It’s Not Just a Punchline: How to Change a Lightbulb With No Funny Business


Ask anyone about changing a lightbulb and they’ll tell you a joke. Ask anyone for lightbulb changing tips and they’ll struggle to give you an answer. 

The average American home has 50 separate lightbulb sockets. Sooner rather than later, one bulb is going to burn out. 

Many people think that they know how to change a lightbulb. They take out the bulb, then they put a new one back in. But that it’s often not as simple as that. 

Know how to change a lightbulb and you can start saving on time and energy. Here is your quick guide. 

First Steps

The very first thing you should do is turn the power off. Let the bulb cool down for a few minutes before you touch it. If you are worried about burning yourself, wear gloves. 

If your light bulb is high up, get as close to it as possible. Do not jump or stand on your toes to get to it. 

You should never reach inside a fixture, even if you think it is off. Use tools while wearing rubber gloves. 

Find a secure surface like a step ladder or a firm chair. Do not stand on a rolling chair or an uneven footstool. You can fall and hurt yourself.  

Make sure the ladder has a handle that you can grip. If you can’t grip the ladder yourself, have someone else do it. 

In case the lightbulb falls, have shoes on and a vacuum nearby. Clean up the glass as soon as possible. 

When you buy replacements, you want bulbs with the same wattage as your old ones. If you want to change your brightness, you can buy bulbs with different wattages. In general, the higher the wattage, the brighter the bulb. 

Light Changing Tips

Lightbulbs generally come in two varieties. A screw fitting bulb is screwed into a light fixture. Twist it counterclockwise until it lifts out of the fixture. 

The screw may rust, causing the bulb to stick in place. Use a pair of pliers to remove the bulb’s base. Do not use your fingers since you may apply too much force or shock yourself. 

Do not try to remove the rust while the bulb is screwed in. This will scrape your fixture. If you notice some rust or debris on it, use a rag to remove the substance gently. 

A bayonet mount bulb requires pressure. Grip the bulb with your fingers and push upward. Turn the bulb counterclockwise until it releases. 

You do not need a lot of force to remove a bayonet mount. Be careful so you don’t break the glass and cut yourself. 

Once you’ve removed the bulb, place it in a spot where you will remember it. Do not throw it into a trash bin. Do not toss it on the ground, even if you think the surface is soft. 

Grab your new bulb and place it in your fixture. Turn it clockwise until it locks into place. Do not screw the bulb on too tight. 

Changing Hard-to-Reach Bulbs

Certain light fixtures require different lightbulb replacement tips. Fluorescent tubes are similar to standard light bulbs. The difference is you need to rotate the old tube 90 degrees, then lower it straight down. 

Home dome lights are set into the ceiling. You will need to remove the screws that hold the dome in place. Remove them with a screwdriver and set them aside. 

Then lift the dome off of the frame. You may need to push on a notch in order to release it. Keep the instruction manual for the light on hand so you know how to remove it. 

Once the dome is off, you can replace the bulbs. Most dome lights use screw fitting bulbs. You can then insert the screws back to keep the dome in place. 

Car dome light bulbs illuminate the interior of cars. These are very similar to home domes. 

Take off the cover with a screwdriver. Then unscrew the old bulb and put a new one in. Replace the screws so the cover stays in place. 

If you have vaulted ceilings or recessed lighting, you can use a very tall stepladder to reach them. You can also get a light bulb changing pole with suction cups. Be gentle with your pole and make sure the bulb doesn’t fall from it. 

Safe Disposal 

When you are throwing out a lightbulb, wrap it up in a plastic bag. Lower the bag into the bin. Place objects around it that won’t break the glass. 

Label the bag so the people handling it know there is glass inside. Do not put other fragile objects inside that bag. 

You can dispose of your incandescent and halogen bulbs in your trash bin. These bulbs contain wires and metals that are closely connected to each other. It is hard to separate them so many recycling centers do not dispose of them. 

LED bulbs have recyclable parts. You should try to recycle them, especially if you have a large amount of them. Read the instruction manual for further information. 

An Edison bulb can be incandescent or LED. You may or may not be able to recycle them. Contact the manufacturer to see if you can. 

CFL and fluorescent tubes contain mercury. You should not throw them in your trash bin, even if you wrap them up and label them. Set the tubes aside and find specialized ways to process them. 

How to Change a Lightbulb

Learning how to change a lightbulb isn’t just for jokes. It’s important for your safety and comfort. 

Approach a bulb carefully, especially if it is on the ceiling. Wear gloves and use tools to reach into the fixture. Apply gentle pressure when screwing and unscrewing the bulb. 

Remove the dome first when changing dome fixtures. Use an extended pole to reach high bulbs. Dispose of bulbs based on their types in trash bags. 

You can really improve your home once you have the facts. Follow our coverage for home improvement guides. 


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