How To Change Recessed Lighting Bulbs [Step By Step]

Recessed lighting is gorgeous. It has been around for a while, and it’s likely here to stay. Occasionally, you’ll need to change the bulb of a recessed light. The process is a little different than that for standard lights. We’ve researched the topic for you and found some helpful steps and tips.  

How to change recessed lighting:

  1. Gather your equipment: a ladder and duct tape.
  2. Turn off the light.
  3. Tear off some duct tape and fold it in a loop.
  4. Stick the duct tape to the front of your shirt and climb the ladder with the new bulb.
  5. Press the duct tape onto the light bulb. Twist it counterclockwise until it is unscrewed.
  6. Attach the duct tape to the new light bulb. Twist it clockwise until it is securely attached.

Fortunately, this process is easy once you understand it. Keep reading to get more in-depth information about the steps. 

Ceiling with recessed light bulbs, How To Change Recessed Lighting Bulbs [Step By Step]

How To Change Recessed Lighting Bulbs

1. Gather your equipment: a ladder and duct tape

First, you'll want to get your equipment. You need a ladder to safely reach the recessed light bulb. Generally, standard A-frame ladders will do the job.

But pay attention to the ceiling height. For example, use a 6-foot ladder if your ceiling is 8 to 10 feet high.

Here is a great 6-foot ladder you can use. Click here to see it on Amazon. 

And you'll need duct tape to remove it. Yep, duct tape! Surprisingly, duct tape is an easy-to-use, common household item that can be used to remove and insert recessed light bulbs. In fact, you probably have duct tape in your miscellaneous drawer.

2. Turn off the light

Of course, you need to turn off the light switch prior to unscrewing the light bulb. You would not want to accidentally burn yourself!

As long as you turn off the light switch, then the light bulb is not using the power. Thus, it won't get warm or hot. There's no need to completely turn off the power. 

Turn on another light source so you can work. This way you can have enough light to see what you're doing. For instance, you can use a floodlight. 

If you're in the market for a floodlight for your workshop, then look no further than Amazon. Here is a great floodlight that can be used for all your DIY needs. Click here to see it on Amazon.

Alternatively, you can simply use a regular lamp. This makes sense if you don't do a lot of at-home projects. 

3. Tear off some duct tape and fold it in a loop

Depending on the size of your hands, you will need to tear off about 8 to 10 inches of duct tape. For small to medium-sized hands, you will need about 6 to 8 inches of duct tape. However, large hands will probably need about 10 to 12 inches of duct tape. And it doesn't have to be perfect; a rough estimate is fine. 

After you tear it, fold the duct tape with the sticky part facing outwards and the ends overlapping by about 1 inch. Now you should have a hollow loop. 

If you don't have any duct tape at home, then try this heavy-duty silver duct tape. Click here to see it on Amazon.

4. Stick the duct tape to the front of your shirt and climb the ladder with the new bulb

First, place 4 fingers inside the hollow loop. This will help prevent the loop from collapsing. Next, place the duct tape on the front of your shirt where you are not likely to accidentally squash the loop. Plus, it's for safety!

If the duct tape is on your shirt, then you are not trying to hold the tape while climbing the ladder. Also, you are not fumbling with the roll of tape at the top of the ladder. This could lead to a nasty fall!

Again, safety is the priority! Carefully climb the ladder with the new, unwrapped bulb. Set it aside once you get to the top. 

By the way, this might be a great time to buy an accessory for your ladder. This bag attaches to your ladder and holds small to medium-sized items and tools. For instance, you can set the new bulb inside it while you work. Click here to see it on Amazon. 

5. Press the duct tape onto the light bulb. Twist it counterclockwise until it is unscrewed.

Removing Old Flood Light Bulb

So, this might need a little more breakdown -

  1. Gently peel off the duct tape from your shirt.
  2. Place your fingers through the loop that you created.
  3. Make your hand into a fist.
  4. Now you can gently press upwards into the light bulb so the tape grabs the surface of the light bulb. 
  5. Using the loop, turn the bulb counterclockwise until it is unscrewed. 
  6. Again, you can use the loop/tape to remove the bulb. 

