How To Replace Recessed Light Fixtures

About 15 minutes per light
Can those Tired Old Can Lights


Lighting is everything. It can set a mood, enhance functionality or even transform an ordinary space into something spectacular. When considering how to make over a room, lighting is a good place to start. Dated fixtures can have a bigger effect on a room than you might think. Plus, with all of the breakthroughs in energy efficiency, your old fixture is probably costing you money while underperforming as a light source.

Such was the problem with our Jane-in-training's workspace. Besides being unorganized, Karen's home office had inefficient recessed lighting that made working in it pretty difficult. The good news was upgrading the fixtures was an extremely easy task. Replacing the ugly yellow "can" light with a brighter halogen fixture didn't require any hardwiring, just a simple swapping out of the light's enclosure, called the baffle. Don't let the name fool you--this project was about as easy as changing out a light bulb.

When searching for a new baffle, get one that will allow you to direct the light where you want it. This is an important luxury to consider when you are looking into new fixtures, especially for a work space.

If you are lucky enough to have recessed lighting like Karen and are in need of an upgrade, the crispness of the light that a halogen emits is fantastic for the workplace and they are extremely energy efficient, so a change made here will go a long way.

Project Steps

SAFETY CHECK!: Before getting started, it's important to remember to avoid touching the halogen light bulbs directly, as the dirt and oils from your hands can cause 'hot spots' which can sometimes cause the bulbs to burst prematurely. So, when screwing the bulb in, avoid handling it with your bare hands; a pair of disposable gloves will work fine.

Step 1

Even though this project doesn't require tinkering with wires, we still turned the power off for added security. Find the circuit to the lights you are working on and switch them off before starting any electrical project. Then, test the fixture with a penlight tester. If the circuit is still live, the device will light up or beep.

Step 2



Remove the old light bulb from the fixture.

Step 3



Remove the old baffle by reaching up inside the light and tugging at it. It should pop out pretty easily. Also, don't try to remove the entire light--just the enclosure! Wear safety glasses during this step because dust and debris could fall down on you as you work.

Step 4



Using your needle nose pliers, tug at the clips attached to the fixture so that they will hold the new baffle in place. Not all canned lighting is designed this way. If you find that you don't have any clips, don't worry.

Step 5



Make sure to measure your existing lights to get the correct size replacements. There are a wide variety of can light replacement options. The lights we chose literally screwed into the socket like a light bulb. Be sure to refer to the manufacturer's instructions of your particular unit before proceeding. We began our installation by first attaching the piece that looks like a light bulb into the existing fixture. A wire plate hung from this piece which we will later attach to the baffle.

Step 6



Next, screw the bulb into the new baffle. Remember to wear clean gloves or wipe away any spots with a cloth left by your fingertips before you turn the light on. Hold the bulb by the edges as you work to minimize potential fingerprints.

Step 7



With the light bulb screwed in there is just one step left: attaching the fixture to the wire plate. Place the fixtures prongs into the wire plate that is dangling from the ceiling and snap the now-attached baffle up into the ceiling.

Step 8

Turn the power back on and test the lights. The room should have a fresher, brighter look. If for some reason the lights failed to illuminate, turn the power off again and check your work.

Upgrading lighting is a great place to start when considering a new look for a room. Halogen lights give off a crisp, white brightness that is perfect for any workspace. Lighting in the workplace that is too dim, yellow, or otherwise ineffective will result in poor performance and tired eyes. You work hard enough as it is, so at least let your lights work for you.

The next step to Karen's office upgrade was installing a set of free-floating shelves. With just a few hours' work, Karen's office was totally transformed.

See also:

Install Track Lights
Install a Dimmer Switch
Put in Your Own Pathway Lights