It’s been a minute since I’ve shared a Shop Upgrade Series installment with you so let’s remedy that today! I promise this one is super quick and requires only basic tools.
Earlier this year I swapped out my hardwired lights in the garage for some LED strip lights. Like most standard garage lights, the bulbs were not protected by a fixture. I cannot tell you how many times I would hit one with a board and break the bulb or have it burn out a few days later. (I’m going to be honest with you all. I hate changing light bulbs. No matter how simple it is, I put it off until I can’t put it off any longer. I really hated changing garage lights.) Something else I did not like about the original lights was that they were never very bright, even if I bumped up the wattage of my bulbs. Here’s what I started with.
I knew I wanted the new lights to be LED strip lights that flush mounted to the ceiling. Due to the configuration of some installations in my garage, I had to look for something on the shorter size. The most common size is 4’ for this style of light but it would have been too long for me. Lastly, I wanted a good deal on the lights. I’ll admit it. I’m cheap. I don’t like to spend more money than I have to. After a lot of searching, I settled on these lights from Menard’s.
They are only 2’ long which was perfect for me. These are also a “cold weather start” which means that there is no waiting for them to warm up and get to the full light output. Once they are on, they are on. Better yet, they were only $30 each.
If you’ve never installed or swapped out a light fixture, don’t let it intimidate you! It is one of the easiest home improvement tasks you can do. Promise. As long as you make sure the power is off, you’re good to go! The only thing that could make it easier is a third arm to hold up the fixture while you work.
Let’s get started! First things first, turn off the power to the lights. Your breaker box should have a list of what breaker goes to what set of lights. Find the one that corresponds to where you’re working and turn it off.
There are meters you can use to test to make sure there is no power to the area you’re working in. They are a good thing to have. Of course, you can always use the method my dad has used for years. Just turn off the light switch and get to work. I don’t recommend this, folks. Really. Turn the power off at the breaker box.
Once you have the power off, remove the old fixture.
Ideally, you’ll have a white wire, a black (or red) wire, and a green or copper wire. The white is your neutral, black or red is hot, and green or copper is your ground wire. It’s tons of fun when the home builders paint over the wires and then you can’t really tell which is which color. Take the wire connector caps off and separate the wires in the fixture from the wires in the ceiling.
From here, each light is different so the next steps I take may not necessarily be the same steps you will need to take. Simply follow the instructions that come with your fixture to figure out what you need to do.
Holding the light in place, I marked the holes where screws will go to hold the light to the ceiling.
I then, obviously, drilled the holes.
I inserted a molly anchor into the hole until it was secure. You may need to use a mallet to assist you. You’ll add the screw later after the light wires are connected.
This part will be the same on all fixtures. Connect the wires from the new light to the wires in the ceiling the same way you took the old ones apart. For these lights, a yellow wire was used as the ground wire.
Tuck all of the wires back into the light box and secure the new light in place with screws (or however the directions tell you to).
That’s it! This light had a few extra steps from a lot of the other lights I’ve changed out so it took me a bit longer but even still, it was only about 15 to 20 minutes per fixture.
This installment was not completely error free. When I bought the lights, I did not take into account that the width of the light box was bigger than the width of the light fixture. All the face palm emojis here. I thought I had taken a picture of this but it was no where to be found in my camera roll. You’ll have to settle for a really bad screen capture from a video but it’s enough to get my point across.
It would have driven me nuts to leave it as is so, after a quick brainstorming session, I came up with a solution. I have a stack of lattice/wood lath boards. I love having these on hand because I have found so many uses for them. That’s a post for another day, though. Anyway, they were the perfect size to make a frame around the light fixture. I cut them down to the correct length on my miter saw. I painted them with my signature shop color (because why not) and nailed them up around the fixture. Easy peasy, problem solved. Thank goodness!
Oh! Don’t forget to turn the power back on!
I’ve had these lights up for a few months now so I can give you a bit of a review on them. I love the fact that I have not had to change a bulb since these were put up. That in itself makes it worth it and why I love LEDs. No bulb changing. Because the light housing is plastic, I don’t have to worry about breaking anything when I accidentally hit it with a board (which happens often). There is a small lag, just a couple seconds, when you flip the switch to turn the lights on and the lights actually coming on. The first time I turned them on, I thought I screwed up the installation. Nope, they just take a second or two but once they come on, they are on full power. I do wish they were brighter. Part of that may have to do with my garage setup, though. They are at least as bright as the highest wattage bulb I had in the old fixtures so I didn’t go backwards. I just remedy that with the supplemental lights I put up last year. You can find them in my 30 Day Shop Upgrade post.