There's a fluorescent light fixture on our kitchen ceiling that started to be rather unreliable about producing light last year. I had the switch replaced (more because it had a tendency to shock me than because I thought it wasn't working), but the decline continued and eventually the light stopped turning on at all. It was safe to say this meant that the bulb had burned out.
The problem was that I couldn't figure out how to get into the thing to access the bulb. I had an extra bulb on hand, but it didn't do me any good if I couldn't get it in there. No amount of standing on a stepladder fiddling around with the light fixture was doing any good, so I had to temporarily give up.
It seemed ridiculous to call an electrician out just to change a light bulb, so it occurred to me that I might be able to track down some information online about the light fixture and how to open it.
I starting searching my Gmail account and quickly found the receipt for the two light bulbs I'd bought to go with the fixture. That nailed down the purchase date as late November of 2006. The email receipt for the fixture itself did not include the search keywords, though, so I had no choice but to look through all of the emails from that month until I figured out where I'd made my purchase.
It turned out to be Home Depot. The receipt did not link to the online product page, but the store name at least pointed me in the right direction. I searched their site for indoor fluorescent light fixtures and found out that the one I had was made by Hampton Bay. Narrowing the search, I found my fixture and, lo and behold, within the product description was a link to download a PDF of the installation instructions.
This morning I applied what I'd learned, got the fixture cover off, replaced the round fluorescent bulb and (kinda, mostly, almost) put the cover back on. So I might have to go back and make it more snug later, but it stayed up and I didn't need to be making that much screeching metal noise with my husband asleep in the next room.
Then I put away the stepladder, flicked the switch and...LIGHT!
So now I know that the five-year life promised by the bulb packaging is fairly accurate. I also know that it's not such a big deal to replace the bulbs after all. Sometime soon I will know exactly how to slide the cover back on so that all the clips hold, not just some of them. Baby steps.