Guide to Replacing Incandescent Light Bulbs

You've probably heard some variation of a “how many people does it take to change a light bulb" joke over the years. Here's another one to consider.


How many people does it take to replace an incandescent light bulb with an LED upgrade? The answer is one – you.


If you're unsure how to find the correct bulbs or what it takes to replace them, this brief guide will meet your needs.


Find the Appropriate Lumens for Your Light


The good news is that incandescent and LED bulbs typically use the same base. As long as you select a product that works for your existing fixture, the replacement process is straightforward.


  1. Carefully remove the incandescent bulb. Allow the outer surface to cool for a few minutes before starting the replacement process to prevent a potential burn if it just burned out.
  2. Dispose of the incandescent bulb appropriately.
  3. Install the LED bulb by screwing it into the fixture base. You'll want a tight connection, but please avoid over-tightening the product.
  4. Recycle the packaging components, if possible.


When you switch from an incandescent light bulb to an LED design, you'll notice that one product uses watts, and the other uses lumens.


Some LED bulbs have a wattage equivalent printed on their packaging materials, but that information isn't always available. Here's a simple conversion chart for you to reference to ensure the correct product gets installed.


Incandescent Bulb Wattage
LED Bulb Lumens
40-watt Incandescent Bulb 500 Lumens
60-watt Incandescent Bulb 800 Lumens
75-watt Incandescent Bulb 1200 Lumens
100-watt Incandescent Bulb 1600 Lumens
150-watt Incandescent Bulb 2800 Lumens


Most fixtures, especially in older homes, are built to handle the higher wattage levels of incandescent lights. That's why you can provide a direct replacement with an LED alternative to see immediate energy use reductions.


The one exception is if you have dimmable incandescent bulbs at home. Older switches are not compatible with LED lights, which means you'll need to upgrade the hardware and the bulb before you'll get the results you want.


Most Incandescent Styles Have LED Alternatives


You'll find LED bulbs are available for lamps of types, shapes, styles, and sizes. This technology is designed to outlast the traditional fluorescent, halogen, or incandescent options used for the past several decades.


When searching for the best LED light for your needs, it's important to review the base type you need for your fixtures. Most people have A19 incandescent lights installed at home, which means you'll need to find the same base to have a compatible upgrade.


Smaller bases, like you can find on candle-style bulbs, are typically on an A21 base. You'd need to get a product with the same construction – and ensure the fixture isn't on a dimmer.


Today's LEDs come with the option to replace the entire fixture instead of the bulb. If you have a ceiling light or something in a challenging location to manage, it might be easier to invest in a more significant upgrade. You can still pick from different color tones and smart technologies in this category to get the results you want.


What If I Can't Get the Incandescent Bulb Out of the Fixture?


Although the process of replacing an incandescent light with an LED alternative is straightforward, there can be times when the work doesn't go smoothly. The most common issue to troubleshoot is a stuck bulb.


Here are the steps to follow if you encounter this issue.


  • Turn the power off to the fixture. You can unplug lamps and other lights from the receptacle. The best solution is to turn off the breaker. Keep it taped to prevent somewhat from accidentally flipping it on while working.
  • Put on personal protective equipment. You'll want to have safety glasses on and have gloves that can resist glass shards in case the incandescent bulb shatters.
  • Choose an extraction method for the bulb. A suction cup tool is often effective if you have a flat bottom inside a ceiling fixture, such as a recessed light. Another option is to use duct tape to create a handhold. Just remember to wait until the surface is cool to ensure you get a solid hold.


Once the old bulb is out, you can place the LED alternative in its place. It might help to place a small amount of silicone spray in the fixture to lubricate the threads. If you put your hands into the base receptacle area, take a moment to wipe it out first to avoid hand oils from causing potential disruptions.


What If the Light Bulb Breaks During Extraction?


If the light bulb shatters when removing it, you must still get it out of the fixture to finish the LED upgrade. The easiest tool to use is a pair of pliers, especially if most of the incandescent bulb is still intact.


Another trick is to use a raw potato. Make sure the switch is still off. Then cut the potato in half, pressing it firmly against the socket to get enough leverage to twist the base.


A broken bulb extraction tool might be necessary should those options not work.


Once the broken bulb is out, you can clean the fixture and install the LED alternative. If the glass from the incandescent breaks, please remember to clean up the area thoroughly to avoid leaving glass splinters on the floor.

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