Selecting bulbs and tubes

The color of a light bulb or a light fixture globe or shade significantly affects the mood of a room. Lighting that is slightly red or yellow is considered warm, while blue-tinged light is cool. Incandescent bulbs produce warm light; many fluorescents are cool—if not downright cold. Choose the color of your home’s lighting according to the color of your furnishings. If you have pure white walls or cabinetry, warm lighting will make them beige. Cool light directed at brownish natural wood may give it a green tinge. Fortunately, whether you have a fluorescent or an incandescent fixture, you can switch from cool to warm light, or vice versa, by changing the bulbs or tubes. Ask your home center salesperson for advice on which bulbs or shades will work best in your setting.

NEW LIGHT ON FLUORESCENTS - Fluorescent lighting is economical but often harsh and cold. For a slightly higher cost, you can buy tubes that deliver light similar to that of the afternoon sun. The lower the Kelvin temperature of a tube, the warmer its light will be. A tube designed for the kitchen or bath, for example, delivers a warm 3000K color, while a 5000K tube will make a room look cool. Green ends on a tube indicate the tube contains only trace amounts of mercury and does not require special disposal. Recycle unmarked tubes at an approved facility. T-8 tubes are energy efficient.


• Incandescent bulbs are the most common but have comparatively short lives and are not very energy efficient.

• Low-voltage halogen bulbs last longer than incandescents and use far less energy, but they burn hot. Halogens come in many styles so make sure the bulb base fits in your fixture.

• Reflector bulbs direct either a wide or narrow beam of light, depending on the bulb. A “spot” bulb projects a flashlight-like beam. A “flood” bulb illuminates a wider area. The second number on the stamped label indicates the degree of the beam spread.

• Fluorescent tubes that screw into incandescent sockets save money in the long run. Choose from among several shapes and degrees of warmth. Some fluorescents can be dimmed but require a special ballast and a special dimmer. T-8 tubes are energy efficient. Conversion kits are available for standard fixtures.

• HID (High-Intensity Discharge) bulbs such as sodium and mercury vapor produce bright, economical light outdoors.

Installing or replacing wall lights

MATERIALS: Wall sconces or bathroom wall fixture, boxes, cable with clamps, staples, wire nuts, electrician’s tape

TOOLS: Drill, saw, fish tape, screwdriver, lineman's pliers, combination stripper, level

Wall sconces and vanity lights are lighting sources mounted on vertical surfaces. They are primarily used for ambient and task lighting. Most wall fixtures attach to a ceiling box with a swivel strap so you can easily adjust the fixture. A fluorescent fixture installed above a bathroom mirror may not require installing a box; read fixture instructions.

Try a swivel box - Swivel boxes are junction boxes that have an adjustable mounting strap that turns so that you can level the lighting fixture on the wall. They’re available in the electrical department at your home center.

Installing a sconce - Run cable from a nearby receptacle or other power source into a switch box and then to a box mounted on the wall. Get abox with a swivel strap to let you adjust the base until it is level. Depending on the sconce, use either a round or octagonal box. Wire as you would for a ceiling fixture.

Wiring a vanity light - Installing a light over a mirror or medicine cabinet calls for no special wiring techniques. Some fixtures require a box, while others can be wired and then attached directly to the wall. If you will be installing a mirror that reaches to the ceiling, give the glass company exact dimensions for cutting a hole in the mirror to attach the fixture to a box mounted in the wall behind the mirror.

1 REMOVE THE EXISTING FIXTURE. Turn off the power to the fixture. Test with a voltage meter. Remove the glass globe, shade, and bulb. Remove any nuts or screws holding the fixture in place. Carefully pull the fixture from the wall (pry if it has been painted in place); avoid yanking on the wires. After you remove the fixture, twist off the wire nuts that connect the wires.

