How to Change a Fluorescent Light Bulb In Minutes

Scott Dylan Westerlund
Updated November 16, 2021
Man replacing light bulb
Silentalex88 -stock.adobe.com

This project isn’t quite as easy as flipping a switch, but it’s close

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How many DIYers does it take to change a fluorescent light bulb? For this simple project, just one! The steps for how to remove and change a basic fluorescent light bulb are pretty straightforward. Safety awareness is key, but with a little focus, changing your own fluorescent bulbs can be done in minutes.

Difficulty: 1/5 You've got this!

Time: 15 minutes

What You’ll Need:

Tools

  • Pliers or screwdriver

  • Stepladder

Materials

  • Replacement light bulb

1. Grab the Right Replacement Bulb

Different fixtures require different light bulb types to work safely and efficiently. While older fixtures often require T12 bulbs, the newer energy-efficient fixtures often need T8 bulbs.

Replacing a bulb is a great excuse to make sure you're using energy-saving lighting options for a lower electricity bill!

2. Turn Off Power to the Bulb

A safety-minded DIYer might deem this step obvious, but make sure the power to the fixture is off before anything else. Depending on the bulb you are replacing, do the following:

  • Flick off the wall switch

  • Disconnect electricity to the fixture via your fuse box

Test the electricity is off by flicking the switch again. Then, confirm that you can safely and comfortably reach your fixture without straining. Ask someone to spot you on a stepladder if the fixture is located high above you.

Step 3: Remove the Cover

If your fixture is covered, you can usually remove the cover by twisting the caps or seals counterclockwise using your pliers until they pop off. Have your hand ready to stabilize the cover once it's loose to avoid being hit by it. Gently slide the cover off the fixture.

Remove screws if needed. Double-bulb units typically have a screw on each side, and four-bulb units typically have an additional screw on the top center edge.

Step 4: Dislodge the Bad Bulb

Person replacing fluorescent garage light
Phoderstock- stock.adobe.com

At this stage, you should be looking at an open fixture that exposes the light bulb you want to change. Here's how to safely remove the bulb:

  • Test that the bulb isn't hot to the touch before grabbing it

  • Keep your hands near the ends or base of the bulb

  • Gently rotate the bulb clockwise to loosen it

  • Identify the pins holding the bulb in the fixture

  • Rotate the bulb toward you

  • Bring the bulb into vertical alignment

  • Slide the bulb toward you

You can now place the tube in a safe place where it won't be disturbed while you focus on adding your replacement bulb.

Step 5: Add Your Replacement Bulb

Now it’s time to bring in the replacement bulb. Here's how to add it:

  • Align the bulb's prongs with the socket slots

  • Lift the tube into the sockets

  • Rotate the tube 90 degrees

  • Confirm that it "locks" into place

  • Do a gentle tap to ensure it's secure

You can repeat this process for as many bulbs as you need. Just make sure to focus on handling one bulb at a time to avoid shattering.

Step 6: Test the New Light Bulb

Test that the new bulb works correctly by reversing your steps to flip the fuse box and light switch back on. If it lights, you’ve successfully repaired the bulb. If you’re still in the dark, consider troubleshooting the ballast. This is the transformer within the light fixture that changes the voltage from the standard 120 volts to the required voltage for fluorescent bulbs. A worn-out ballast will stop your new light from turning on.

While figuring out how to change a fluorescent light bulb is easy, replacing the ballast is a little trickier. Consider bringing in a qualified, licensed electrician to help you out with this one. An electrician can also confirm if your light fixture is to blame for no-show lighting.

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