How To Replace An Overhead Bulb Socket With A Fluorescent Light

Your workshop area may suffer from overhead light deprivation if you are using a ceiling light fixture with a light bulb. A fluorescent light will provide a much brighter and widespread light source.

Switching out the existing light fixture for a fluorescent shop light is relatively easy, and requires only a few simple tools and supplies. If you are able to perform a simple electrical task without fear, you can get the job done in less than an hour.

What you will need:

  • Fluorescent light fixtureA simple four foot long model is sufficient. Because you are installing it in place of a surface mounted light fixture, you will need to buy a fluorescent fixture with a plastic cover, rather than a bare bulb model designed to be installed inside the ceiling. Be sure to buy the correct bulbs to match your fluorescent light fixture. T-12 bulbs are the wider fluorescent bulbs that are used in many commercial and professional buildings. T-8 bulbs are narrower and more energy efficient, but also more expensive. Check the packaging on this light fixture for the proper size bulbs.
  • Wire nuts and electrical tape. You will need these items to connect the power wires to your new light fixture.
  • Screwdriver or drill with Phillips head screw chuckThis will be used to remove the existing fixture and install the fluorescent light. While you can easily use a screwdriver to remove the old light, a drill would be helpful when screwing your new light into the ceiling. It is very difficult to hold the light fixture while attempting to install screws overhead with a screwdriver.

Removing the existing light fixture

  1. The most important part of the entire task is to turn off the circuit breaker that controls the flow of power to the overhead light. if you're unsure which breaker is the correct one, turn the light on and turn off breakers individually until the light goes out.
  2. Using your screwdriver or drill, remove the two screws that are holding the existing light in place. Hold the fixture when loosening the screws, so it doesn't fall suddenly and hit you in the head. Beware of dust and debris that may be inhaled or get into your eyes. You may choose to use a dust mask and safety glasses when removing the old light fixture.
  3. Lower the light until it dangles by the power wires from the ceiling. Remove the black electrical tape and the wire nuts that are covering the connected wires. The wire nuts, which resemble the caps of toothpaste tubes, can be twisted counterclockwise to be removed.
  4. When both tape and wire nuts are removed, untwist the joined wires and lower the light fixture to the floor.

Installing the fluorescent light fixture

  1. The fixture will have a detachable plate between the outer bulb area and the enclosed top, to protect the wiring from being exposed. This metal plate is usually slotted and can be slid or squeezed to remove it. 
  2. In the center of the top portion of the light fixture, you will see a large round opening for the ceiling wires to enter. Pull the wires through this opening and push the light fixture against the ceiling.
  3. You will see two smaller holes that are equally distant from the center hole. Using your drill and screw chuck, you will attach the fixture to the ceiling through these holes with screws. Pull down gently on the fixture to be certain that it is securely fastened to the ceiling.
  4. Inside the light fixture, you will see a black wire, a white wire, and a green screw. Attach the black ceiling wire to the black wire and the white ceiling wire to the white wire by twisting the bare ends together in a clockwise direction. Twist a wire nut onto the ends of the connected wires in the same clockwise direction, then cover the open end of the wire nut with layers of electrical tape.
  5. Attach the green or copper ceiling wire to the green grounding screw that is attached to the light fixture, then replace the protective plate.
  6. Turn on the breaker before installing the fluorescent bulbs, so you will know if they are installed correctly. Each bulb end will have two prongs. You will turn the bulb until the prongs straight up and down, then slide the top prong on each end into the receptacles on each side of the light fixture. 
  7. You will then twist the bulb gently until the lower prongs enter the circular path inside the receptacles. When all prongs are engaged, the bulb will begin to flicker. Don't be discouraged if it takes a few attempts to line up the bulbs correctly. Connect the second bulb in the same manner. It may take a few minutes for the bulbs to reach their maximum brightness, because fluorescent bulbs rely on gases inside the bulbs to become heated to produce light.
  8. Snap the plastic cover onto the light fixture and bask in the glow of your new shop light.

If you have any issues with the above steps, visit a business like Conway Electric for help.


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