Tag Archives: how to replace a light fixture

How to change an outdoor light.


I have to confess, I have always been a little terrified of electricity. I suppose my parents did a good job of installing a healthy dose of fear about playing with electrical sockets.
As an adult, I was pretty amazed at how easy it is to change a light fixture, I thought it was a lot more complicated, but turns out it takes just a little courage, common sense, and about 10 to 15 minutes. I will also give my husband full credit here, all of the photos I took of are of him (hence the hairy arms)
The first, and without a doubt, the most important step is to switch off the power at the fuse box. If you are not sure which switch controls the light fixture you are replacing, turn on the light, and keep turning off fuses until the light goes off. This step goes a lot faster if you have a partner that can yell to you when the light goes off. Once you are sure you have turned off the right switch, turn off the light switch at the wall too (Not sure if this does anything, but it’s not going to do any harm, right?)
Here is what our outdoor lights looked like before:

I’m sure they were very nice lights at one point, but to be honest, we couldn’t even figure out how to change the lightbulbs- I think you have to unscrew part of the light to get the bulb out… anyways, after four years, it is about time we replaced them! The new ones we picked even have a sensor that will turn them on automatically at dusk!
The first step is to unscrew the existing light fixture. This one had a motion sensor attached to it, so we had to disconnect that too.

Once you have the fixture unscrewed, you have to disconnect the wires. There should be a white wire, a black wire, and a copper wire. All three wires will be attached to their corresponding wires at the wall and should have plastic caps. You can remove the caps by unscrewing them.
Once we removed the light, this is what the box looked like inside:

There were a few coccoons, a couple spiders, and what looked like the start of a couple wasps nest…great.
So, John cleaned everything out. (Yes, I am giving him credit again…)

Some boxes will already have a mount, or bracket, but for some reason, this one didn’t, so we needed to attach it to the box. The mounts normally come with the new light fixtures, and the box already has holes to accommodate the mount, so it is just a matter of screwing the two screws in, then making sure it is level.


The next step is to connect the wires from the wall to your new fixture. On all light fixtures, there are three wires, a black one, a white one, and a copper one which is the grounding wire. Pay attention closely…attach the black to the black, and the white to the white. Yup. Twist the ends together making sure the metal ends from both wires are touching.

Then, screw the plastic caps on the ends of both pairs of wires.
Next step is to connect the grounding wires, which are the uninsulated bare copper wires. These wires should be attached to the housing, or wall mount, in this one, there was a blue screw marked ground. Wrap the grounding wire around this screw, and tighten it using a screw driver.

The last step is to attach the light. Two little screws is all it takes. Tighten them up as much as you can, and you are good to go! Go and turn the fuse back on and test the light to make sure it works.


Here is the best part… here is what the lights look like at night! We ended up putting three up in the front, and one in the back of the house.