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How to Install Recessed Ceiling Lights

By Ryan Iversen on 04/03/2019


How to Install Recessed Ceiling Lights

Recessed ceiling lights are one of if not the most common lighting fixture we have in our homes. From living rooms to kitchens, hallways, bedrooms and even bathrooms, these lights are essential for modern home lighting. Today we will be going over how to install different types of recessed ceiling lights and how to install them yourself.

Now a good first step for any fixture installation, especially when it comes to lighting, is planning. By planning out your installation, you can get an idea of how everything will need be set up and also gather the materials and tools you’re going to need. In the case of retrofitting a light into an already existing ceiling or remodeling said ceiling to have new lights, then you will need to find important things like the positions of the ceiling joists and power cables to avoid damaging them and the size of recessed ceiling lights that you will need. Being thorough with your planning stage can save you a lot of headaches down the road that would otherwise slow down the installation.

After planning out your lights’ positions and learning where you need to wire them from, you are ready to begin installing your lights into the ceiling. But before that, you turn the power off at either the circuit breaker or fuse box, never just the switch. Never do any electrical work while the power is still live as that could lead to injuries or even worse. Next, we need to talk about the different types of recessed ceiling lights. If you are installing a new light into an already existing ceiling, then are using what is called a remodel ceiling light. If you’re updating an old light, then what you are using is called a retrofit light. If you are remodeling to add lights, then you will need to cut a hole into the ceiling that is half an inch larger than the light’s listed diameter. An example of this is if you need to cut a hole for a 4inch diameter light, then the hole needs to be 4½ inches in diameter. That extra half inch will be covered by the trim, so don’t worry about it.

Now to make that hole, then you’re going to use a drywall knife as your ceiling is most likely drywall. This process is made easier as TORCHSTAR does include a cutout template for the remodel products. For a light that already exists, all you need to do is remove the old trim and the bulb then replace them with the retrofit. If any drywall gets damaged when cutting a new hole or replacing the trim, then the new trim will easily cover that up. Now if you installed a new housing can then you need to push the clips into to the can then out after it is in the ceiling. Next, install the trim by pushing in the spring clamps then releasing them when the trim is in place. After that, you can screw in the bulb. Now TORCHSTAR sells ceiling lights that are both trim and bulb, making the process for both retrofit and remodel a lot easier as a result.

Now let’s say you have a narrow ceiling that doesn’t have enough space above it for a traditional can and light setup. Are you fresh out of luck? Of course not, you just need a different type of ceiling light. For these types of situations, TORCHSTAR has manufactured what is called a Slim Recessed Ceiling Light. Now it’s called slim because they go into narrow ceilings, but they also don’t need a can to be installed. These lights are not only just the trim and bulb, but they also have the junction box attached to them. This makes installing them less of a headache. Just cut the hole, wire the junction box and insert the light. After that, it should be ready to go. What’s also great about these lights is that you don’t have to install them just in narrow ceilings, but you can put them in regular ones as well.

Besides retrofits and remodel recessed ceiling lights there is also new construction. As the name implies, new construction recessed ceiling lights are used in ceilings that are still being built. You install them by taking the new construction housing and use the hanger bars to attach them in place. Each hanger bar can be adjusted and has nails that once hammered in, keep the light from moving and firmly planted in the ceiling. The next few steps are very similar to both retrofit and remodel installations. Wire the supply wires to fixtures wires in the junction box, then attach the bulb and trim to the housing. TORCHSTAR also has new construction housing for the shallow ceiling as well if you are in the process of building one.

Now I think it’s a good time to talk about wiring. This is the point that the power being off. If you can, check the house wires for a current. You can do this with a multimeter. They are easy to get, just go down to your local hardware store and purchase an inexpensive model for less than $10. After checking, you can connect your home’s supply wires with the ceiling light’s fixture wires. In the US at least, the three main wires that are almost universally used are power also called line, neutral also called common and ground. Luckily for us, these wires come in color-coded insulation. The power is the black wire and the neutral is white. Now the ground is a little different as it comes in three different colors, those being green, green with yellow strips and bare copper wire. This is how wires are color coded for the standard 120V AC power.

Generally speaking, you only have to start worrying about other colors if you are using AC power of a higher voltage or DC power. But just installing a light on a typical 120V AC circuit, black, white and green/bare copper are all you really have to worry about. Another great thing about TORCHSTAR’s recessed ceiling lights is that some of them come with either push-in connectors or wire nuts. The push-in connectors make wiring easier as all you need to do is push the wire into the right connector, like the name implies. A good tip for wiring connections done with wire nuts is to cover the nuts and wire with electrical tape. This secures the connection and keeps the nut from getting knocked off accidentally.

Now a very desirable and what is basically a standard feature of recessed lighting is that they are dimmable. Using a dimmer switch, you can change the brightness level in a room, thus changing the mood and feel. Now before you go and wire your new LED lights to an already existing dimmer, we need to discuss compatibility. If that dimmer you are trying to wire to has been there for some time, then most likely it was made for incandescent lights. LED are an entirely different device and that means there is a chance that that dimmer won’t work. Luckily there are an entire plethora of LED dimmers and if you don’t want to use a LED dimmer, then just check the compatibility list on the light’s listing for a NON-LED dimmer that would work with it.

So remember when I mentioned that you can use recessed lighting in bathrooms? Well, that wasn’t hyperbole, you can use recessed lighting in bathrooms. Now the bathroom is a wet place so you need a light that can handle that. Recessed lights rated for wet are made for this especially if that light is above a shower or tub. The other rating, damp, is for locations where some moisture or water can collect but are less concentrated. You would typically see these lights in kitchens where water vapor and moisture aren’t going to collect as much. There is also type IC and type NON-IC recessed lights. This typing is used to tell you if the light can be covered or come into contact with insulation or combustible materials. A quick way to remember this is the IC means that you can cover it with insulation and NON-IC can’t touch insulation at all. Luckily TORCHSTAR makes those too so you don’t have to go far to get the right light.

Hopefully, this article helped you understand how to install recessed ceiling lights. If you do decide to have recessed lighting installed but don’t feel comfortable doing it yourself, then there is no shame in hiring a contractor or an electrician to do it for you. They just do the hard work while you enjoy the benefits.

Product reference:

10W 4 Inch Ultra-Thin Recessed Ceiling Light with Junction Box


12W 6 Inch Ultra-thin Recessed Ceiling Light with Junction Box


10W 4 Inch Ultra-thin Recessed Ceiling Light with Junction -Baffle Trim


12W 6 Inch Ultra-thin Recessed Ceiling Light with Junction Box -Baffle Trim


12W 4 Inch Slim Dimmable Recessed Light with Junction Box


18W 6 Inch Slim Dimmable Retrofit Recessed Light with Junction Boxt