Fluorescent lights are big, bright lights that are common in a variety of spaces, including schools, office buildings, and homes. Fluorescent light bulbs produce light through a chemical reaction inside of a glass tube, which illuminates a coating on the bulb to produce a bright white glow.
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Although fluorescent light bulbs are more efficient and have a longer lifespan than older lighting technologies — namely incandescent light bulbs — they do eventually burn out. If your fluorescent light won't turn on when you flip the switch, it's time to remove the bulb.
How to Remove a Fluorescent Light Bulb
1. Turn Off the Lights
Switch off the lights before you begin this project to avoid getting an electrical shock when you remove the bulb. At the very least, flip the wall switch to the light. You can take an extra step by shutting off power to the light from your breaker box.
2. Remove Light Cover
If the light bulb you're removing is high up on the ceiling, use a step ladder to reach it — ask a partner for help stabilizing you so you don't fall. Remove the cover, diffuser that's over the fluorescent bulb. Use your pliers to twist the cover's caps counterclockwise until they come off. Then, you can carefully remove the cover and place it somewhere safe while you continue the project.
3. Remove the Fluorescent Bulb
Before grabbing the bulb, test it to make sure it isn't hot to the touch. Gently touch the back of your hand to the bulb. If it's cool, go ahead and remove it.
Slowly rotate the bulb clockwise with your hands on either end of the bulb and your thumbs underneath it to support it. Once it's completely loose, carefully pull the bulb out of its position into a vertical alignment. Pull it towards you and put it in a safe place.
Because fluorescent light bulbs contain small amounts of mercury, they are considered household toxic waste. That's why it's so important to handle them with care. When you're done with the bulb, do not throw them in the trash or recycling — most municipalities have hard rules about this. Instead, take them to a household hazardous waste disposal site or do research to see if there is a fluorescent bulb recycling program near you.