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We made the unfortunate decision of having a ceiling fan with lights in our two story family room, so the ceiling fan is about 20 feet above our heads. At the moment, all four light bulbs in the unit have burnt out and need replacing.

Safety wise, I think it's too high for even a long ladder.

What are some options for reaching and changing those light bulbs?

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Definitely buy LED lights. Incandescents are a terrible choice for hard-to-replace lighting. –  Warren P Jan 7 '12 at 19:35
    
Those 20ft are a non-SI unit, I guess?!? Any translation for non-US readers? –  Uwe Keim Jan 8 '12 at 17:30
    
@UweKeim 20 feet I think is just over 6 meters. –  LarsTech Jan 8 '12 at 18:18
    
@LarsTech Thanks, that's really a lot! –  Uwe Keim Jan 8 '12 at 19:23
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5 Answers

up vote 21 down vote accepted

I'm not sure how much room you have to work in, but an option would be to rent a 16 foot step ladder at your local tool rental center.

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If the bulbs are pointed down, maybe some type of bulb grabber on an extension pole.

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Got a pic of the fixture?

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Added an image of the ceiling fan. –  LarsTech Jan 5 '12 at 14:37
    
great pics Tester and LarsTech. thanks for the edit. –  shirlock homes Jan 5 '12 at 15:29
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+1 for the bulb grabber and extension pole. My father has the exact same problem and the bulb grabber works very well for him. –  Scott Chamberlain Jan 5 '12 at 21:50
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Another way to do it is demonstrated here (only in German, sorry). –  Tim Pietzcker Jan 6 '12 at 6:41
    
@TimPietzcker Oh, those clever Germans. –  LarsTech Jan 6 '12 at 14:54
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A small scaffolding tower might be your best option. This will give you the height and safety you need.

Something like this one.

enter image description here

While it might be a bit expensive for just changing light bulbs you'll need it when you come to paint the ceiling in this room.

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Ok, that made me laugh. (It's not a bad answer, it just seems like killing a fly with a cannon. Although, I'd rather use this than a 16-ft step ladder. ;) ) –  jberger Jan 5 '12 at 18:42
    
@jberger - Yes it is possibly overkill, but the way the question is phrased made me think that the OP wouldn't be happy up a 16ft step ladder. –  ChrisF Jan 5 '12 at 20:40
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You're right, I wouldn't be comfortable. Your answer has me thinking if these scaffolds are rentable in my area (Chicago, IL), because you make a good point about some day painting my ceiling. –  LarsTech Jan 5 '12 at 20:49
    
@LarsTech - you should be able to rent them (if you can in the UK, I'm sure you will in the US). –  ChrisF Jan 5 '12 at 21:52
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@LarsTech, there seems to be a large number of options if you search for Chicago IL scaffolding rental on Google. –  Zoredache Jan 5 '12 at 23:41
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If you are uncomfortable with working at heights you can hire someone to change the lights (and clean the fan).

Think about installing LED light bulbs. You may never need to change them again.

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I'd definitely go with LED. They're still very expensive for general use, but even a half dozen years ago they were replacing traffic lights because their lifespan let them crush the competition when doing the replacement becomes a major factor. Never changing them is probably optimistic, I believe they use the same 1000 hours use = 1 year metric as CFLs to get their 15-30 year lifespans. For heavily used parts of your house that's generally significantly too low. –  Dan Neely Jan 5 '12 at 16:36
    
@Dan Neely - Coloured LEDs are much more established technology then white LEDs. They also last much longer, as they don't need a phosphor (which most white LEDs do). As such, using them in traffic lights was far less of an innovation then most people think. –  Fake Name Jan 6 '12 at 0:04
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Beware of the other electronics in the LED bulbs, they (or their soldering) may not be able to take the vibration from a fan. Probably want to look for ones rated for fans. –  derobert Jan 7 '12 at 16:30
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If you are spending money on renting, it could be cheaper to hire an electrician. Think of going to pick up the ladder, moving furniture, setting up the ladder, changing lamps, moving ladder / furniture to get eyeball recessed light, blah blah blah. I know this is a DIY site but sometimes you can hire a professional and get it done for not much more than getting everything and doing it yourself. If that eyeball is hard to get, or what looks like another fixture on the left, then these really could make it worth it.

You can also buy your own lamps and have the electricians just do the labor only, but if the electrician supplies the lamps then they might warranty them and if a product failure happens, then you don't have to mess with it again.

Whatever you do, use a LED lamp and a manufacture that you are familiar with. Newer technology LED's cost more than older technology and the biggest difference between the two is the lumen output. Normally DIY's will have brand names and they will be older technology lamps. Use a color of 2700 to 3000 kelvins that will be about the same as incandescent colors (warmer). Good Luck!

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Like shirlock holmes said, the extension pole kits work great. I had a house once with several very high ceilings, and I already had a nice paint extension handle. Bought something like below and the suction cup worked great for changing all kinds of bulbs.

enter image description here

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Do these work when the bulb isn't pointing down? –  neilfein Jan 8 '12 at 17:50
    
Some of mine where at a slight angle with the suction cup, and it worked fine. But at maybe 45 degrees, not too sure how good it would work. –  Chad Cooper Jan 8 '12 at 18:34
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