Install Recessed Lighting Over Computer

Dear James: My kids are older now, and I installed a computer in their playroom. I have a ceiling light, but I would like to add a recessed light. What is the best type to use, and how do I install it? — Penny K.

Dear Penny: Recessed lighting is an excellent choice for your computer area in the playroom. Having the light focused down from overhead is ideal for a computer station, and there is no lamp to get knocked over when the children are playing.

You have two basic design choices for recessed lighting fixtures: fixed and adjustable. In a fixed fixture, the bulb is completely recessed inside the canister. With the proper type of bulb, it can provide up to a 135-degree field of light.

An adjustable recessed light fixture looks like a fish eye with the bulb protruding slightly below the canister. The fish eye portion can be rotated to focus the light in different directions.

If you are planning to install only one fixture, then an adjustable design might be your best choice to allow for more flexibility in lighting an area. For example, if you plan to read or work next to the computer, you can focus the light off to one side or the other.

Once you start the installation, it is not much more difficult to install two fixtures than just one. Two fixed fixtures — positioned so the light patterns overlap — provide the best lighting. Also, the totally recessed fixed fixtures provide a more professional-looking installation.

Since you already have a ceiling light fixture in the room with an electrical conduit box, the installation of the recessed lights will be much easier. The electrical cable can be run from the existing light fixture to the new fixtures.

The installation process is accomplished in two steps: 1) roughing in and installing the recessed light fixture, and 2) running the wiring from the existing ceiling fixture to the recessed light. It is probably a good idea to have an electrician do the electrical wiring for you to make sure that it meets the codes in your area.

The first step is to determine exactly where you want the fixtures to be located. The fixture packaging should include a round template for the size of hole that needs to be cut in the ceiling. Punch a hole in the center of the template and measure the radius of the template.

Before you saw the large hole for the fixture, drill a small hole in the ceiling at the center of the planned location of the fixture. Bend a stiff wire at a right angle with one leg one inch longer than the radius of the light fixture template.

Insert the wire through the small hole in the ceiling and spin it around. This indicates if there is enough free open area for the recessed light fixture. If there is something (plumbing, wiring, bracing, etc.) interfering with the wire, it is certainly much easier to fix a 1/8-inch hole than a much larger hole.

Once you find a location without interference, hold the light fixture template up to the ceiling and lightly scribe the diameter into the drywall. When locating the second light fixture on the ceiling, keep in mind that most floor/ceiling joists are on 16-inch centers.

Using a keyhole saw, cut the holes for the recessed light fixtures. You should saw square small holes in the ceiling at the studs between the new fixtures and the existing one. This will save time for the electrician. Once the wiring is complete, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for finishing the installation.

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