How to Install the Cover Plate for a Fluorescent Light

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Fluorescent light fixtures aren't typically what you think of when you imagine warm, cozy lighting for a home. The length of the bulbs means they throw a lot of light, and the bulbs are also very bright if left uncovered. A special cover, also called a lens or diffuser, blocks the sharp glare from a fluorescent light.

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Installing a cover plate for a fluorescent light is typically straightforward, but the exact process depends on the type of fluorescent light fixture you have. We'll outline the most common fixtures below. At most, you'll just need a pair of pliers or a screwdriver to install these fluorescent light covers, plus an appropriately sized step stool or ladder.

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Single Bulb Fluorescent Fixtures

Single bulb fluorescent fixtures have a cover that slides sideways for installation and removal. It's held in place by a nut that you tighten after placing the light cover. As the name implies, this type of cover is common for hanging fixtures that house just one fluorescent light bulb. The ballast, or the unit that houses the light bulb and the electrical equipment, will have a lip on each of the long sides that prevents the cover from sliding off the front or back.

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Hinged Fluorescent Light Covers

Hinged fluorescent light covers should already come attached to the overall fluorescent light ballast. Once you have screwed the ballast into the ceiling, you just need to learn how to close the cover correctly. Some models close simply, like a door, and are secured in place with levers that lay flat when locked in place.

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Other models will overlap the outside of the frame if you try to close them like a door. You'll see a small gap on the hinge side too. With the cover open just a few inches, push the entire cover toward the hinges and then finish closing the cover. Lock it in place again with the levers. If the diffuser inside a hinged light cover is broken and needs to be replaced, it should pop out with gentle pressure from the outside and a little gentle bending to nudge it in place.

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Wraparound Fluorescent Light Fixtures

Wraparound fluorescent light fixtures have a wide, flat bottom with short walls on the long sides. These short walls fold over again at the top so that they can sit on top of a ledge or lip on the light ballast. Line up the light cover and push one long side up and over the lip. Pull down until it locks into place on that lip. Repeat with the other long side.

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Flat Acrylic Covers

Some fluorescent light covers look like a poster board made out of plastic. They're thin and flexible, which allows you to bend them a little in order to install them into the ballast, such as the one removed by The Over Engineer in the demonstration video. You'll know you need this type of fluorescent cover plate if there is a rectangular frame hanging below the light bulbs. The cover sits on this frame.

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For fluorescent light installation using a flat acrylic cover, angle one short end diagonally to place it through the frame. Push the rest of cover in at an angle as well. If you get stuck at the other short end, you can gently bend the cover to push it into place. Too much force may snap it, however.

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