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PUTTING UP NEW LIGHT? NO NEED FOR FRIGHT

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Replacing a ceiling fixture is a relatively easy task. The fixtures frequently have just two wires to connect. Mounting new fixtures may be more involved, because the new hardware may differ slightly from the old. But even that is not difficult, because there are three similar mounting configurations. Before starting, however, check local codes to see if restrictions apply.

The first step in any electrical work is to shut off the power. Do not rely on the wall switch, because in some circuits the switch may not control all the power to the fixture. Switch off the breaker or remove the fuse at the main service panel.If the old fixture has a glass globe or diffuser, remove it. Under the globe, the base of the fixture rests against the ceiling and conceals the connections in the ceiling junction box. Remove the base. It may be held in place by two small bolts or by one large nut. Loosen those and gently pull the base away from the ceiling. The fixture will still be connected by the power wires, so support it with one hand or have a helper hold it.

Of course the power should be off by now. But to be safe, check the wires with a circuit tester. The power wires are usually connected by solderless connectors called wire nuts. Twist them off and expose the bare connections. Be careful not to touch them. To make the safety check, touch one probe of the circuit tester to the bare black wires and the other probe to the bare white wires. The tester should not light. Then it is safe to disconnect the wires.

While doing that, observe how everything was connected. Even if the new fixture has a different configuration, you will still have a good idea of what new hardware is required and where it goes.

Now is a good time to inspect the junction box. The boxes are mounted on one side of the ceiling beam or secured to a brace between beams. Check that the box will hold the fixture. A gentle tug on the mounting bracket - the metal brace that the fixture was attached to - should give a good idea if it is secure.

Check the new fixture. It should have the same power rating as the old one. If not sure of the rating, check with an electrician. Most manufacturers include instructions, and sometimes mounting hardware, to make installation easier. It is possible new or additional hardware may be needed. Mounting kits are sold with hardware for many configurations. They can be more expensive than buying the individual pieces but can be useful for people not sure of sizes.

Have someone support the fixture or make a hook from stiff wire. Hook the fixture to the ceiling box. If the fixture is similar in size and shape to the old one, the configuration will probably be similar. There may be some differences. Most ceiling fixtures are bolted to a mounting bracket, a metal brace with holes and slots that accepts fixture bolts. The bracket may be connected to the threaded stud in the ceiling box.

Sometimes the bracket is bolted to ears, or flanges, protruding from the box. Another design dispenses with the bracket. The fixture connects directly to the stud. That is common for chandeliers. The fixture has a threaded rod joined to the stud by a coupling nut called a hickey.

After the mounting bolts are in place and supporting the weight of the fixture, the hook can be removed. Do not tighten anything yet, because the power wires have to be connected. Strip about a half inch of the insulation from the fixture wires. Join the black wire on the fixture to the black wire in the box.

Twist the bare ends together and cap them with a wire nut. Twist the nut to tighten. There should be no bare wire showing. If there is, remove the connector and trim the ends of the wire. Then replace the connector. Couple the white wires in the same way.

Some newer fixtures have ground wires. The ground can be attached directly to the ceiling box with a ground screw, which is virtually always green.

Make a final inspection to see that all wires are connected and that no bare wire is visible. Screw in a lightbulb. Step back and turn on the power. If all seems in order, shut off the power and continue.

Gently push the wires into the ceiling box and tighten the mounting bolts. Put the globe or diffuser in place.

Some fixtures have mounting bolts and fittings that are relatively short. They do not allow clearance to connect the power wires. In that case, it is better to connect the power wires and then mount the fixture. Be sure, however, that the fixture is fully supported while making the connections.