View Full Version : How many Rain Men does it take to change a light bulb?

Rain Man
06-10-2007, 10:41 AM
When we remodeled our kitchen, we put in these kind of cool-looking lights on the ceiling. They're halogen fixtures, and one of them burned out a week ago or so.

Yesterday was my day to replace the bulb, so my wife got an extra bulb, and I climbed up on our bar stools (one foot per stool) to replace this bulb.

Not happening. Our ceilings are pretty tall, and it appeared that you had to reach over the top of the fixture to replace the bulb. (The fixture hangs down from the ceiling.) I couldn't reach over it, so after wandering the house for a bit and not finding something taller to stand on, I finally broke down and went to the hardware store and bought a ladder.

I brought the ladder back, climbed up on it with the new light bulb, and .... there was a metal plate sealing off the top of the fixture. Dagnab it.

The metal plate was held in place by three "screws". I put the word "screws" in quotes because two of them weren't the correct screws. One of the three was a convenient factory-made screw that had a big, convenient thumbscrew kind of deal, and it came off in about 10 seconds. The other two were real screws, one of which had been destroyed when it was installed.

I looked over at the other two fixtures, and they had the nice little thumbscrews in all three spots.

Back down the ladder, get a screwdriver. It's too big, because these screws are tiny.

Back down, search around, finally find a little tiny screwdriver. I got the non-destroyed screw out, but the destroyed screw had nothing for the screwdriver to grip, and it just flat-out wasn't moving.

Grumble, grumble. I mess with it and mess with it and mess with it, and it some point I bumb the glass cover underneath the light.

Well, hey, you can push this thing up.

I push up on it, and I can see the light bulb now, though it's still covered by a second glass shield.

Okay, so now I can raise the glass cover, but it's round, and as we all know from manhole cover design, you cannot pass a round object through a round hole of the same diameter. I work this thing and work it and work it, and it's not coming out. However, I can at least position it where I'm not having to hold it. The challenge then became that I only had a working space of about 1.5 inches by 7 inches to access the bulb.

After another 20 minutes, I figure out how to take off the second glass shield inside. It was just a clip, but it hooked to each side of the housing in a different way, so it took a while to figure out since I could only see it through the gap in the glass cover.

Now I've got the light bulb exposed, and it's only cost me $7 for the spare bulb and $57 for a ladder.

I've never changed a halogen bulb before, so I consulted the instructions that came with the fixture to see how the bulb came out of its little mounting. After looking at it and squinting up through the little gap for a while and seeing nothing familiar, I finally figured out that the instructions were for a different type of fixture. The wrong instructions had been put in the box, I guess.

My next hope was that the burnt-out bulb would just snap out, but NOOOOOOOOOO. Another half-hour of fiddling with it, and it simply wasn't moving. I finally gave up and located two nuts on either side of the unit that housed the bulb. It looked like if I could get them loose, I could pull the whole housing down and disassemble it.

The problem, though is that these nuts were large (insert genitalia joke here), and the electrical wiring went through the middle of them, which meant that I couldn't get a socket over them. I own one open-ended wrench, with a somewhat mysterious number 14 being its only label, and I slid it up into the gap. Barely too small. I put some of those pliars-type wrenches up there, but they were too large to fit through the 1.5-inch gap.

Grumble, grumble. Nothing left to do. I went back to the hardware store to get a bigger open-ended wrench. I showed mine to the guy and said, "I need a bigger one than this, but just barely." He informed me that it was a 14-mm wrench, and pointed me to the right place.

To be completely safe, I bought 1 15-mm and a 16-mm wrench, for another $17. I went back home.

The 15-mm was barely too small.

The 16-mm was barely, barely too small.


Back to the hardware store. Bought a 17-mm and an 18-mm. $18.

The 17-mm was too big.


By fiddling with it through the 1-inch gap, I finally positioned it to lock onto one of the nuts, but I couldn't get any rotation because of the 1-inch gap. Finally I went to the other nut, repositioned everything, and was able to get the wrench (loosely) onto it from the end. So in essence, I'm trying to use the wrench like a screwdriver, pointing it perpendicular to the nut and trying to twist it that way.

Not happening.

I was considering just burning the house down for the insurance money, and suddenly I saw it.

The first nut, the one that I couldn't rotate, wiggled.


Apparently, my work on the second one had actually loosened the first one. I got my fingers up there, and sure enough, it moved.

Bingo. Once I got it loose, the whole housing fell down, and the light bulb actually fell out. Hallelujah!

Of course, it was a different type of light bulb than the one my wife had bought, which was the one in the instruction manual. You know, the wrong one.

Back to the hardware store. Buy the right bulb, reassemble the housing like building a ship in a bottle, put the housing back, tighten the nuts just barely barely barely enough to hold this thing, wash it down in alcohol to keep it from blowing up, put the glass housing back on, put the glass cover back in place, put the new screws back on.

Let there be light!

So the bottom line is that it cost me $106 to replace this light bulb ($7 for wrong bulb, $57 for ladder, $35 for wrenches, $7 right bulb), and about 2.5 hours of time.

I've got two more of these fixtures in my kitchen, so I think I have to sell the house before their bulbs burn out. My question is, do I have to tell potential buyers about these fixtures, or is that a caveat emptor kind of thing?

Hammock Parties
06-10-2007, 10:46 AM
I'm impressed you did all that in 2.5 hours. How close is the hardware store?

Rain Man
06-10-2007, 10:48 AM
I'm impressed you did all that in 2.5 hours. How close is the hardware store?

It's a block and a half from my house. That's the only thing that kept me from putting a screwdriver through my brain pan.

06-10-2007, 10:49 AM
I hope you didn't touch that halogen bulb with your fingers or you'll be replacing it again in a couple weeks.

Hammock Parties
06-10-2007, 10:51 AM
In situations like these I usually become frustrated and destroy whatever infernal piece of equipment I'm grappling with. Then I can just buy a new one.

Speaking of which, most halogen fixtures run around $100 if the home depot website is any indicator.

06-10-2007, 10:52 AM
80. One to construct a survey in respect to the number of light bulbs to change, in what order they should be replaced, what wattage to use, and the choice between halogen and incandescent. Then 79 to provide a representative, statistically significant sampling.


Hammock Parties
06-10-2007, 10:54 AM
80. One to construct a survey in respect to the number of light bulbs to change, in what order they should be replaced, what wattage to use, and the choice between halogen and incandescent. Then 79 to provide a representative, statistically significant sampling.


Or he could just hire DaFace to do it.

06-10-2007, 01:29 PM
Wow. Bad day. Sorry Rain Man. Working on a farm for several years, I have had days like that. Even though I didn't get the bill for it, I got to hear about DAD getting the bill for it.

06-10-2007, 03:52 PM
You shouldn't have to replace a halogen bulb that quickly. I hope there aren't problems with that fixture. I'd have called your contractor back after discovering the rigged fixture.

06-10-2007, 04:11 PM
$35 for 4 metric wrenches? You couldv'e bought a whole set of cheap metric and SAE wrenches for that much.

Oh, and it probably was a SAE wrench instead of 17mm.

06-11-2007, 10:49 AM
Builder/installer didn't disclose this FU......

Why Didn't you replace the FU screw that fell out...with a new one? while it was apart. Don't touch a Halogen with bare hands. Oil will drastically shorten their life.