Fitting a Spotlight

A fairly common modification in the home these days is to replace a single pendant light fitting with a row of spotlights. This gives a better spread of light and, as most of the spotlights are movable one or two planes, the light can be configured to go where it is most needed.

Using Spotlights in the Home

These spotlight bars can be useful in any room but they are most often put into kitchens and bathrooms. The spotlights can be directed to illuminate particular areas and, most importantly in kitchens, eliminate shadows. They are also being installed in work rooms. People increasingly want a place to use computers away from the lounge, or even work from home.

Electrical regulations have been severely tightened up in recent years to the point where almost every electrical job on a home has to be done by an electrician. This has been done to improve the safety of electrical installations in the home and the workplace but it does make small jobs a lot more expensive for the home owner.

Isolating the Supply

Fortunately swapping electric fittings over is about the last thing left that you can do yourself, bar changing light bulbs. The most important thing is to remember how dangerous electricity can be.

The first step is to switch off the supply to the area where you will be working. Flip the switch on the circuit breaker or remove the relevant fuse, if you have an old fuse box rather than a modern consumer unit. If you are unsure which circuit supplies the area where you are going to install the spotlights, then turn the supply off for the whole home. Better safe than sorry.

Once you are sure the power is off, remove the bulb and shade from the existing fitting and unscrew the cap over the terminals. Make sure you have a platform to work from so that you aren’t stretching too much and get a second person to hold the new fitting up while you connect the wires. This will avoid stressing them by dangling the new spotlight fitting on them.

Finding the Switch Return

There should be two black wires, one of which will be the switch return and should go to the live terminal. If you are lucky this will already be marked with a red collar or tape.

If it isn’t, making sure the black wires are kept away from each other, turn the light switch off and the mains current back on. Then get a mains test screwdriver, and check each black wire; the screwdriver should not light. Turn the light switch on, repeat the test, and the black wire which lights up is the switch return.

Turn the power off again and connect the switch return wire to the live terminal. The other black wire should go to the neutral terminal. Any red wires should be connected to spare terminals on the new light fitting. Then connect the earth wires to the earth terminal.

Second Solution: Copy the Current Wiring

Another approach is to simply replicate the existing wiring. The exact configuration will depend on the number of lights and switches in the room and where the light fitting is on the circuit. But assuming you are simply replacing one fitting with another, and making no other changes, the wiring configuration will not change.

Go back to your notes so that you can replicate all the connections. You must also refer to the instructions that came with the new spotlight fitting. If there’s any discrepancy and you are not sure which wire to put where, you must stop immediately and hire an electrician.

Once all the wires are connected, turn the power back on again and test the light. Assuming it all works, turn the power off again and do the necessary work to fix the new spotlight fitting to the ceiling. Put the power on again, test again, and the job is complete.