Determine How Many Recessed Lights you Need

Screwing a replacement bulb into a recessed light fixture.
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To determine how many recessed lights are needed to light any particular area, it is essential to consider the wattage of each light, its purpose, and the available power resources. Planning out this aspect of your lighting project in advance can save many hours and dollars by ensuring that everything is done properly the first time, without the need to replicate work or materials. A little strategy and know-how go a long way to making any recessed lighting project a breeze!

Consider the Purpose of the Lights

The purpose of the lights is an important factor in determining how many fixtures are needed. Consider what you want the lights to accomplish—are they highlighting a beautiful work of art or tapestry that you want to draw attention to? Are they creating a workspace or craft area where shadows will be a problem? Are you using them to light your favorite reading area or an entire room? Knowing the purpose of the light will help you to decide how far you need it to reach, how bright you need it to be, where each light should be placed, and how many lights will make your project a success.

How Much Light Do You Need?

For general lighting purposes, you'll want to provide 1.5 watts of lighting per square foot of space in the room. So, to get the number of lights you'll need in the room, first measure to get the room's square footage. Multiply by that 1.5 to get the number of watts needed for that space. Finally, you will divide this by the number of watts your planned light fixture uses to get the number of fixtures the room will need. If your fixtures use LED lights, all you have to do is check the wattage equivalent provided on the bulbs and follow the same calculation.

For more specialized applications, count the items or areas you want to light and use the general rule of one inch of lighting fixture to one square foot of light. More complex formulas are available, but this basic rule simplifies the calculation process while providing excellent results for home lighting applications.

Space the lights in such a manner that they appear symmetrical; doing this may add or subtract a light or two from your estimate, but it will enhance the overall appearance of the fixtures and improve the evenness of the light distribution. Always space lights an even distance from one another when using them for whole-room applications. When lighting artwork or tapestry, always place the light at least four inches from the wall, taking into account the size of the light and the distribution it produces.

How Many Fixtures Can Your Circuit Breaker Handle?

Another important consideration when determining how many lights to install is the wattage of the lights and the limits of your breaker. Determine the wattage of each light and multiply it by the number of lights you'd like to install, then add this number to the current electrical load on your breaker.

If this number is too high, it will be necessary to install a new circuit breaker, and possibly to upgrade the electrical service to your home, if it's a particularly large project. Using compact fluorescent bulbs in your fixtures can significantly reduce the load on your breaker, allowing for more lights without the cost of upgrading service.