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Home Lighting 101

By: Danny Lipford
Danny Lipford installing dimmer switch with homeowner Mary Green.

Danny Lipford installing dimmer switch with homeowner Mary Green.

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Find out how to solve a wide range of home lighting problems to improve the lighting in your home.

Electrical Wiring Safety

Before tackling any electrical work, make sure the power is turned off to the wiring you’re working on by flipping the circuit breaker or unscrewing the fuse that controls that part of your house wiring.

To determine if the power is off to a light fixture:

  • Turn the light on at the switch.
  • Flip off the circuit breaker you think controls it.
  • Check to see if the light is off.

To determine if the power is off to a wall outlet:

  • Plug either a radio or lamp into the wall outlet.
  • Turn the radio or lamp on.
  • Flip off the circuit breaker you think controls it.
  • Check to see if the radio or light is off.

Watch our video on How to Identify Electrical Circuits to find out more.

Even though the light or outlet is off, always use an electrical tester to check the wires to make sure they’re not hot before starting work.

Attaching wires to dimmer switch.

Attaching wires to dimmer switch.

Installing a Dimmer Switch

Replacing a standard wall switch with a dimmer switch is a great way to control the amount of light in a room. There are several styles of dimmer switches available, including rotary, sliding, and an on/off switch with a slide dimmer next to it.

Most CFL and fluorescent tubes aren’t dimmable, while incandescent and LED light bulbs are, so be sure to check to make sure the bulbs you are using are dimmable before installing a dimmer switch.

To install a dimmer switch:

  1. Turn off the power to the switch.
  2. Score around the switch cover plate with a utility knife.
  3. Unscrew and remove the switch cover plate.
  4. Test the wires with an electrical test to make sure the power is off.
  5. Remove the wires on the switch, noting where each wire is attached.
  6. Attach the wires to the dimmer switch with wire nuts.
  7. Push the wires into the electrical box, then screw the switch to the box.
  8. Screw the cover plate onto the dimmer switch.
  9. Turn the power back on, and test the dimmer switch to make sure it works properly.

Watch our video on How to Install a Dimmer Switch to find out more.

Color Temperature in Lighting

The color produced by lighting is measured in degrees Kelvin and can range from warm, yellow hues to cool, blue light. For a warm light, choose bulbs rated at 2700K to 3000K. For a cool light, choose bulbs rated from 3500K to 4100K.

Find out more in our articles on CFL Bulbs and LED Lighting.

Spray painting brass outside light fixture.

Spray painting brass outside light fixture.

Refinish Outside Light Fixtures

Exposure to the elements can cause the finish on exterior light fixtures to deteriorate over time.

To paint an exterior light fixture:

  1. Turn off the power to the light fixture.
  2. Remove the screws holding the light fixture to the electrical box.
  3. Test the wires with an electrical tester to make sure the power is off.
  4. Remove the wire nuts and wires from the light fixture.
  5. Disassemble the light fixture and remove any glass panes.
  6. Clean the parts to be painted with denatured alcohol.
  7. Sand the fixture with 00 steel wool to remove the old finish.
  8. Clean the parts with denatured alcohol to remove any sanding dust.
  9. Cover parts of the fixture you don’t want painted with painter’s tape.
  10. Spray several light coats of exterior paint made for painting metal.
  11. Reassemble the light fixture.
  12. Attach the wires to the light fixture, and screw it to the electrical box.
  13. Turn the power back on, and test to make sure the fixture works properly.

Watch our video on How to Paint Outdoor Light Fixtures to find out more.

Under Cabinet Kitchen Lighting

Under cabinet light fixtures are available in either fluorescent tubes or LED bulbs and can be battery powered or hardwired. Small battery powered LED under cabinet lights can be attached using a self-adhesive mounting plate while heavier fixtures are attached with screws.

Watch our video on Kitchen Lighting Options to find out more.

Replacing a worn out light switch on a ceiling fan.

Replacing a worn out light switch on a ceiling fan.

Replacing Ceiling Fan Light Switch

Pull cord type light and fan switches on ceiling fans can wear out over time and may need to be replaced.

To replace a ceiling fan light switch:

  1. Turn off the power to the ceiling fan.
  2. Remove the cover plate on the bottom of the fan housing.
  3. Test the wires with an electrical tester to make sure the power is off.
  4. Disconnect the wires going to the switch, and remove it.
  5. Connect the wires to the new switch, and attach it to the fan.
  6. Reattach the cover plate on the bottom of the fan housing.
  7. Turn on the power, and test the fan light switch by pulling the cord.

Read How to Replace a Ceiling Fan Pull Chain Switch to find out more.

Wireless lighting remote control kit.

Wireless lighting remote control kit.

Wireless Remote Lighting Controls

An easy way to improve the lighting in your home is to add a wireless remote control, such as those from Home Accents, to wall outlets.

Simply plug one of the three remote control modules into a wall receptacle and one or more lamps into the module (13-amp and 1,625-watt maximum per module), then use the remote control to turn the lamps on and off.

Other Tips from This Episode

Power strip with paper copy of keyholes.

Simple Solutions with Joe Truini:
Keyhole Screw Installation

To mark keyhole shaped screw locations, make a paper copy of the back of the power strip on a copy machine, and use it as a template for the keyholes. Position the copy where the power strip will go, and mark through the paper with a nail at the center of the round part of each keyhole slot. (Watch Video)

Commercial LED Trim installing on recessed light fixture.

Best New Products with Jodi Marks:
LED Recessed Disk Light

Commercial Electric LED disk lights make it easy to replace recessed or ceiling mounted light fixtures with energy efficient LED lighting. Simply remove the existing light fixture or recessed trim, and replace it with the LED light. Commercial Electric LED disk lights are available at The Home Depot. (Watch Video)

Sanding corrosion off landscape light socket.

Ask Danny Lipford:
Fixing Landscape Lighting

To fix low voltage landscape lights, start by checking the connection where the fixture wire attaches to the main line. Next, remove the bulb from the fixture, and use an emery board to remove any corrosion on the contacts and spray the socket with contact cleaner before inserting the bulb. (Watch Video)

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Home Lighting 101