Building An Addition: A Homeowner's Guide

Installing A New Light Fixture Safely - Tips For An Inexperienced Homeowner

by Toni Richards

Most people are scared or at least intimidated by the idea of completing an electrical job on their own. This is completely understandable since a mistake can cause a fire or an electrocution problem. If you are scared and worried about one of these sorts of issues, then it is wise to contact a professional who is a residential electrician, such as Advantage Electric. If you want to get over your fears and complete a simple job, like installing a light fixture, then keep reading to learn about some tips that will help you complete the task in a safe manner.

Turn Off Electricity Completely

If you are an experienced homeowner who typically completes DIY projects, then you may decide to flip the breaker that cuts the electricity to the room or area where you are working. While this is one way to reduce electrocution risks, it may not always be the best idea. Breakers are sometimes mislabeled. Also, while a breaker may be labeled for a specific room, an appliance, light, or junction box in the area may be wired to a different circuit.

You have a few different options when it comes to making sure the electricity is off in the area where you will be working. You can turn on the light and ask a friend or family member to stand under the light. Go to the breaker panel and start flipping the breakers until the light goes out. Mark the breaker so you can remember which one corresponds to the light. 

You can also switch the main breaker in the home. This will turn off all the electricity in the house. Keep in mind that some homes have two or more breaker panels, so you will need to make sure that you are accessing the correct one. For example, outdoor electrical outlets, garages, sheds, and other separate spaces may have their own panels. If the installation area does not seem to correspond to any of the breakers in the panel, then look for a different one. 

Once you do shut off the electricity, you want to make sure that current is not flowing through the wiring. The simplest tool you can use is called a non-contact voltage tester. This device can accurately detect whether or not current is flowing through a wire, socket, plug, or a fixture. Remove the light bulb from the old fixture and set the probe end of the tester on the metal part of the light socket. You can also use the tool on the exposed wiring once the fixture is removed. If no current is detected, then it is safe to start working on the electrical wiring.

Make Proper Connections And Use Wire Nuts

When you complete the installation job, you will need to attach the new wires of the light fixture to the wires coming out of the wall. You will need to match wire colors to do this. The most common wiring schemes are ones with black, white, and green wires. The wires on the light fixture will also be white and black. You will also see a plain copper wire. Use a pair of wire strippers to remove about one-eighth of an inch of the insulation from the ends of all the wires. Match the black fixture wire with the black wall wire and wrap the exposed sections of wires together. Do the same thing with the white wires. Take the exposed copper wire and wrap it around the very end of the green wire.

Once you have connected your wires, you will want to add wire nuts or twist-on wire connectors to the ends of each wrapped wire. Red, yellow, and orange nuts are typically an appropriate size for use with home wiring systems. Place the nut over the twisted part of each wire connection. Twist the nut towards the right until you can no longer twist it. This helps to secure the wires together and to keep from them being exposed.