A simple project, gone complicated

So  on Friday I was meandering around Costco with no pressing deadlines and a dab of money in my pocket– always a dangerous scenario.  Near the light bulbs I spotted some sleek new trim-outs for the can lights in our kitchen (kinda like this.) I’d been considering updating ours for a couple years– we’ve had the same eye-ball style cans since 1993 when we moved into our house.  The last time I’d priced LED replacements, they were about $20, which times eight cans always felt like more than I wanted to spend. Except on Friday Costco had them for $10, with a $2 instant rebate to sweeten the deal.  Into my cart they went. John and the teenagers were at snow camp for the weekend.  But our electrician had reassured us a few months earlier that it was a very simple fix– just unscrew the existing light bulb, removed the old trim, screw a retrofit piece into the old bulb hole and mount the new trim.  I figured that I could easily have the project done in an hour, and imagined John’s happy surprise at the new look, the price, and the thought of the money we’d save on power with LED’s. I popped the first light in, no problem, and flipped the switch to test it.  Worked great and was so bright.  Neat!  Encouraged, I flipped the switch back off so as not to electrocute myself while I worked, and went on replacing all the others.  The eight lights are on three different switches– 6 in the main kitchen area, one over the sink and another in the hall.   Once I got them all installed, I flipped on the switch over the sink.  Lights!  The hall light worked great too.


Old versus new

But when I flipped the switch powering the 6 main lights, there was an ominous pop, no kitchen lights turned on, and all the living room lights went out too.  Darn.  We’d flipped a breaker. I turned off the switch, went out to the garage to reset the breaker, and came back to try the light again.  Pop again. Double darn.  What on earth could be wrong?  I figured there must be a short somewhere within the 6 lights, but since I didn’t know which it was, I ended up taking out every single one.  My plan was to add them back in one by one so that I could figure out where the issue was.  Problem was, no matter where I added one in, the breaker flipped. I put in a call to our electrician, hoping maybe he could help me trouble-shoot over the phone.  But since it was 7PM on a Friday night, I wasn’t at all sure I’d get a response.  To make things worse, a bit more tweaking ended up with an even bigger problem– the breaker stopped being able to be reset.  So now the only working light in the main area of the house was the one in the hall, which was on a separate breaker than the kitchen and living room.  And of course the living room circuit also controlled our internet and our TV. Darkness was descending. I could only imagine how glum my husband would be to come home Sunday to the sight of dangling wires were there used to be lights, and no power to the main rooms in the house.  I’ve attempted solo projects before without consulting my husband, with varying degrees  of  success and he’s not always thrilled to be finishing what I started.I was anxious to add another fail to the list. I left another message with our electrician, explaining the latest developments.  Five minutes later — thank heavens– he called back.   He walked me through a bit of trouble-shooting, switching various switched off and on, which (thankfully) ended up in getting the breaker re-set and working.  Now, as long as we kept the main kitchen light off, we had light in the living room.  Good enough for now. The  next day the electrician came to see what was causing all our trouble.  Turns out there was a bare wire in one of the cans  (probably ever since the house was built) that my tweaking had caused to touch the wall of the can and flip the breaker.  And that had caused one of the light switches to fry too.  $100 and an hour of work later, all our lights were working properly.  I guess it’s a good thing I got the lights on sale. Even better- the whole project was done before John got home.  Hooray!Cans (1)


  1. So, both frugal and not-so-frugal. LOL. At least it seems like the total cost of what you would have paid with non-sale is about what you ended up paying this time but at least now you have the wiring fixed as well. You have nice modern lights,no bare wires at an extra cost, plus no grumpy husband, so total win! Except I’m sure you could have done without an extra dose of stress…

  2. You are amazing!

  3. I’ve done the same thing, hoping to have a frugal solution, and ending up with a not-as-frugal-as-I-hoped fix! Glad it was all working for his return!!

  4. Kristine says:

    Would love to know if you’re happy with the amount/quality of light from the LED bulbs. I’d like to do the same in our kitchen, it’s the darkest room in our house so the light is important. But we’d love to save on the power bill! Thanks, Kristine


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