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How To Replace Outdoor Light Fixtures

by TimJones on March 15, 2010

After being exposed to the outdoors for even a very short time, your outdoor lighting fixtures can look pretty rough and be in need of replacement.  Typically, this is an inexpensive and easy improvement to your home’s exterior.  Since it’s usually just a few wire connections and a couple mechanical connections, it’s also something the average DIY person can handle.

To start, go to your local hardware store or lighting supply store and select an outdoor light to complement the exterior of your home.  Some things to consider: (1) Consider the space you have for the light fixture.  Some homes have plenty of area on the exterior wall to mount any size exterior light, others, not so much.  Make sure the light fixture size matches well with your home. (2) Make sure it’s a light fixture rated for external use. (3) Pay attention to finishes and materials.  Certain finishes and materials will last longer when exposed to the outdoors for long periods of time.  In this case, less expensive is not always better.

Once you have your fixtures selected and purchased, it’s time to install them.  First, as with all electrical DIY projects, disconnect the power to the fixture by shutting the breaker switch to the off position.  As I’ve noted before, I always err on the side of safety and just shut down power for the whole house at the breaker panel.

Now, you must first remove the old light fixtures.  Most fixtures have decorative nuts that you can loosen with your hands, some get a bit more complicated, but the majority will be similar to the one shown in the video, below.  Once the fixture is removed from the wall surface, you should disconnect the electrical wires, typically a black, white, and green (ground) wire.  You may have different colored wires or even a three-way wiring situation.  Regardless, take note of which wires on the fixture are attached to which wires on the home — you will need this information to match up the new light fixture wiring.

Most new light fixtures come with a new mounting bracket.  You can re-use the old bracket, but I tend to use the bracket that comes with the new fixture, since it’s designed for use with that fixture.  Install the new mounting bracket and pull the home wires through the bracket.

Now, connect the home wires to the fixture wires just like the old fixture was attached, as you noted in the step above.

Once you have the wiring connected, all that’s left to do is mount the new light fixture, install a light bulb and test it! Nothing to it. Don’t forget to turn the power back on before testing. :)

The costs on this project will vary greatly based on which light fixtures you select.  Exterior light fixtures can range from a few bucks to a few hundred bucks.  A very wide range, indeed.  You shouldn’t have any material costs, as most (if not all) light fixtures come with the necessary materials for installation.  Additionally, styles of outdoor lighting fixtures varies, greatly.  For this reason, our installation video cannot cover all mounting applications and if you feel you are in over your head on this project, please consult a professional electrician.

I would suggest having a quality set of linesman’s pliers for this project, as well as a straight-slot screwdriver, phillips head screwdriver, and a wire stripper.

Good luck and have fun with all your DIY projects!

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Kindof5150 April 23, 2011 at 9:36 pm

Great information! I was able to change out the fixture based on these instructions with no problem at all. Thanks!

howard June 15, 2012 at 4:47 pm

Best of all the ‘how-to videos’ I’ve seen, including several on YouTube.

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