Kitchen Lighting Replacement

The lighting in the kitchen is the last upgrade in my total LED retrofit throughout the house.  These are the last florescent light fixtures remaining in the house as well.  Inside a recessed channel in the ceiling are six 4-ft, 2-bulb T12 fixtures and one 2-ft, 2-bulb T12.  Assuming these were original with the house, these are all over 20 years old.  At one point, I did replace all the 4ft bulbs with brighter daylight bulbs, but the time is now to completely replace the fixtures.

I estimated I could do this in a full day, so having July 4 off, I started around mid-morning.  First was taking down all the bulbs.  This is cathartic in that it’s a realization that I can finally get rid of all these bulbs.  Florescent bulbs are hazardous materials, so you shouldn’t just throw them in the garbage.  So, I’ve been storing all these bulbs waiting for them all to be done, so I can make one trip to the landfill.  So I have all the old bulbs from when I changed the other fixtures out a decade ago, too.  They’re all sitting in the shed, covered with bug waste.

Anyway, after all the bulbs were down, I took the time to plan how I would deconstruct all of this.  The 2ft fixture had a separate power line to it, coming from a distinct switch.  It was designed as a evening security light.  The romex power cable for it ran through the fixtures of the other lights along the way.  That highlights a particular situation that I have to resolve.  The bulb fixtures can be considered enclosures and you can splice wires inside of them.  With my new lights, I won’t have that luxury.  However, the new lights have linkable plugs to eliminate splicing, so it’s a mixed bag.  More on that later.

First, I began at the security light and began disconnecting power wires and unrouting the cable from fixtures back to the source.  Then I worked forward from the security light and again disconnected power wires.  What I was left with was a bunch on unsheathed pieces of copper wire from inside the fixtures, a large handful of yellow wire nuts, and a few small romex bits that ran between fixtures.  Additionally, I had one long romex cable that ran from the power source across the room to the security light.

I took a lunch break to give myself time to think about and prepare for what I was going to do next, which was taking down all the fixtures.  In at least two fixtures, the ballasts had begun to leak, which is pretty serious, not only because of impending failure, but also because it indicates overheating and could be a fire hazard.  Good timing, I suppose.  After lunch, I spent the time taking down the fixtures, which were much heavier than I expected them to be.  Good riddance.

Without much delay, I began installing the new lights.  I figured I could start at the source, then keep testing the lights as I added more and more to the chain.  That worked out pretty well.  I took a short break during a sudden popup storm with plenty of thunder and lightning.  I only had two more fixtures left to install along one wall.  It dawned on me I could install them with the lights on, then plug them in with the link cable afterwards, so even though it was cloudy and dark in the house, I could still work with light.

The last remaining part with the security light, which posed a small problem.  The power source required a splice with the long cable to get to the mounting position.  All splices have to be contained in junction boxes for safety (more on that later).  So to run the power for the security light, I had to mount a junction box and splice the extension inside it.  I don’t own a box.  So I ran down to Lowe’s and because of the holiday they were closing in 4 minutes when I got there.  So the project is on hold of the rest of the night.

Back to this splicing and junction box thing that I’ve been putting off.  I said that the new lights aren’t really designed to act as a junction box, and I did have to make a splice to hop over the space where the 2ft light would be mounted.  Right now, all the splices are exposed and that’s probably against code, so I’m going to have to mount some more junction boxes to hold those splices.

I reevaluated the connections and found I had enough length in the remaining extensions to bridge the lights that were currently spliced.  That resolved a huge problem and eliminated any hanging wires and unprotected splices.  So, with that conversion done, I only needed to install the small security light.

The 2ft light was on a 3-way switch, with one switch as a dimmer.  The light was specifically purchased as a dimmable LED, as well.  After getting it all wired up, there was an issue.  At full dimmer, the light would flicker like mad.  At the lowest dimmer, it was a respectable, smooth, low level.  Foregoing any chance that the dimmer could really be used, I accepted it as it was.

At various times the next nights, I felt like I perceived a light change outside the room.  It wasn’t lightning, and it wasn’t the security light turning on and off, but it was definitely the light.  It seemed like it was slowly growing brighter, then dropping back down to a dim level.  It appears, I’m not going top be able to have a dimmer switch on this circuit.