How to Change Downlight

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Written by Tristan Cameron

Downlights are versatile light fittings found in many Sydney homes. They provide a directed light source and are found in kitchens, especially over islands, or in studies over a desk. 

Downlights are installed in the ceiling and require a large hole to be drilled for the fitting to be attached. 

Like with all lights, bulbs blow and need to be replaced. While a professional electrician should do any form of electrical work, some downlights can be changed by an experienced DIYer.

Here’s our guide on how to change your downlights.

The Three-Step Process

If you’re prepared to give it a go yourself, it’s a straightforward process requiring three steps. If you encounter any issues with any step (see section below), call us at North Shore Electricians immediately.

1. Check Your Existing Downlights

Before you consider whether you can replace the downlights yourself or not, you need to inspect the current installation.

If the existing downlight fitting only needs to have the bulb removed and replaced, you’re in luck, this is the most straightforward of projects, and you can handle this alone. Be sure to look at the number on the bulb so you’re replacing like for like.

If the entire fixture needs to be replaced, you’re better off contacting a professional.

2. Choose Your Replacement Bulbs

Are the existing bulbs in your downlights halogens? It’s time to consider upgrading to LEDs. 

LEDs have significant advantages over halogens:

  • 80% more energy efficient: saving you money on your electricity bill
  • Cool to the touch: more manageable to handle for replacing
  • Shatterproof: less chance of damage or injury
  • Produce less thermal waste radiation: better for the environment
  • Better colour temperature: halogen lights have a yellow tinge, LEDs are white or with a blue tinge

At first, LED bulbs may seem more expensive than standard halogens, but the savings will be evident almost immediately in your next electricity bill.

3. Change Your Downlights

Removing an old bulb and replacing it with a new one is easy. 

Most downlights are removed by one of two methods. Twist them in a counter-clockwise direction until they pop out, or if there’s a metal clip holding them in, you just need to release it.

Installing the new bulb means reversing the process; either clip it back on or twist it clockwise until it meets resistance. 

Avoiding Accidents When Replacing Downlights

Any form of electrical work in a home, even replacing a bulb, can be dangerous, so you must take as many precautions as possible. 

  • Turn the power off: First, be sure to switch the power off at the switchboard, not just the light switch. You want to be doubly sure you don’t put yourself at any risk of a power surge.
  • Don’t work at night: As you’ve turned everything off at the mains, you still need light to see what you’re doing; working during the day allows for natural light to illuminate your workspace.
  • Wear gloves: Rubber gloves can protect your hands; be sure they’re completely dry before touching the bulbs.
  • Don’t stand on chairs or tables: Your downlights are likely quite far from the ground. Be sure to use a proper ladder to get to the bulbs. Standing on lounge or kitchen furniture doesn’t provide enough stability.
  • Stop if it’s too complicated: there’s nothing worse than pushing ahead if it’s getting too complex, possibly resulting in an injury. Stop what you’re doing and call a professional.

What Can Go Wrong With Replacing Downlights

On the surface, replacing a downlight bulb looks straightforward enough, but some things might unexpectedly occur.

  • Incorrect model: if your downlight bulbs haven’t been replaced in a while, especially if they’re halogens, the existing model may no longer be available. Finding a replacement may be difficult.
  • Incorrect size: you may have found what you thought was a replacement model only to find the physical dimensions aren’t correct. Either the bulb is too big and can’t fit, or it’s too small and falls out.
  • Wrong colour temperature: if you’re replacing LEDs with others and you pick the wrong colour temperature, it may completely change the aesthetic that you’re used to, resulting in an uncomfortable feeling in the room.
  • Improper installation: no matter how many YouTube videos you watch, there is no one-size-fits-all downlight replacement process. If your fitting is particularly fiddly or has been poorly installed, you may have issues replacing the bulbs. 

Why You Should Choose North Shore Electricians to Replace Downlights

At North Shore Electricians, we’ve been replacing downlight bulbs and fittings across Sydney for over 20 years, and in that time, we’ve come across some interesting installations.

As you can see from the issues listed above, anything could go wrong if you’re attempting to do it yourself, and any damage to the socket or injury to yourself could result in additional costs.

If the entire fitting needs to be replaced, that’s not a project for a DIYer, and you need to hire a professional. Let one of our expert team handle the process for you.

Any electrical work done on a property must be reported to your energy provider and the Department of Fair Trading in the form of a certificate of compliance for electric work (CCEW).  We will complete and lodge for you.

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