew the base of the old fitting from your wall or ceiling, which should leave you looking at the existing wires.

3. Prepare the new light fitting

One of the key parts to changing your old light fitting is preparing the new one.

The old light fitting should have been attached to a solid part of the building e.g. a joist. You can double check this if you have a multi-purpose detector you can use around the wall or ceiling.

Your new fitting should have handy sticker labels on them to show where to put each wire.

This is usually shown by:

E – Earth
L – Live
N – Neutral

Not all light fittings will have an earth wire. If this is the case for you, find out what to do with the earth wire from your wall or ceiling here.

4. Make sure the mounting bracket is secured

If you’re using the same or a similar fitting, you might be lucky and be able to line up the holes that are already there to attach the light mounting bracket to the wall or ceiling.

If not, then take the mounting bracket for the new fitting to use as a template to mark out the new holes. You should then be able to screw your mounting bracket to your wall or ceiling.

5. Install the new light fitting

Before you fix the new light fitting to the bracket, you need to make sure that your existing wiring is not damaged or too long for your new fitting.

If you need to, you can use your wire cutters to cut the ends off the existing wiring and strip back the end of the insulation – you should expose around half an inch (15mm) of new copper wire.

6. Wire the light fitting

Following the instructions for your new light fitting and using the photo you took earlier, you can connect the existing wires to the new light fitting using the terminal box and your electric screwdriver. But first a note on wiring safety:

Wiring safety

Always check the manufacturer’s instructions before you fit a new light, as different makes and models could have different fitting requirements.

However, as a very basic general rule, while you’re mounting your new light fitting, if your wall/ceiling cable doesn’t reach the terminals of the new light without straining, never ever pull it. In this case contact a qualified electrician.

Is my wiring pre-2004?

If your wiring is pre-2004, these are the wires you’ll find in your ceiling or wall:

(L) Live = Red
(N) Neutral = Black
(E) Earth = Green and Yellow

Diagram demonstrating the difference between pre-2004 wiring and post-2004 wiring.If your wiring was done after 2004, the wires you’ll find are:

(L) Live = Brown
(N) Neutral = Blue
(E) Earth = Green and Yellow

Failure to correctly wire up the light fitting could cause electrocution or fire, if you’re unsure as to the next steps contact a competent electrician

At this stage you should make sure all the connections are correctly located in the terminal and that the terminal screws are tight. Any wires should be packed neatly into the terminal box before you close it and safely put the connections away.

Once you’ve done that you can go ahead and put in any bulbs and attach any coverings.

7. Test your new light fitting

Ensure that any light switches are in the off position, return to the fuse board and switch on the circuit. Return to the light fitting you have just installed and turn on the light switch. The light fitting should now illuminate the room.

The new light should not flicker and the bulbs should be all the same brightness.

If the light flickers or the bulbs are not equally bright, turn off the light switch and call an electrician.

Common questions when changing a light fitting

What should you do if your light fixture has no earth wire?

Black bold square within larger square, indicating a device is double insulated.

It’s common for light fittings to come without a ground/earth wire fitted. If the light fitting you have bought is

plastic, ceramic or another non-conductive material, there will be no need for an earth wire.

You may find that some light fittings are double insulated. You’ll know this from the symbol on the light fitting itself or the packaging. The symbol looks like a square within a square, meaning double earth.

Which colour wire is neutral?

Neutral wires can be:

  • Black if the wiring was done pre-2004
  • Blue if the wiring was done post-2004

Which colour is the live wire?

Live wires can be:

  • Red if the wiring was done pre-2004
  • Brown if the wiring was done post-2004

Prevent costly repairs with HomeServe Electrical Insurance

If you’re looking for peace of mind when it comes to electrics, you may want to consider HomeServe Electrical Insurance and Breakdown Cover.

With cover for wiring, fusebox breakdowns and broken sockets, our Home Experts will help make sure that unexpected electrical problems don’t leave you in the dark.

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About the author


Martin has more than 30 years experience within the gas industry and has worked for the regulator, CORGI, before moving into the private sector in 2009 to oversee gas compliance matters on the Government’s flagship energy scheme, Warm Front.

Martin is recognised in the gas industry with an Incorporated Engineer status (IEng); Martin is currently a member of the Gas Utilisation Committee with the Institutions of Gas Engineers and Managers (IGEM) and assist the gas industry by sitting on a number of committees which develop safety standards and guidance.

Martin is a fully qualified gas incident investigator and has a proven track record of competence through the national Accredited Certification Scheme (ACS) in domestic, non-domestic and Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) gas installations.

Martin has been employed by HomeServe Membership Ltd since 2014 and currently holds the position of Head of Technical Governance.

Qualifications

  • Gas qualified in Domestic, Non-Domestic and LPG installations
  • Qualified Gas Incident Investigator – IGEM/G/L/8
  • BTEC Higher National Certificate Building/Construction Studies
  • LCL Level 3 Award in Initial Verification, Periodic Inspection, Testing Condition Reporting and Certification of Electrical Installations
  • City & Guild 6032 Advanced Craft Certificate Plumbing
  • Water Regulations

Years qualified

30+
Read more

Share this post

About the author


Martin has more than 30 years experience within the gas industry and has worked for the regulator, CORGI, before moving into the private sector in 2009 to oversee gas compliance matters on the Government’s flagship energy scheme, Warm Front.

Martin is recognised in the gas industry with an Incorporated Engineer status (IEng); Martin is currently a member of the Gas Utilisation Committee with the Institutions of Gas Engineers and Managers (IGEM) and assist the gas industry by sitting on a number of committees which develop safety standards and guidance.

Martin is a fully qualified gas incident investigator and has a proven track record of competence through the national Accredited Certification Scheme (ACS) in domestic, non-domestic and Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) gas installations.

Martin has been employed by HomeServe Membership Ltd since 2014 and currently holds the position of Head of Technical Governance.

Qualifications

  • Gas qualified in Domestic, Non-Domestic and LPG installations
  • Qualified Gas Incident Investigator – IGEM/G/L/8
  • BTEC Higher National Certificate Building/Construction Studies
  • LCL Level 3 Award in Initial Verification, Periodic Inspection, Testing Condition Reporting and Certification of Electrical Installations
  • City & Guild 6032 Advanced Craft Certificate Plumbing
  • Water Regulations

Years qualified

30+
Read more

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