How To Install A Hanging Pendant Light Fixture
Originally contributed by James Ferry
James grew up working on a cattle ranch in Northern Utah, which taught him how to do many ad hoc repairs and to make use of limited materials. Two years of missionary and humanitarian work in the Philippines with Operation Smile instilled a great appreciation for the opportunity to work, to avoid wasting resources, and to help others. Now back in the U.S., James has worked as a programmer/data engineer for several Fortune 100 companies.
Hanging lights and pendant lamps are a delightful way to upgrade the decor of your kitchen, dining room, living room, or any space in your home. It’s a quick project that can significantly transform a room and elevate any style.
There are so many hanging light options to choose from!
We understand that electrical work can often be intimidating, especially if it’s your first time doing this type of thing, but installing your own hanging kitchen lights or pendant lamp is easy, safe, and can save you a ton of money by not having to hire an electrician.
Money which you can then use to buy more lights for other areas of your home! Or you can use the money you’ve saved on other things that light up your life. Okay, bad pun, but the sentiment is true!
We’ll shed some light on the steps for a hanging light installation and how to safely hang a light fixture so you can brighten up your space in style.
What You'll Need
- Wire Cutter (as needed)
- Hanging or Pendant Light
- Electrical Caps (usually come with new light)
- Electrical Tape
Shut Off Electricity
Before we start disassembling the hanging pendant lights, the electricity must be turned off. It is important to note that it’s not enough to simply turn off the light via the wall switch, as this will only turn off the light itself and not shut off the power current.
Go to the breaker box and find the area where the light will be replaced by examining the labelled section of the electrical panel. Flip the corresponding breaker switch to cut the power to that area.
Tip: If your breaker box doesn't have trustworthy labels, a voltage tester is recommended to have on hand. The device will light up or buzz when it detects a current, so can tell you if there is still power to the wires before they give you a shock.
Now that there is no power going to the hanging light fixtures, it can be safely removed.
If the existing pendant lamp is attached to a chain, lift the light to get a sense of its weight. It will have to be held during its removal, so it can be beneficial to have someone else holding the hanging light during disassembly.
Base plates are held in place by a screw or bolt. Unfasten the bolt to take off the baseplate. This will give you access to the mounting bracket and the wiring of the old hanging pendant light.
Unscrew Mounting Bracket
With the baseplate removed, it’s time to unfasten the mounting bracket, which supports the weight of hanging pendant lights. Unscrew the bracket from the electrical box embedded in the ceiling.
Info: Some mounting brackets have a green ground screw attached to them to hold the copper ground wire. It is unnecessary to remove the ground screw at this time.
Gently pull down the mounting bracket so that the wires of the hanging kitchen lights are exposed.
There will be three wires. The copper wire is the ground wire. The black wire is the hot wire, which carries electricity from the breaker to the light. The white wire is the neutral wire, which takes unused electricity back to the breaker.
To separate the wires from the existing light from those in the electrical box, twist the plastic electrical caps until they release the wires, and pull them apart. If the wire caps are covered in electrical tape, remove the tape, as well. Repeat this process until all three wires are disconnected.
Attach New Mounting Bracket
To understand how your specific hanging pendant light fixture needs to be installed, follow the manufacturer’s instructions. However, most hanging pendant lights adhere to the same installation principles, which we will outline.
Detach the baseplate from the new hanging pendant light fixture if it is connected.
Tip: Note how the baseplate is attached to the hanging light fixture so you can orientate the light fixture correctly.
Pass the wires through the hole in the center of the baseplate and then use a screwdriver to connect the baseplate to the electrical box using the screws provided with your new hanging light fixture.
Tighten the screws so that the baseplate is firmly attached to the ceiling and won’t move if pushed or touched. Pay careful attention not to over-tighten the screws, though, as this could bend the metal bracket or electrical box.
Match the black, white, and copper ground wires from the electrical box with the wires on the new pendant lamp or hanging light fixture.
Twist the wires together and secure them by fastening the new plastic electrical caps included with the new hanging light. To do this, simply screw the caps clockwise onto the end of the corresponding wires (hot wire with hot wire, neutral with neutral, ground with ground) using your fingers.
Repeat this process until all three wires are connected appropriately.
Info: For some hanging lights, there is a green screw on the mounting bracket to connect the ground wire. Bend the copper ground wire into a ‘U’ shape around the screw, and use a screwdriver to tighten the screw until the ground wire is firmly in place.
Wrap With Electrical Tape
Once all the electrical caps are attached, and the wires are durably joined together, wrap electrical tape around the caps on the hot and neutral wires. This will add more protection from the wires coming loose in the caps. If the hot and neutral wires come loose and touch, it could potentially lead to a short circuit, tripping the breaker.
Attach New Baseplate
Push the wires back into the electrical box, and attach the baseplate from the new hanging pendant light fixture. Tighten it in place, as per the manufacturer's instructions, with the screws or bolts provided.
Link Chains (If Applicable)
When installing hanging kitchen lights with a chain or chains, attach the chain(s) to the baseplate and the pendant light. Determine the amount of chain that is required to reach the desired length.
If the light requires two or more chains, ensure that each chain is the same length to level the pendant light fixture.
Cut Excess Chain (If Applicable)
If there are extra, unneeded chain links, remove the unused links by cutting them off with wire cutters.
Slide any slack electrical wires running through the chain to the hanging light back up to the ceiling through the base plate. The goal is to disguise the pendant light cord amongst the chain links.
Install Light Bulbs
How many DIYers does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Just one: you!
Put in the light bulbs that match the watts and volts of the new hanging pendant light fixture. The wattage and voltage will either be displayed somewhere on or near the light sockets themselves or in the manufacturer's instructions.
Turn On Electricity
Turn on the breaker that was shut off earlier so that power is once again running to the working area and the new hanging light fixture.
Now, let there be light! Flip the light switch on the wall, and admire your newly installed hanging pendant light fixture!
Hanging light installation wasn’t as hard as you thought, was it? Why not attempt some other DIY electrical projects in your home, and create the dream space you’ve always wanted! It’s never too light to learn new skills!