10 Tips to Make Changing Light Bulbs Easier

Paige Bennett
Written by Paige Bennett
Updated October 12, 2021
A pregnant woman changing a light bulb
Klaus Vedfelt/DigitalVision via Getty Images

It's not as straightforward as you might think!

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Those high ceilings in the living room might be gorgeous, but they can become a huge pain when it’s time to change a light bulb. But changing bulbs is no picnic for even standard-height ceilings, and things can get especially messy if you’re dealing with a broken bulb.

If you’re someone who puts off changing the light bulb until you just can’t take the darkness anymore, consider these tips to make changing light bulbs easier.

1. Let the Bulb Cool

Sometimes, you may have a light bulb on for a while, and then it blows. You don’t want to try to change it right away, because the bulb will be hot and may burn you or cause you to drop and break the bulb. Instead, let the light bulb cool down for about one hour before handling it.

2. Use a Step Ladder

For rooms with a standard ceiling height, about 9 feet, use a step ladder to comfortably reach the bulb. Sure, you could stand on a chair, the couch, or a bed, but these surfaces are often cushioned and unstable, leaving you with a risk of falling. Instead of scaling your furniture, move it out of the way and use a much-safer ladder.

3. Get an Extendable Pole

If your light is hard to reach even with a ladder, you can find light bulb changing kits with extendable poles online or at home improvement stores. These poles may extend upward of 30 feet with interchangeable heads to grip and remove various types of bulbs, including broken bulbs, easily.

4. Grab Broken Bulbs With Potatoes

Who knew the humble potato could be put to work as a home improvement tool? If you end up with a broken light bulb in a lamp, you can use this veggie to collect the shards of glass.

  • Unplug the light and let the bulb cool

  • Cut a potato in half

  • Press half the potato into the broken light bulb, then turn it counterclockwise until you remove the light bulb from the lamp

  • Dispose of the broken light bulb, accompanying glass, and the potato

5. Wear Gloves

Whether you’re dealing with a still-warm bulb or broken glass, wearing a pair of work gloves can make changing a light bulb safer and more comfortable. Plus, gloves with non-slip features may provide a better grip to prevent you from dropping the bulb.

6. Choose LED Bulbs

If you feel like you’re constantly changing your light bulbs, opt for energy-efficient LED bulbs, which can last up to 25 times longer compared to other types of light bulbs. While they might cost more upfront, switching to LED light bulbs can save the average household about $225 per year.

7. Set Up for Quick Cleanup

A man changing a light bulb while on a ladder
Navinpeep/Moment via Getty Images

Even if you aren’t dealing with a broken bulb at first, you could end up with one during the changing process.According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), you can prevent mercury contamination from a broken fluorescent light bulb by laying down a drop cloth.

  • Place a drop cloth beneath the light to catch any pieces of broken glass

  • After changing the bulb, pick up the drop cloth carefully if it did catch broken glass

  • Collect the drop cloth and any additional pieces of broken glass in a sealable bucket or large container. Label it as a broken light bulb

  • Contact your local waste department for how to properly recycle or dispose of the broken bulb

8. Keep Backup Bulbs Handy

There’s nothing worse than having an overhead light bulb blow after sunset, only to find you don’t have any ready for replacement. Then, you’re stuck sitting in the dark until you can make a run to the home improvement store!

Buy light bulbs in bulk and keep them stored somewhere safe, like a utility closet, so you can always have one ready to replace an old bulb. When you notice your stock running low, make a note to order more online or pick some up at the store.

9. Understand Wattage

Watts refers to the amount of energy a bulb will use, and some light fixtures will have safety limits on wattage. For example, you may have a lamp with a label that says it cannot take bulbs higher than 60 watts, so you wouldn’t want to try to put a 100-watt bulb in the light. Using incorrect wattage bulbs creates a risk of fire.

10. Dispose of Old Bulbs Safely

Broken bulb or not, you should make sure to know how to properly dispose of old light bulbs. You should check your local waste management’s tips on proper bulb disposal in your area, but in most locations, you can follow the following disposal tips.

  • Standard light bulbs: Incandescent light bulbs are not recyclable. Wrap them in a protective material, like newspaper, and throw them in your regular household trash.

  • Halogen bulbs: Similar to incandescent light bulbs, halogen bulbs have fine wire filaments in the glass that prevent them from being recyclable. Wrap them in a disposable covering, like newspaper or old bubble wrap, and throw them in your regular household trash.

  • LED bulbs: In addition to being more energy-efficient and longer-lasting, LED bulbs are often recyclable, too. But don’t just throw them in the recycling bin with your old papers and pasta sauce jars. Contact your local recycling center to see how to drop off LED bulbs. These bulbs can also be thrown in your household waste bin if local recycling isn’t available.

  • Fluorescent bulbs: Compact fluorescent bulbs and fluorescent tubes contain mercury, so you should never throw these in your household trash. When it’s time to replace your fluorescent light bulbs, find a local place to drop off old fluorescent bulbs for recycling.

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