Ideas That Work: Installing Can Lights, Auto-Cleanup for Hammer Drilling and More

By Mar 15, 2013




Every month, Jack Pullizzi picks the top four Ideas That Work submitted by you, ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR readers. These ideas can't be found in any code or guidebook and are only learned or devised through years of experience and thinking, "There's got to be a better way to do this!" Please remember, the ideas presented in this article are for consideration only. Before using such ideas, make sure codes and safety standards have been fully adhered to. Now, without further ado, here are this issue's Ideas That Work!

Probing for obstructions
When installing can lights or anything in a ceiling with drywall, I take a piece of seismic or No. 6 copper wire and bend one end the diameter of the can light, then bend the other end (maybe a couple inches worth) the same direction. I lay out where I want the light and poke a hole. Then, I slide the bent wire through the hole and spin it around, moving up and down to see if anything is in the way. If there is a stud, the opposite bend I made of only a couple of inches will tell me which direction the other is facing. To tell how far away it is, I slide the wire out and put a smaller bend on the probing end. From there, I can adjust accordingly to ensure nothing is in the way and cut the hole I need without going into an attic to check for a suitable location.

Bo Murrell
Redding, Calif.

A clean sweep with a little flag waving
We have all used a little duct tape on a bit to make a depth gauge when hammer ­drilling concrete for anchors to mount equipment to a floor. Next time, make a second wrap with tape and leave a little “flag” hanging off (I like to double mine). Then when you reach the depth, the flag will sweep the little hill of dust right out of your way. Less blowing out the holes and trying to keep dust out of the finished hole. I also keep a little hand balloon pump from a party store to blow out what’s left.

Gene Casstevens
Glendale, Calif.

Getting fixture approval
When hanging a high and heavy fixture, try this trick. Hang the fixture strap, canopy and half the chain as you normally would for the weight of the fixture. Attach a pulley under the canopy. Tie a strong rope to the fixture, and hoist it up to the chain that is hanging from the ceiling. After the customer has approved the height of the fixture, which is very easy to raise or lower at this point, connect the two pieces of the chain, drop the canopy, thread the chain with the wire, and make your connections. Reinstall the canopy, and you’re done.

Jim Santopadre
Hoffman Estates, Ill.

Light in dark places
I don’t know how many times I worked in a poorly lit or dark area and did not have a droplight. I always carry a night light (120V) in my tool box. I plug it into an extension cord. You will be surprised at the difference it can make in lighting up your work area.

David Centak
IBEW Local No. 163
Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

IF YOU HAVE AN IDEA that has saved you time or money on the job, ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR readers would like to hear about it. Be sure to include a good photo of your idea—hand sketches are often hard to interpret. Note that some ideas are submitted by more than one person. In these cases, the one that is more clearly written and includes a photo is given precedence. Send your letter and photo to Jack Pullizzi, Ideas Editor, ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR, 3 Bethesda Metro Center, Suite 1100, Bethesda, MD 20814-5372, email [email protected], or use the online submission tool at

CASH PRIZE FOR WINNING IDEAS Each published author in “Ideas That Work” receives a $50 American Express gift card from ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR.

DISCLAIMER: The ideas presented in this article are for consideration only. Before using such ideas, make sure codes and safety issues have been fully adhered to. ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR magazine disclaims any liability from your use of these or any other ideas. ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR reserves the right to reprint the words herein at its discretion.

featured Video


Vive Pico Wireless Remote

The Pico wireless remote is easy to install, it can be wall-mounted or mounted to any surface, and includes a ten-year battery life. See how this wireless wall control makes it simple to add lighting control wherever you need it.


Related Articles