How-To Electrical
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Trans 1) Getting Started Trans
2) Electrical System Basics
3) Service Panel
4) Running Cable
5) Outlets
6) Switches
7) Installing Light Fixtures
8) Common Electrical Codes
9) Replacing Switches & Outlets
10) Repairing Lamps & Cords
11) Glossary

Installing Light Fixtures

installing chandelierThere are no hard-and-fast steps for installing light fixtures. Most new lights have diagrams and instructions which you should read over at least once before you get started.
In an add-on situation, you can run a new circuit. Or, you can draw power from an existing circuit. But too many devices can constantly trip a breaker so figure the circuit's load capacity before adding a light.

A big installation battle is just getting fixtures mounted properly. Normally, an extra cross brace is nailed up during the framing process.

If you're retro-fitting, you may have to tear out some wallboard to add extra bracing, or settle for locating the fixture's box on the nearest stud or joist.


Retro-fitting Recessed Lights


light housingUsually recessed lights are installed after framing and before drywall. Sometimes that step is forgotten or you may want to retro-fit a recessed light to enhance a room's lighting scheme.

For this project, we purchased a recessed fixture with a mounting bracket designed to fit through the hole.

Use the light's housing as a guide to mark the hole. Then use a keyhole saw to cut the hole.

NOTE: Remember, your circuits and some of these steps will probably be different. Keep insulation at least 3" away from recessed lights, unless light is marked "I.C." (Insulated Ceiling) to avoid overheating and fire.

frame bracketMark the location of the fixture. We ran incoming power directly to the light fixture then ran cable down to the switch to make a loop.

To mount the light, slip the frame brackets up into the opening. Position the fixture to set flush with the bottom of the wood framing. Fasten the frame to the joists by pounding in the metal teeth on its supporting arms.

Use small mounting clips included with the light to fasten it slightly recessed from the surface of the drywall.

Paint the area before putting in the reflector shield and bulb if you can. Then snap the shield into place.


Hanging Ceiling Fans

ceiling fanHow a ceiling fan is mounted depends on the model. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions.

We'll describe a few ways to mount a fan, but almost all of them need a special ceiling fan-rated junction box anchored to a ceiling joist.

Determine the location of the fan, usually in the center of the room. If you can't alter the location to be next to a joist, nail up a cross brace between the joists.


Nail up a junction box so it will set flush with the ceiling drywall. Then run the incoming power cable, leaving about 1' of extra cable for connections.

Hang drywall if needed at this point. Careful of the electrical cable, cut out around the outside edges of the box then finish anchoring the drywall.

Use a step ladder to rest the fan on and fasten the mounting bracket to the junction box. Connect the respective cable and fan wires together, securing each pair with a wire connector.

Lift the fan into position (make sure the decorative cover is on), fasten it to the mounting bracket, and slide on the decorative cover.


Mounting Track Lighting

Mounting Track LightingTrack lighting can add beauty and flexibility to a room's design scheme and it's fairly easy to install a new fixture on a finished ceiling.

Orient the track so the bulbs will face objects you want to light at about a 30° angle.

Mounting Track LightingIf you aren't replacing an existing ceiling light, you'll have to install a new junction box and run switched power to the box on a new cable.

Usually, a light kit will have connecting wires, but you can also make them. Cut a piece of cable long enough to tie in with the source cable and reach the track terminals.

Strip the cable and connect each wire to its source cable mate. Cap the connections with wire connectors and fold them in the box.

Feed the wire ends through the fixture's mounting plate and fasten it to the box.

Track lighting terminalsFeed the ends through the track opening at the terminals. Secure the track to the ceiling, either by screwing into the ceiling joists or using molly/toggle bolts.

Hook up the ground wire to the fixture's base plate. Strip the hot and neutral wires and secure them to the respective track terminals.

Then attach each light fixture onto the track. Follow the manufacturer's instructions, but some fixtures snap on and others attach with a bracket.

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