Creating a Happy, Colorful, Handmade Home & life on the shores of lake superior

November 30, 2015

How to Update Pot Lights without Replacing the Can

We recently updated our kitchen pot lights with a quick fix:

Our kitchen has two pot lights over the counter that I usually croped out of photos because they just looked so terrible!  In the lakehouse tour, you can see them in the "before" photos, but they're cropped out of every "after" shot of our aqua makeover.  They functioned well and I used them every day, but they were old and discolored, and one of them had just been coated in silicone by the silicone-happy former owner:

Update dated pot light without replacing it

I'm seriously embarrassed that we lived with them for so long!

We had been wanting to replace them for awhile, but we weren't enthusiastic about climbing into the attic to remove the cans.  Recently one of the bulbs burned out so we headed to The Home Depot for a new one.  They're $10!  I suggested to Handy Hubby that we finally replace the lights and purchase two fresh bulbs - I didn't want to end up with two different bulbs in addition to wonky lights.  We sauntered over to the lighting section and pondered for awhile.  Finally, we made our selection and were about to head to the check out when a salesperson asked if we needed help.  We asked how difficult it would be to replace our pot lights, and if he had any tips.  He discouraged us from replacing them because removing the cans could really damage a ceiling.  Instead, he showed us the LED bulb and trim retrofit kits.  They're actually a bit more money than purchasing new cans, but it is so much easier to use these kits to update the look and technology.

Halo LED Retrofit Pot Light Kit Review

Here's how we updated our pot lights, the easy way.  First we bought two Halo LED 4" retrofit kits from The Home Depot, for about $50 a piece.  This one is fairly similar.

Pot light retro fit

As with any electrical work, we turned off the power.  Then we removed the old pot light trim by gently pulling it down and then squeezing the metal retaining wires that held it in place.

Replace pot light without replacing can

The arrow is pointing to the wires:

How to remove old pot light
How to remove old pot light trim

Then we were left with just the can, which was perfectly functioning and really not that old:

Pot light can

Then it was time to install the new light and trim retro fit kit!

Can you replace pot light without removing can?

First we installed the light socket adapter.  Then we took the new LED and plugged it into the adapter.  With a screw driver, we used one of the self-tapping screws (included) and screwed the ground wire into an existing hole in the can.  Instructions are included with the kit, and we followed them completely.

Fast and easy way to update pot light
Pot light trim kit

The installation was straightforward, except we hit ONE stumbling block: when we tried to push the trim in tightly against the ceiling, the can shifted too so we couldn't get a nice, flush fit.  Genius Hubby (I call him "Handy Hubby" for a reason), figured out that if he threaded a wire through the gap between the gimbal and the trim, looped it around a fixed point in the can, and then back through the trim, he could pull down on the wire to hold the can down while pushing the new trim piece up.  It worked!  Once it was tightly in place, he pushed the wire back through and removed it.  You might not need this step, but it's a handy hack to know, just in case.

The light bulbs should last 50,000 hours and only draw 10 watts, but they are SO much brighter than our old lights, which were 50 watt halogens.  Now that the days are getting shorter, I love that I have brighter kitchen lighting, although I do miss the halogen bulbs a tiny bit.  They were dimmer, but a touch warmer.  These are bright and offer a very white light - much better than flouescent, but I'm still clinging to my incandescent bulbs and irrationally resistant to liking any other type of bulb. 

It goes without saying, though, that they just look so much better now!

New pot light
Pot light before and after

Now we're eyeing up the eyeball pot lights above the fireplace and thinking that we might use this same style of LED retro fit to update those, too...



  1. Hmmmm... interesting idea. I loathe the can lights in our home - all 20 of them!

    1. Wow, that is a lot of pot lights!! I'm jealous because I love can lights, but I don't envy how much work it will require to update them all. This retro fit is a bit pricey, but so easy! And there is a lot of selection when it comes to size and style.

  2. Did you have an option on bulb colour? I think now sometimes you can have the option between cool white and warm white bulbs, I've not tried them yet though. I've been avoiding LEDs so far as I find them too cold.

    1. Yes, there were options for bulb warmth. What we ended up with is on the warmer end. It's very bright white and beside it, fluorescent seems SO cold. So I like it more than fluorescent. I will just miss incandescent when it finally gets phased out...

  3. Much better!. I like the bright white light, the yellow bothers my eyes.

    1. I'm getting used to the bright white - it sure makes crafting and cooking in the evening much easier!

  4. Big question ... are they dimmable? My current potlights are on a dimmer switch which I quite like and would hate to lose with a switch to LED.

    1. Good question! If you're shopping for LED replacements you have to either look for an LED that is compatible with traditional dimmers OR replace your dimmer switch with a new one that is LED compatible. But it's possible to get both LED and the dimming option. This one, in particular, is dimmable, although I don't have it on a dimmer switch myself. Double check any packaging or online listing before purchasing, just to be sure.


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