2 INSTALL THE NEW FIXTURE. Strip 1/4 inch of insulation from wire tips. Twist and connect wires: white to white, and black to black. Twist on a plastic wire cap. If the cap doesn’t cover all the bare wire, remove the cap, trim the wire a bit shorter, and reattach the cap. Fold the wires into the junction box, place the fixture over the studs or nipple, then attach with the ornamental nuts provided.

Installing a hanging fixture

MATERIALS: Chandelier, wire nuts, electrician's tape

TOOLS: Ladder and support platform, screwdriver, wire stripper

EXTRA PROTECTION FOR WIRE CAPS - Once you've connected the wires with wire caps, wrap electrician's tape around the wire and the cap. This will help keep the wire from popping free and charging the metal parts of the chandelier with electricity.

Some form of chandelier illuminates most dining tables. Plan the placement of one as carefully as you would plan a good meal. To give off a pleasing light, a chandelier should be centered over the table and about 30 inches above it. If there is one socket, use a single 100-watt bulb. For two sockets, use two 60-watt bulbs. For three or more sockets, use 60-watt bulbs.

Lighting fixtures impact the ambience of a room, not only because of the quality of light they produce, but because of their appearance. This is especially true of chandeliers because they are prominent room features. Although the term “chandelier” may bring to mind ornate lights with sparkling crystals, for practical purposes it includes any ceiling-mounted fixture that hangs from a chain or wire. This includes an incredibly wide range of hanging fixtures that complement any decor, from Early-American candle types to stained-glass Arts-and-Crafts designs.

All ceiling-mounted fixtures are installed similarly, regardless of style. Your biggest issue is determining if the electric box that houses the wiring connections in the ceiling will support the weight of the chandelier you have chosen. If you replace a hanging fixture with a fixture about the same weight, the existing box is probably fine. If the new fixture is heavier than the old one, you may need to replace the ceiling box with a fan box rated to hold more weight. If you put in a new box, make sure it’s rated for a heavy fixture.

1 ASSEMBLE THE CANOPY AND HANGING HARDWARE. Set aside any components that can be installed after the fixture is hanging (globes, glass panels, light bulbs, etc.). Follow the specific instructions provided with the fixture. Remember to slide any necessary parts over the wiring and hanging chain. Support the fixture close to the ceiling by screwing a platform to the top of a stepladder with a few drywall screws. This provides a good work surface and should put the chandelier close enough to the ceiling to allow you to do the wiring without having to hold the chandelier in midair. Having a second person on a second ladder may also work, but coordinating your movements can be difficult with a heavy fixture. Fixtures usually come with a new mounting strap—a strip of metal that screws into the junction box in the ceiling. You can often use the existing strap, but if not, unscrew the old strap, and screw the new strap in place.

2 CONNECT THE WIRING. Check the supply wires for fraying or damage. If necessary, cut the wires and strip off about 3/4 inch of insulation. On older fixtures, like this one, the wires aren't color coded. Connect one fixture wire to the black supply wire and the other fixture wire to the white supply wire. Newer fixtures have a black and a white wire. Twist the bare end of the black supply wire together with the bare end of the black fixture wire, then twist on a wire nut. Repeat with the white wires. Carefully tuck the wires into the junction box. Put a bulb in the fixture and check that connections work before finishing.

3 HANG THE FIXTURE. Thread the fixture's mounting stem into the mounting strap on the ceiling box. Although the fixture is now securely hanging from the ceiling, the box and mounting hardware are still visible. Slide the canopy up against the ceiling to cover the mounting hardware; tighten the locknut against the canopy.

NEED PARTS? Break something while you were working on the chandelier? Many—but not all—parts of a chandelier or lamp are interchangeable. Take the broken part to an electrical department or a lighting store and show them what you need. Brass globes, threaded fittings, and brass stems almost always can be replaced with new parts.

FINDING NEUTRAL ON A LIGHT FIXTURE CORD - Light fixture cords don't have black and white cables, but it’s still important to connect the neutral wire of the light with the neutral wire in the circuit. Look closely at the lamp cord: The plastic vinyl sleeve with the rib is the neutral wire. Connect it to the white cable coming into the junction box.

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