How To Change or Install A Light Bulb in Minutes

How many people does it take to change a light bulb? Just one: You.

C.E. Larusso
Written by C.E. Larusso
Updated September 9, 2022
A woman changing a light bulb
Photo: Johner Images / Getty Images


You've got this!

Time to complete

15 minutes



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What you'll need:


  • Gloves
  • Ladder or step stool (Optional)
  • Light bulb changing kit with extender pole (Optional)
  • Needle-nose pliers (Optional)
  • Protective eyewear (Optional)
  • Tape (Optional)


  • Light bulb

In principle, changing a light bulb is easy—one of the first home improvement tasks many people learn in childhood. The light bulb market has grown larger and more complex in recent years, meaning the range of different types of fittings you need to know how to change has grown. We’ll walk through the steps to change a variety of different kinds of household light bulbs after they burn out—as well as what to do when you’ve got a bulb that’s broken or stuck in the socket.

  1. Confirm the Wattage

    Your new bulb must not exceed the wattage rating of your fixture; otherwise, you risk overheating the wires and potentially causing a fire. Most fixtures specify the maximum wattage rating on or near the socket. Only purchase light bulbs at or below this rating before proceeding. 

    Some multi-bulb fixtures will list a total maximum wattage—in this case, add up the wattage rating of each bulb to confirm it doesn’t exceed the maximum.

  2. Turn Off the Power

    Any time you are working with electrical fixtures, you should be certain the power is off. 

    • If the fixture is connected to a switch, confirm that it’s in the off position.

    • If it’s a plug-in fixture, flip the switch and unplug it. 

    • If you’re not certain, turn the button to “off” on your circuit breaker or fuse box. 

  3. Let the Bulb Cool

    If you’re using an incandescent, halogen incandescent, or CFL bulb, let the bulb cool before touching it. To determine whether the bulb is giving off heat, bring the back of your hand close to the bulb.

  4. Use a Ladder or Stool To Reach the Bulb

    If you’re changing an overhead fixture, or any light that’s out of reach, don’t use a chair or precariously balance on something meant for another purpose. Stand on a sturdy step stool or an A-frame ladder. You can also use a light bulb changer kit with an extender pole if you have high ceilings and prefer to avoid a ladder. 

  5. Remove the Bulb

    Next, you must make way for your new bulb. The exact process of removing the old bulb depends on the type of light bulb and fitting you have.

    • Screw fitting: Simply turn the bulb counter-clockwise until it is loose. 

    • Fluorescent tube: Use both hands for support and twist the tube counterclockwise until the lamp holders rotate, snapping it out of place. Confirm that the fitting is not burned or darkened. If it is, contact a local electrician to inspect the fitting. 

    • GU fitting in a halogen or LED lamp: Wear gloves and use two fingers to press the lamp inward and turn it counterclockwise while applying pressure. Once fully turned, release the pressure and pull down gently. If the lamp is stuck, wiggle it until the cylindrical wings align with the openings. 

    • Complex Fluorescent (CFL): Grasp the plastic part at the bulb's base (called the ballast). Pull up until the bulb pops out. If the puns on the bulb catch, wiggle it gently until they release. 

    Angi Tip

    If you have a dome fixture, you’ll need to remove the dome first. Carefully push the dome upwards. Some will have a notch mechanism, requiring you to lift, twist, and pull it down. Some will have screws or clips, which must be loosened and removed by hand before you can remove the dome.

  6. Insert the New Bulb

    A close up of a woman changing a light bulb
    Photo: asstock / Adobe Stock

    As with removing the old bulb, the process of replacing it will depend on the type of fitting: 

    • Screw fitting: Align the bulb with the socket and turn it clockwise until it’s tightly in place. 

    • Fluorescent tube: Avoiding the pins, hold the tube at both ends with each hand. Align the pins with the ballast and press it into the fitting, turning it until it clicks into place.

    • GU fitting: Fit the prongs from the lamp into the openings on the socket. Press the prongs inward using your thumbs and turn the lamp clockwise until tight.

    • CFL: Align the pins on the bulb with the openings on the fixture and gently push it into place until it locks.

  7. Confirm the Bulb Works

    Before cleaning up, switch the fuse back on and flip the switch to confirm that the new bulb is good and that everything is working. 

  8. Safely Discard the Old Bulb

    Every bulb has a different chemical composition, so you’ll need to ensure you take the proper steps to dispose of them responsibly.

    • Incandescent bulbs: Trash compatible. Just make sure to encase them in the packaging from the new bulb, or wrap them in paper towels to minimize the dangers of shattered glass. 

    • Halogen bulbs: Recyclable—but it can be difficult to find recycling centers that accept them. Discuss your options with local recycling and garbage collection organizations. If you cannot find a means of recycling them, throw them in the garbage, taking the same safety measures as you would with an incandescent bulb. 

    • Fluorescent tubes: Not eligible for pick-up by curbside waste management services because they contain mercury and shatter easily. Contact a local recycling center or one of the drop-off locations mentioned below.

    • CFL bulbs: Recyclable at a local recycling center that can carefully dispose of bulbs with mercury or one of the drop-off locations listed below. 

    • LED bulbs. Check with your local recycling centers to see if they accept them—but many do not because they contain lead and arsenic, among other hazardous materials. 

  9. Drop-Off Centers

    In addition to local waste management and recycling companies (search the database at Earth911 to identify nearby options), a handful of large home improvement chains across the United States accept lightbulbs for safe disposal.

DIY Light Bulb Change vs. Hiring a Pro

For most household light bulb changes, a DIY approach will be more than adequate. If you have to change or install a light bulb in your ceiling or another hard-to-reach spot, consider using an extended light-changing pole, available at most hardware and online stores.

Consult a local electrician if you’re concerned about the fixture or are facing chronic problems like flickering lights, buzzing or other noises, or bulbs that are dimmer than they should be. Expect to pay between $50 and $100 per hour. If the bulb is too high to reach safely, you can hire a local handyperson.

Frequently Asked Questions

Set a towel on the floor below to catch any falling shards. Wear thick, heavy gloves made of a resilient material, like leather. Wear safety-rated goggles if the broken bulb is overhead to avoid catching any shards in your eyes. 

  1. Slide a pair of needle-nose pliers into the base of the broken bulb, inserting them as deep as they’ll go. 

  2. Gripping with the pliers, turn the base counterclockwise until it releases. 

  3. Wrap the broken bulb and all shards in heavy paper before discarding them. 

Alternatively, if you do not have pliers or that approach doesn’t work, try the potato method: slice a raw potato in half. Place one portion over the broken bulb, push it in, and then twist it counterclockwise until it releases. 

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