Notice how there is no need to remove the trim. The purpose of removing the trim when changing the bulb is to allow enough room for your hand to grip and twist the light bulb. So you can eliminate this step if you use duct tape!

6. Attach the duct tape to the new light bulb. Twist it clockwise until it is securely attached.

Overall, this process is similar to how you attach it to the old bulb. Here's a little more detail -

  1. Peel off the duct tape from the old bulb. Again, do this gently so you don't mess up the hollow loop.
  2. Attach the duct tape to the new bulb. 
  3. Place your fingers in the loop.
  4. Twist the bulb counterclockwise until it will no longer move. 

How-To Tutorial

Okay, those were a lot of steps. If you want a visual, watch this helpful tutorial:

Can I use LED bulbs in recessed lighting?

Yes, you can use LED bulbs in recessed lighting. In fact, LED bulbs can be used in most light fixtures. In general, the main factors you should consider are - 

  • Wattage/Watts/W
  • Voltage/Volts/V
  • Size

Usually, you can find the maximum wattage and voltage on the socket of the light fixture. For instance, if the light socket says Max 120V and Max 60 watts, then it can only handle up to 120 volts and 60 watts. This means that light bulbs that require higher voltage or wattage will not work or will burn out quickly. 

Close-up LED bulbs

Likewise, most of the information will be included at the end of the light bulb, as shown above. In particular, these LED bulbs can handle 200-240V and 6W.

Typically, you should measure the diameter of the light fixture in millimeters or inches. Of course, the LED bulb should not exceed the diameter of the recessed light fixture. 

How long do recessed LED light bulbs last?

Since LED light bulbs use less voltage and wattage than most standard light bulbs, they tend to last longer. But certain factors affect how long they last, such as - 

  • Length of time
  • Temperature

For the length of time, LED lights do not last as long if they are on at all times. For instance, the lights at grocery stores usually remain on. Also, LED lights do not last as long if they get too warm or too hot. For example, indoor holiday lights are generally clustered together and on at all times. Thus, they get hot, and they will burn out faster. 

Typically, LED bulbs will last 50,000 hours. For residential use, this roughly translates to 17 years. However, the product details will usually specify its lifespan.

Here is a pack of dimmable LED light bulbs that will last up to 10,000 hours. Click here to see them on Amazon.

What kind of bulbs go in recessed lights?

Multiple types of bulbs can be used for recessed lights. Aside from LED bulbs, you can use incandescent, halogen, and fluorescent bulbs.

Overall, fluorescent and LED light bulbs are the best choices. They are both bright and energy-efficient. In fact, the LED light bulbs that you use in your home typically use 75% less energy than incandescent light bulbs. 

However, fluorescent bulbs have more color options than LED bulbs. Yet, LED bulbs are non-toxic. Thus, they can be disposed of easily. 

How do you change a recessed light bulb with a cover?

Round lamp with turned on bulb, ventilation hatchway and sensor of fire safety are on suspended ceiling. Copy space

Sometimes there is a cover in the way of removing the recessed light bulb. First, try to move the cover by applying pressure to it and shifting it counterclockwise. If it does not move, then you have to remove the trim. Follow these steps - 

  1. Use both hands to grip the trim and pull.
  2. Pull it towards you until the trim and canister pop out. 
  3. Unplug the two wires and squeeze together the two springs to release the canister. 

Voila! You can now access the light bulb. Check out this video to learn more: 


Overall, you can easily change your recessed lighting bulbs by yourself. All you really need are a ladder, some duct tape, and your hands. 

We hope these steps were helpful. Good luck!

Since you already have recessed lights, go ahead and check out some other articles - 

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