Furnishing

Fitting lights: step by step to your goal

Jana Janssen

Have you bought a ceiling or wall light, and are you wondering whether you can connect and fix it yourself? Yes, you can – if you follow some important safety precautions. Find out in our step-by-step guide what these precautions are and when you should call in an electrician to take care of the installation.

A man is standing on a ladder with a ceiling light in his hand. A woman is standing next to him, pointing to the ceiling.
© Getty Images/Westend61

In this article

Fitting a new light myself – can I do it?

Yes, even laymen are allowed to fit lights in their homes. Provided that the voltage doesn’t exceed 230 volts – which should be the case in private homes – and you switch off the fuse beforehand so that there is no current flowing to the relevant wires.

It’s not actually that tricky to fit a light. However, since electricity is involved, the following principle always applies: safety first. After all, an electric shock can be life-threatening. And you can be seriously injured if you fall off a ladder. That’s why it’s important to take a number of safety precautions. If in any doubt, it’s advisable to call an electrician. It only takes a few minutes to fit a light.

Tools for fitting lights – what do I need?

You shouldn’t attempt to do any DIY work in the house without the right tools. This is especially true for work on the electrical system. Phase testers, luster terminals and wire strippers will keep you safe.

  • Phase tester: a phase tester is a small screwdriver with an LED light on the end. You use it to check whether current is still flowing to the relevant part of the electricity circuit. If so, the LED will turn red. Before you use the device, you should test it at a power outlet. It can also be used to open luster terminals and to secure them again.
  • Luster terminals: these clamps in a plastic housing connect the wires from the ceiling or wall to the wires of the light. Most of the time, the luster terminals are already fitted, especially if an old light is still connected.
  • Wire stripper: you will need a wire stripper if the wires from the ceiling or wall are not yet or no longer exposed. In this case, you will need to use a wire stripper to cut away a few millimeters of the insulation so that you can easily connect the individual wires to the light via the luster terminals.
  • Ladder: when fitting lights on the ceiling, you will of course need a ladder. Be sure to position it securely so that it doesn’t tip over.
A man is standing on a ladder fitting a ceiling light. He is wearing a tool belt.

With the right tools, you can fit a light quickly and safely.

Step 1: switch off the fuse

The very first thing to do to avoid giving yourself an electric shock when installing your ceiling light is to switch off the fuse. Turning off the light via the switch is not enough. You should then use the phase tester to check whether you have switched off the correct fuse. To do so, hold the device up against the wires. If the LED light turns red, current is still flowing. In this case, try another fuse until you find the right one.

Step 2: disassemble the old light

If there is already a light on the ceiling or the wall, you will of course need to remove it. Depending on how it is attached, you may simply be able to take it down, or you may need to unscrew the bracket. Remove the wires from the old ceiling light – but if there is a small piece of plastic at the junction, make sure you leave it in place. This is the luster terminal.

Step 3: attach the luster terminals and connect the wires

If there aren’t any luster terminals, you must first attach them. To do so, open the screws of the terminals and guide the exposed ends of the wires from the wall or ceiling into the channels provided. Attention: don’t unscrew the little screws too much, or they may fall out. If the wires are not exposed, use a wire stripper.

Now take a closer look at the wires. How many are there? What color are they? There are differences depending on the age of the building. In new buildings, you can usually find three wires in the following colors:

  • Earth or ground conductor (PE): today, this is mostly coated in yellow and green, but in the past it used to be yellow and red. In old buildings, there may not be a ground conductor.
  • Neutral or zero conductor (N): today usually blue, but can be gray or yellow in old buildings.
  • Pole or phase conductor (L): today predominantly brown, but often black, or occasionally white or red.

It’s important to connect the wires from the light and the ceiling properly. The colors or designations must match. This means that the blue wire must be connected to the blue wire, the brown wire to the brown wire and so on. You should also pay attention to connecting the wires in the right order:

  1. Ground conductor,
  2. Neutral conductor and
  3. Phase conductor.

Once the wires are connected correctly, tighten the screws on the luster terminals.

A woman is connecting the wires of a light to the wires in the ceiling with the help of a screwdriver.

You can easily connect the wires between the light and the ceiling using luster terminals and a screwdriver.

Are there only two power cables on the ceiling or wall in your old building? If there is no ground conductor, don’t install lights unless they themselves have a ground wire. This is especially true for lights made of metal.

Lights with a ground wire don’t need a ground conductor connection, because the protective conductor is integrated into the light. They comply with protection class II, which should be indicated on the light. You can also recognize this by a symbol of two squares, one inside the other. If you are unsure, it’s best not to fit the light. Otherwise, the same principle applies as before: wires of the same color or type should be connected to each other. If you are unsure what kind of light you are dealing with, it’s advisable to contact a professional company.

Step 4: fit the new light

Depending on the type of fixation on your new light, you now need to hang it up or screw on the bracket. Refer to the instructions enclosed with your light. If you need to drill new holes, be sure not to hit any cables in the process. As a rule, these run horizontally and vertically along the shortest route to the light switch. But old buildings in particular can be treacherous. To be one hundred percent sure, use a testing device called a cable finder to detect the wires.

Step 5: test the light

Once your light is in place, screw in the bulb. Then switch the fuse back on so that the current starts flowing again, at which point the light should come on. If it doesn’t, switch the fuse off again, test the bulb in another room and check the cable connections. If you can’t find a fault, it’s best to consult an electrician in this case as well.

Conclusion: if in doubt, contact an electrician

Fitting a new light isn’t difficult if you follow the safety recommendations. If you are unsure or have no experience with DIY, we advise against attempting the job yourself. You’d be better off hiring a professional company to fit your electric lighting. You can rapidly obtain quotes from electricians in your area through Houzy.ch, for instance.

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