How to Know When You Can’t Install a Light Fixture Yourself: A 5 Minute Guide

how to install a light fixture

The Do It Yourself movement is hardly new at this point, but it is still going strong across the nation. People think they can quickly learn how to install a light fixture or rewire a circuit, and therefore don’t need to call and pay a licensed electrician for it. Something about doing the work yourself, really shaping your house into a dream home, appeals to the American psyche. 

There are many jobs around the house that don’t require the assistance of licensed electricians: light fixture installation is usually one of those cases. But not always. DIY electrical safety is an important aspect, as each year, thousands of people in the United States are critically injured and electrocuted in their own homes.

There are a number of factors that might mean you should consult an electrician when attempting to install a light fixture. In this five-minute guide, we will teach you how to recognize the two biggest clues that you need a full service electrician for your light fixture installation.

1. Check the Amperage

If you’re looking at how to install a light fixture, then you’ll discover that amperage is a key factor in the process. The first thing you need to do is find out the amperage, or the strength of the electrical current that is sent from your home’s circuit. 

Then, compare the value with the wattage needed by your new light fixture installation. If the wattage is too high for your circuit’s amperage, then you either need to find another light fixture, or you will need to run an additional wire from your circuit breaker to the fixture. 

This task is not an easy one, not even for an experienced DIY-er. It’s not only difficult, but it also poses a great risk when performed incorrectly. After all, 20% of house fires are the result of faulty outlets and cords — and running an additional wire requires the experience and expertise of a licensed electrician. If the wires are not fastened tight enough, it could lead to arcing. This occurs when two electrodes produce a plasma discharge, because the current has to jump a gap. These arcs can reach very high temperatures, which leads to electrical fires. A fire could also occur if and when a circuit breaker is double tapped.

2. Determine If Your Wiring Has High Heat Insulation

While the insulation of your wiring might not seem like a big concern, the fact is that many light fixtures today absolutely require it. Without the proper insulation to the wiring, the insulation will begin to deteriorate and crack.

If you have an older home that has not had its electrical wiring renovated, then you should consider reaching out to an electrician to install your lighting fixtures. This way, you’ll be able to avoid the myriad of issues that might arise from the wrong sort of wires. In fact, if your home is older than 40 years, then you should most likely consider a whole house rewiring. That is because you likely have aluminum wiring, which was very popular from the mid-1960s to late 70s. Aluminum wiring is more prone to electrical issues than copper.

The Bottom Line

It’s easy to understand the DIY craze. It allows you to take full ownership of your space and make it your own. But not every job can or should be performed by an amateur electrician. This specifically applies to jobs that involve wiring. Even if, technically speaking, anyone can go out, buy a light fixture and install it where another fixture already existed, it’s not always that simple.

If it’s a ceiling light fixture with a fan, things can get complicated. Location is also a factor, as it impacts the difficulty of running and connecting wires and switches. When in doubt, it is generally best to contact an electrical contractor for any project around the home. 

Electricians have years of experience and the knowledge that can keep your family safe, even for a task that is as simple as a light fixture installation. But this is especially true if the task turns out not to be so simple after all, such as installing chandeliers, recessed lighting or more intricate setups. 

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