How to Remove Light Bulbs

17 03 2010

How to Remove Light BulbsHow to Make Removing Light Bulbs Easy

No matter which type of light bulb you choose to place in your fixture, it will burn out over time. You may see the bulb start to dim and decrease in intensity, or it may not turn on one day. Whenever this happens, it’s time to remove the light bulb from the socket and replace it with a new one. Although removing light bulbs is a simple process, there are important precautions you should take to ensure accuracy and safety every time.

Keep in mind that the success to removing light bulbs is dependent on how they are installed in the first place. Never overtighten the light bulbs, as this is the number one reason why light bulbs become stuck and are difficult to remove. Instead, when you replace the light bulb with a new one, make sure that you secure it gently by turning it in a clockwise direction until you feel resistance.

Turn on the power and if your light bulb lights up without flickering, you are done with the project. If it does not turn on however, you will need to turn the power source back off and turn the bulb slightly more. Following these simple steps will ensure that your light bulbs will not become stuck when removing them.

How to Remove Light Bulbs

Because you never know what can happen while removing a light bulb, it’s best to take precautions beforehand. After all, you will be working with delicate glass that can break or shatter at any time. Also, if using energy efficient light bulbs, these contain small traces of mercury that can be dangerous if exposed.

To remove an incandescent or energy efficient light bulb, first turn off the power source or unplug the lamp. If the bulb was previously lit and then burnt out, allow it to cool for five minutes. Next, grasp the bulb by its base in a steady, yet gentle manner. Because light bulbs are fragile and break easily, you want to handle them properly. Never grasp the bulb on the glass as this will cause it to shatter.

Turn the light bulb in a counterclockwise direction until the bulb comes loose. Remove the light bulb from the socket and dispose of it properly. You can then install a new light bulb by inserting it into the socket and turning it in a clockwise direction until secure, being sure not to overtighten the bulb.

How to Dispose of Light Bulbs

If disposing an incandescent light bulb, wrap it in paper or place it in a plastic baggie. That way if it happens to shatter, the glass won’t cut through the garbage bag. Because incandescent light bulbs are not hazardous waste, they can be disposed of with the regular trash each week. If you are looking for ways to be environmentally friendly, choose a creative way to reuse the light bulb instead of throwing it away. Some ideas include:

  • Christmas Ornaments
  • Hanging Vases
  • Painted Bulbs
  • Salt and Pepper Shakers
  • Lawn Decorations (painted as flowers)

If you are disposing an energy efficient light bulb however, you will need to do so properly. Although only small amounts of mercury are found in energy efficient light bulbs, it can be leaked into the water and soil if thrown away in the regular trash. Instead, contact your local sanitation department and ask if they recycle burnt out energy efficient light bulbs. If not, bag the bulb in two plastic bags, tying each of them securely. You then can dispose of them in your weekly trash.

How to Remove Light Bulbs That Are Stuck

Removing a light bulb that is stuck is not only frustrating, but sometimes you’re left with no choice but to unscrew it until it breaks. Because you will be handling broken glass, make sure that you are wearing the necessary gear to keep safe, including leather gloves and eyewear. Turn off the circuit breaker or unplug the lamp from its electrical outlet. Be sure that the bulb has cooled off as well.

Place a protective covering such as newspaper or a tarp underneath the light fixture to collect broken glass. Also locate a wooden stick, such as that from a broom or paint roller. Using a rag, cover the bulb and grasp it by its base. Turn the light bulb firmly to see if it will loosen. If not, tap it gently until the bulb breaks. Fit the wooden pole into the screw base and unscrew the base from the socket. You can also use a pair of pliers to unscrew the base if the wooden pole does not work.

If all else fails, use a potato or bar of soap instead. Make sure it is cut in half and that some of the broken glass is left in the bulb. Press the potato or bar of soap into the base and against the glass and turn. Be sure not to damage the electrical socket or let moisture in. It is important to note that this process should never be done on energy efficient light bulbs, as shattering them will release mercury into the air.

How to Remove Broken Light Bulbs

If the light bulb breaks unexpectedly and you are left with the remnants, you will need to take extra precaution. Not only are you handling broken glass, but energy efficient light bulbs contain traces of mercury that can be hazardous if exposed. If you happen to break an energy efficient light bulb, leave the room for at least 15 minutes. Open windows and doors to let in fresh air and turn off the heat or air conditioning in order to prevent the contaminated air from circulating. After 15 minutes, return to the room wearing a protective mask, gloves and eyewear. Clean up any broken glass on the floor with a wet rag; stubborn pieces of glass can be removed using stiff cardboard or a squeegee. Dispose of the rag and protective gear in a sturdy plastic bag and tie it shut. Then place the bag in an additional plastic bag and seal the contents.

Because incandescent light bulbs do not contain mercury, you do not have to evacuate the room if it breaks. However, you are still handling broken pieces of glass, so it’s important that you wear a pair of thick, leather gloves and protective eyewear. If you are removing a bulb from an overhead fixture, place a tarp or towel down underneath to catch any broken glass.

Once the above steps are completed, you may remove the rest of the light bulb using a pair of pliers. Insert the pliers into the base as far as you can. Apply a lot of pressure by pushing the pliers against the sides of the base and twisting them in a counterclockwise direction. You will continue turning the pliers until the base of the bulb is out of the light socket. If you get stuck, turn the base back slightly and try again.

Even the simplest projects can become difficult if not handled in the proper way. Always remember that when removing light bulbs, you are working with delicate glass and perhaps even mercury. For these reasons, you need to pay careful attention to removing the bulb and disposing of it properly. In order to reduce the amount of times you have to remove light bulbs, consider replacing them with energy efficient bulbs that use less power and have a longer lifespan.

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You may also be interested in our auto light bulbs article.

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