Lights & Fans: Mounting and Wiring Light Fixtures & Fans

Woman Installing an Outside Light

No matter how old your electrical system, it is always possible -- and usually easy -- to remove an old wall or ceiling fixture and install a new one. A new fixture can dramatically change the appearance of a room. You can replace a ceiling light with a plain light, a chandelier, track lighting, or even a ceiling fan, among other options.

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Mounting hardware
If your home was built after World War II, attaching a new fixture should be easy. Mounting hardware has changed little, and the new fixture should come with all the parts you need. Simply attach a strap to the ceiling box, and perhaps a center stud as well. Splice the wires, screw the fixture to the strap or the stud, and you are done.

If you have an older home, the old fastening hardware may not line up with the new fixture. Home centers carry adapters to solve this problem.

If the new fixture's canopy (the part that snugs up to the ceiling) is smaller than the old one, you may have to paint or patch the ceiling. A decorative medallion can hide the problem and save work.

Installing a ceiling fan or a heavy chandelier calls for removing the electrical box and installing a heavy-duty fan-rated box.

Wiring a light or fan
Shut off power before removing an existing fixture. Test the box for power after removing the fixture. To ensure a conductive and long-lasting splice, cut and restrip old wire ends before joining them to the stranded leads of new fixtures. Articles in this section of our website show you how.

Wiring a light or fan is straightforward: Splice white lead to white wire, black to black, and connect the grounds. Installing a new fixture where there was none before is more involved and best left to a professional electrician or someone with experience running new cable. Running cable through walls is a time-consumingand complicated task.

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