Recessed lighting costs an average of $360 per fixture
Recessed lighting is a perfect way to illuminate that dark, drab corner of your kitchen or brighten up your living room. Installing recessed lighting costs $100 to $480 per light fixture, or around $360 each, depending on your ceiling material, housing type, wiring, and more. Read on to learn the cost to add recessed lighting to your home.
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Cost Factors of Installing Recessed Lighting
There are several factors that affect the cost to install recessed lighting, including labor, wiring, and the type of bulb you choose.
Installing recessed lighting involves cutting recesses in a ceiling, so the material your ceiling is made out of can affect costs. For instance, drywall ceilings are relatively quick and easy to cut through, so it will likely be less expensive to install recessed lighting on these ceilings than, say, hardwood ceilings.
The electrical components, bulb socket, and mounting frame of a recessed light are all encased in what's called "housing." There are several recessed lighting housing types, including airtight, can less, and shallow housing. The type you choose can impact your final costs.
The trim refers to the border area that covers the gap between the light's housing and the ceiling. Just as there are different housing types, there are also different trim types, like eyeball trim and reflector trim. Eyeball trim allows the light to swivel and direct to certain areas, while reflector trim offers a highly polished finish that reflects light. The former costs between $15 and $30, while the latter ranges from $10 to $60.
Recessed lighting is often compatible with a variety of different bulbs, such as fluorescent, halogen, and LED bulbs. Each of these bulbs comes with different costs. For instance, halogen lights cost between $3 and $12 per bulb, while LED bulbs can range from $5 to $50.
The cost for an electrician to install recessed can or can less LED lights will generally be between $200 and $250 per fixture. Professionals charge at a rate of $85 to $105 per hour and each installation takes approximately two to three hours.
The cost of a recessed light fixture typically ranges from $30 to $230, depending on which style you choose. This range doesn't factor in the labor costs to install them.
Wiring lights into a ceiling isn’t always necessary (if you’re working with a ceiling that has pre-existing lights, it probably won’t be). If wiring is necessary, add an extra $70 to $140 to your recessed lighting budget.
Electricians typically charge more to install recessed lighting in locations that are blocked by obstacles such as heat ducts, joists, or wires from other electronic devices. Add another $200 if one of these is in your way.
"Installing lights where there is access above the ceiling, like an attic or a crawl space, will be much easier compared to a lower level, where the ceiling needs to be cut into and then patched," says Salvatore Cutrona, Expert Review Member and Licensed Master Electrician.
If you're installing any new circuits along with your new recessed lighting, then you'll need a permit since this requires altering your home's wiring. Permits can range anywhere from $50 to $500 depending on the project and municipality.
Recessed Lighting Cost by Type of Housing
Housing refers to the encasement of your recessed lighting's electrical components, bulb socket, and mounting frame. The type of housing you choose can affect costs.
IC-Rated vs. Non-IC-Rated Recessed Lighting
There are two main housing types: IC rated and non-IC rated. In some cases, insulation can warp, melt, or emit VOCs when lighting is installed near it. IC-rated housing indicates that a light is safe to install near insulation, reducing fire and health hazards. IC-rated housing ranges from $7 to $100 per light, while non-IC-rated housing ranges from $6 to $90.
The following housing types might come in IC- or non-IC-rated versions depending on the manufacturer:
Airtight Recessed Lights
Airtight housing creates a tight seal that stops air from flowing between different levels of the home, improving energy efficiency. This housing type costs between $10 and $110, depending on the size and other features.
Shallow Recessed Lighting
Standard housing cans are typically installed five to six inches into the ceiling. Some homes have shallower ceilings that don't allow this much depth, in which case you'll need shallow housing cans, which range from $10 to $150 per can.
Canless Recessed Lighting
You can also buy recessed lighting that doesn't have a can at all, aka can less lighting. With this type, the housing is installed directly into the ceiling, which lets the light sit completely flush, offering a minimal, streamlined appearance. This housing type ranges from $15 to $130 per fixture.
Wet-Rated Recessed Lighting
Wet-rated housing protects the light from moisture. This housing type should be used in any space that sees a lot of moisture or rain, like bathrooms, patios, and gazebos. Prices range from $20 to $100, depending on features and size.
