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Everything you need to know before installing LED recessed downlights

LED recessed downlights, also known as can lights or pot lights, are simple fixtures that consist of a bulb enclosed in a circular enclosure (the “trim”) that is usually four to six inches wide.

Recessed lighting may include job lighting above a desk or countertop, as well as accent lighting to brighten a dark corner. But it’s not as easy as picking a wattage and type of bulb—the final effect is determined by a variety of factors. Here are some things to consider before installing LED recessed lighting in your home.

Retrofitting into existing ceilings

Because recessed lighting is installed in the ceiling, it’s simplest to put in before ceiling material goes up—during new construction or a major renovation. Recessed lighting designed for new construction is configured to be placed up in the ceiling between the joists with mounting brackets that get nailed into the strapping. They are then connected to the power source and covered with drywall (with holes carefully cut out). Even if you don’t have complete access to the ceiling joists, LED recessed downlights can be installed without removing too much drywall. For that, look for recessed downlights that fit into a small hole in the ceiling and can be clipped to the drywall.

Placement is key

Recessed lighting can be used for general lighting, job lighting, or accent lighting or a mix of three.  But unlike floor or table lamps, you only get one chance to get the lights just right. Consider the areas where you want to provide plenty of light, such as above a reading chair or a kitchen island. If task lighting is needed, make sure the LED recessed downlights are placed above the workstation rather than above where you’ll be sitting or standing, otherwise you will work in our own shadow.

Often, recessed lights should be placed at least two feet away from the walls. The size of the bulb would also aid in positioning. The standard rule is to space the lights the same distance apart as the diameter of the bulb in inches. A four-inch-diameter bulb, for example, should be four feet away from the next light. For standard ceiling heights, four-inch bulbs are a reasonable choice; five- and six-inch bulbs, which are also widely available, are better for higher ceilings because they emit a more powerful light.

Wire the lights in flexible zones

Consider wiring the LED recessed downlights to work in strategic groups in large rooms with areas that may need to be lit differently at different times or spaces where ambiance is important. Each zone should be able to function independently. You’ll have more control over the atmosphere and purpose of the room if you layer general lighting, task lighting, and accent lighting. For example, you can dim your general lighting, switch off your task lighting, and use accent lighting to draw attention to your artwork or fireplace.

Use the right tools to cut holes in the drywall

If you’re installing LED recessed downlights yourself, do it with a hole saw. It is a simple attachment to your drill for cutting out a perfect circular hole with a proper diameter. Hole saws are usually adjustable and can be customized for different sizes. Chose it as per the size of the hole you need for installing the light. You can also cut perfect circles with a compass and stud finder.

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