Recessed Lighting 101: Three Important Planning Questions to Answer

Recessed lighting can greatly increase the amount of light in a space, which in turn helps a space feel bigger, brighter, and more inviting. However, planning recessed lighting does require some careful consideration. Having too many lights can over-illuminate a space. Not enough light can leave dark areas that look strange and make your room feel smaller. Likewise, placing lights improperly can look strange and even impact your room’s functionality.

If you’re looking for help with a recessed lighting project, this blog is a good place to begin. Here are three questions that, once answered, can help you create a better plan for lighting your space.

What Types of Lights Should I Get?

Recessed lights come in a variety of different shapes and sizes, and styles to serve different purposes. Some recessed lights are great for general ambient lighting while others are specialized to specifically highlighting features on your walls. Some types of lighting are designed for specific purposes or even specific ceilings. How do you know what type of lights you need or what type you should install?

Here are a few things to consider:

  • Is the space your lights will be installed in insulated? Insulation between floors or in your attic is pretty standard, but insulation can also be highly flammable. If exposed to heat too long, it could combust. So if you’re planning on installing lights in a place where they may touch insulation, you will want to get insulation contact (or “IC”) rated.
  • How high is your ceiling? Higher ceilings need a wider cone of light to come from every light fixture. Therefore, a higher ceiling should almost always use six-inch diameter lights. Standard ceilings can also use six-inch lights if that’s the style you’re going for, but you might also be able to use four and five-inch lights if that’s the look you’re going for.
  • Is your ceiling flat or sloped? Most recessed lights are designed for use with flat ceilings, but not all ceilings are flat. Sloped ceilings need a fixture that allows the bulb to tilt so it can be pointed directly downward.
  • Do you want to use an LED insert or traditional bulb? Traditional bulbs are very much going out of style and coming out of use because of their lack of flexibility and significantly higher energy consumption.

How Many Lights Do I Need?

Next, you should ask yourself how many recessed lights you will need to adequately fill your room. If you’re simply looking to install recessed lights for highlighting purposes, then this question doesn’t really apply. But if you’re looking for ambient lighting, the quantity of lights is as important as their placement in your space. Without enough lights, darkened corners can make your ceiling appear shorter and your room actually look less organized. Stark contrasts in lighting can even make a room feel or appear divided, even though it might be the same space.

While it’s best to consult with an expert, figuring out the number of lights you need is actually pretty easy to figure out. Figure out how tall your ceiling is and then divide it in half. Every fixture should be approximately that far apart. If you have a ten-foot ceiling, for example, you should have a light every five feet across your ceiling. If your room is 20 feet long and 10 feet wide,, that would mean you need approximately four lights per row and two lights per column. In other words, you would need eight lights to properly fill the space.

Where Should My Lights Be Placed?

Placement is crucial for proper lighting. You don’t want to put your lights too close to a wall, but you also don’t want them too far away either. Lights should be in a symmetrical row, and they should be as close as possible to the same distance apart from one another. However, you will likely also have to dodge ceiling joists and other structural supports.

Use a stud finder to identify where your joists are and what direction they run, and then use tape to mark them. From there, figure out where you can cut into your ceiling in order to place a light. From there, you can measure where each light should go based on the rule we discussed previously. However, there is one change: your first and last light should be half of the distance between lights away from the wall on either end. For example, in that 20-foot-long room, your first and last lights would be two and a half feet from the wall, while the others between them would be five feet from one another.

Need help with your recessed lighting project? Look no further than the experts at Lightning Bug Electric! Dial (404) 471-3847 to learn more about our installation services today.