Vaulted Ceiling Recessed Lighting
Vaulted ceilings refer to ceilings that aren't flat. These ceilings usually require recessed lighting to have vaulted housing for proper installation. Recessed lights for vaulted ceilings typically range from $20 to $75.
Additional Costs to Consider
There are several other potential costs to consider when installing recessed lighting. For instance, costs usually differ between lights installed indoors versus outdoors.
New Construction vs. Ceiling With Pre-Existing Lights
Installing recessed lighting typically costs less if you’re working in a ceiling with pre-existing lights. If this is your situation, expect to pay $200 to $300 to install each fixture and $800 to $2,160 for an entire project.
Building lights into a completely new ceiling usually costs a bit more in time and labor. You could pay up to $500 for a single light fixture and between $800 and $2,880 for an entire setup.
If you're installing recessed lighting in an existing home (versus a new build), you'll often need to cut into the drywall to do it, in which case you should factor drywall repairs into your overall costs. Drywall repairs cost $300 to $900, on average, depending on the project. Repairs due to recessed lighting installation will likely fall close to the lower end of that range.
Indoor vs. Outdoor Lighting
Outdoor recessed lighting typically costs more to install than indoor recessed lighting since there are fewer ideal locations, and outdoor lighting installations often require additional electrical work. However, you don't usually need as many outdoor lights to illuminate a space as you would need indoors. Outdoor recessed lighting ranges from $300 to $550, while indoor recessed lighting usually costs $100 to $480.
Recessed Lighting Finish Type
Although many people choose a white finish, you can often choose from multiple finish types for your recessed lighting. The type you choose can affect your price.
Dimmer Switch Installation
Dimmer switches allow you to control the brightness of your new recessed lighting depending on the ambiance you want to create. If you choose to tack on a dimmer switch to your installation, you can expect to pay an extra $125, on average.
Wall Panel Installation
Speaking of switches, you can install a wall panel that houses a variety of switches to control your home's lighting system, including dimmer and/or standard switches. Wall panels typically cost $50 to $100 to install.
Cost to Install Recessed Lighting Yourself
The cost to DIY recessed lighting is about half as expensive as hiring a professional. If you’d normally pay an electrician $100 to install one light fixture, you’ll pay about $50 for the necessary materials and equipment to do it on your own. In the end, the final price will depend on the price of the light fixtures you’ve chosen rather than the labor fees.
How to Save on Recessed Lighting Installation Costs
You can save money by installing recessed lighting yourself. Pros usually charge $85 to $105 per hour to install recessed lighting, which typically takes at least two hours to complete. DIYing this project means you can skip labor costs altogether.
You can also save money by installing recessed lighting in an area that already has existing light fixtures and wiring, since adding new electrical systems can considerably drive up costs.
Frequently Asked Questions
The number of lights you need depends on the size of your home. In general, you’ll need about six light fixtures for a 250-square-foot space. To ensure everything is properly lit, take care to space each light a max of 4 to 6 feet apart.
You can install recessed lighting yourself with a few tools and a free afternoon. The steps involved include: cutting a hole in the ceiling; roughing in electrical wiring; connecting the wiring to the light; mounting the housing in the ceiling recess; installing the trim; wiring the light circuit to your service panel; and screwing in the bulb and testing the light.
Recessed lighting offers a classic appearance that isn't likely to go out of style. Rather than making a bold style statement on its own, recessed lighting is more about highlighting and enhancing the rest of the design elements in your space, so even as you update your aesthetic, the lighting will continue to look fresh. However, certain finishes and designs might be more popular than others depending on the season.
There aren't any hard and fast rules about how far recessed lights should be from the wall. It really depends on your needs for the lighting. For instance, if you want to highlight a specific piece of art on the wall, you'll want to install lighting close to it. But if you want to illuminate an entire room, you might want your lighting farther from the wall. A general guideline of 1.5 to 3 feet from the wall is a good place to start, but in the end, you want to make sure the lighting meets your unique needs.
The housing for high-quality recessed lighting can last a lifetime. But how long the bulbs last really depends on the type you choose. LED lights are the most common and tend to last the longest, often 30,000 to 40,000 hours. Compare that to incandescent bulbs, which only last for 1,000 hours or so.