Thursday, July 21, 2011 10:41 AM EST
Recessed lighting fixtures (or pot lights as we like to call them) are a popular choice for a lot of homeowners. There are many different types of pot lights depending on the space, location and look that you’re going for – including low voltage and LED. If you’re building new, they are much simpler to install – however most people are interested in retrofitting and adding new lights to an existing house. Here are some quick tips to light up your life with pot lights and avoid some common frustrations!
1. Choose a location and decide how many pot lights you want. Sound simple? Not necessarily! Not every room in the house is suited for pot lights – there are structural (framing) and mechanical (plumbing, electrical, HVAC) limitations, as well as design and layout considerations.
2. Get yourself a book on basic electrical practices and codes. If you’re not prepared to read it and get a permit, call in a licensed ESA electrician. Many electricians are also great at determining proper placement, fishing wires to limit damage to walls and ceilings and recommending the right type of light for your home. Be sure any existing wiring you’ll be touching is switched off at the breaker panel – leave a note taped to the panel to ensure no one turns it back on by accident.
3. Get yourself a hole saw. After you’ve chosen your lights, pick up a hole saw the same size required for the installation. Use it for any additional holes you may need to open up in ceilings and walls, and save the circles – it’s a lot easier to patch a hole made with a hole saw using the cut-out than it is to repair holes made with a hammer.
4. If you already have a ceiling light, use the existing switch and wire to feed power to the first light in the series. If not, you’ll need to run a new circuit from the panel. Use the electrical connections of each light as a junction box to power the next light until you have powered up all of your lights. Connections are typically 14-2 wire (14 gauge, 1 black, 1 white, 1 copper ground). Make all connections inside the electrical device box with proper sized marrettes and electrical tape, and be sure to maintain a continuous ground circuit. Consult your local electrical codes for maximum number of devices allowed on a single circuit, and ensure you’re not overloading the circuit. If you don’t understand any of the above – call a licensed electrician to install the lights for you.
5. Locate your ceiling joists and direction of travel. If you need to feed the next light within the same joist space, simply feed the wire from each location through the ceiling to the next hole – an extra set of arms is handy here. If your lights are jumping across the joists, you’ll need to use the hole saw to open a hole in each joist space, and drill a hole through the joist to feed the wire through until you reach the next light.
6. As you wire up each light, feed the housing into the hole, being sure the clamps make it above the drywall – tighten the fasteners with a screwdriver until the housing is secure. Install the light bulbs, pop in the trim piece, flick on the breaker – and let there be light!
Congratulations, you’re done! Except for patching all those holes…