When it comes to spacing recessed lights, it can be a challenge determining exactly how you want the room to look. First things first, you’ll have to decide what jobs the lights are needed for in the room, and where shadows are unacceptable. Also, before actually installing the lights, determine whether you need a permit before you can continue with the electrical work. Finally, remember that insulation must be at least 3” away from any recessed lights, in order to avoid fire from overheating.
Here are a few different options for recessed light spacing, according to what job the lights are intended to perform:
– Down Lighting: This technique is for flooding the room with light, making recessed lights into the primary light source for the room. Down lights do just what their name suggests – project light downward. Due to the shape of the bulb and recess, the light will descend in a cone-shape, and with multiple lights, the cones should overlap for the most efficient use of lighting.
– Grazing: Similar to wall washing as described below, grazing is when you highlight a wall with a specifically intriguing texture that you want to display prominently – such as a brick fireplace.
– Highlighting: Recessed lights used for highlighting have little to do with lighting a room, and lots to do with directing attention toward a piece or artwork or furniture in the room. Subtle, but effective.
– Wall Washing: One wall of your room is completely lit, usually highlighting one or more features on a specific wall, and adding minimal additional ambient light to the entire room.
If you’re using only down lighting to provide light to the whole room, place a light at least once every 25 square feet of floor. These lights should be around 6 feet apart for maximum coverage, and you’re also going to need at least 7” of space above the ceiling for the recessed light holders.
In addition, locate your ceiling joists before you install. The fewer joists that you have to run wiring through, the easier the project is for you – space the recessed lights between the same two joists, if at all possible.
For wall washing, determine your spacing by dividing the length of the wall by the recommended wattage spacing: 100W is 2 feet, 150W is 4 feet, and 150W “R” is 3 feet. Then, install your recessed wall washing lights the same distance from the wall as the number you received from the equation.
The key is making sure the lights are evenly dispersed along the wall, lest one side receive more lighting than another. Grazing would be done in basically the same way.
Highlighting: Depending on the side of bulb you’ve chosen, you’ll place the light either 2 or 3 feet from the wall. This choice might also depend on the subject you’ve chosen to highlight, since different objects will need different lighting choices. Most 50W and 75W bulbs should be placed 2 feet away from the wall, while various kinds of 25W, 50W, and 75W should be placed 3 feet away – you’re probably best off checking the instructions on this one, since it varies according to brand.
Many homeowners used recessed lighting as a decorator’s touch and the recessed lights placement reflects that. If it is the lighting itself that is supposed to be noticed, the lighting may be set into a wall near eye level to attract your attention or it will be placed into the ceiling in such as way that the design of the lighting is noticeable.
If the light is supposed to be illuminating an item, such as a work of art or a sink in a bathroom, the recessed lights placement will cause most of the light created by the recessed lighting to fall on the item in a wide beam or focused glow.
Where to Use Recess Lights
Many individuals choose to use recessed lighting in areas that are small and do not have a large amount of room to maneuver in, such as a small bathrooms and small office spaces. The recessed lights placement will make the room seem more open and does not take up valuable space for lamps, globes, or sconces. In these cases, the lighting is generally placed in the ceiling or in the walls slightly above the height of the average person.
Recessed lights that are placed in the ceiling of a small area are generally brighter than the ones used near eye level, which are generally dim like mood lighting. In some cases, a dimmer is used to ensure that the level of light in the room is not too bright or too dim for the individual that needs to use the area. When the recessed lights are placed into the ceiling, the lights are generally wired to a basic light switch that turns the lights on and off.
Recessed lighting can also be used for larger areas, but unless the design is exotic or the light is focused on a single area, the recessed lights can give a larger room an institutional feel. Some homeowners use recessed lighting to illuminate a portion of the larger room but will generally use another type of lighting in the room as well.
There are several different styles of recessed lights that can be used for larger rooms and the salesperson at the retailer carrying the lighting may be able to give you a general idea of what the lights would look like in your area.
Determining Recessed Lights Placement
It can be difficult to determine where the recessed lights housings should be placed within the room. Most individuals say that recessed lighting looks best when spaced equally across a wall. This is only accurate if there are on other items in the viewing space that would make the recessed lighting look awkward.
To determine the placement of the lighting in relation to everything else that is in the room, you may want to make a cardboard cutout of the lighting style that you desire. You can pin these cardboard cutouts to the wall to see where the lights would look the best in the room and make sure that they will be even with whatever draws your focus in the room.
photo of Denver Art Museum by Ishmael Orendain CreativeCommons Attribution