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Here's How: Install Recessed Lighting in Your Home Office

James Dulley on

Dear James: The lighting is bad in my home office, and I plan to add some recessed lighting. I need it primarily over my computer. What is the best type of recessed light to use? -- Donald H.

Dear Donald: Recessed light is a good choice for your home office, particularly over your computer area. With the lighting coming down from directly above, there should be very little reflected glare on the monitor. Studies have shown adequate lighting is also good for concentration and creativity.

There are two design choices you must make. First, if the recessed light is in a ceiling under the attic, it is wise to select a sealed, airtight design for energy efficiency. It is not safe to insulate a standard recessed light fixture, because it is not designed for the heat buildup. If there is a second floor above the fixture, this is not an issue.

Next, decide if you want a fixed or an adjustable recessed light fixture. Fixed fixtures look nicer because the lightbulb is totally recessed in the fixture. Its drawback is you cannot change the direction of the light. Some bulbs have a 135-degree range of light, so even a fixed one illuminates a fairly large area.

An adjustable recessed light fixture is designed similarly to a fisheye bulb with a spherical section extending downward from the primary canister. By rotating the fisheye section, which actually holds the bulb, the direction of the light can be changed.

If you are installing just one recessed light, select a fisheye design. A fixed one may satisfy your current lighting needs, but if you move anything, the lighting will be in the wrong location. If you install several recessed lights, select fixed ones, and space them appropriately so there is overlap.

Most bedrooms already have some type of light fixture in the ceiling that is controlled by a wall switch, so use this as your source of electricity. If there is no existing light fixture, and you have to run a wire to the new light fixture, you might consider using track lighting instead. This is easy to install on the ceiling surface, and it does not require fishing a wire through the ceiling.


Determine where you want to locate the recessed fixture(s). All recessed light fixtures include a paper template showing the size of the hole to be cut in the ceiling. Tape the template up on the ceiling.

Before starting to cut the hole in the ceiling drywall along the template, drill several small holes around the perimeter of the circle. Poke a long wood or plastic stick up through the holes to make sure you are not hitting a ceiling joist, plumbing or wiring. It is easy to fill the small holes with spackling compound if you have to find another location for the light.

Another method to check inside the ceiling is to drill a hole in the center of the template. Bend a stiff wire at a right angle, making one leg the radius of the template. Stick the wire up through the hole, and spin it around. You will feel if it hits anything inside the ceiling. Install the fixture per the manufacturer's instructions.


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