Changing the existing lighting fixtures completely and adding a new one can seem complicated. However, with the right tools, knowledge, and determination it can be done by individuals. In this guide, we will go through the basics of recessed lighting and how to install recessed lighting in existing light fixtures.

Before we give you a DIY lesson on how to install recessed lighting in existing light fixtures, let’s go over a few basics of recessed lighting first.

What is recessed lighting?

Before learning how to install recessed lighting in existing light fixture, first you have to know what is recessed lighting. Recessed light is also known as downlight but if you’re from Canada and are getting confused, over there it is known as a pot light. These are light fixtures that are permanently fitted into the ceiling in a hollow opening. The ceiling fitting makes it look like they are floodlights illuminating the room as it concentrates in a downward direction.

Three parts of recessed lighting

Recessed lighting consists of three different parts which are known as the housing, trim, and bulb. The trim is the outer casing of the light fixture, this can be easily visible by simply staring upwards at the fitting. It includes the inner layer of the light as well. Housing, just from the name itself, implies a safe structure. The round fixture that goes into the hole is referred to as housing. It contains the lamp holder in which one can fit the light.

When it comes to the bulb, there are two types of bulbs that can be used with such lighting fixtures and they are directional and diffuse.

Should I switch my old lighting to recessed lighting?

how to install recessed lighting in existing light fixture

We’re slowly coming to the DIY on how to install recessed lighting in existing light fixtures, however, before we do that is switching your traditional lighting to recessed recommended? Yes, anything that is not recessed lighting is outdated light fixtures that don’t look well with the current times. So, you have to learn how to install recessed lighting in existing light fixture.

As we all know that technology and style change with time. As time advances, so do the two. Sometimes old styles can become a center of attraction while technology on the other hand will keep on advancing. What was modern a couple of years ago might look extremely outdated today. Therefore you would see corporations or homeowners renovating their homes every now and then (perhaps once in every 5 years) to match with the current era.

So, before you start to wonder how to install recessed lighting in an existing light fixture, a better question would be should I switch my old lighting. Think about it this way, is the old lighting adding any value to your home? Typically, the case is that old light fixture since they’re outdated might even scare away home-buyers from purchasing the house. Modern recessed lighting is more welcoming and often adds value to your home as compared to older light fixtures.

New light fixtures in homes can’t go unnoticed by anyone. So having to invest a bit of money in your home by replacing older light fixtures can entice new home-buyers to put up an offer. And if you know how to install recessed lighting in existing light fixture, you can save a pretty good amount of money by not hiring an electrician.

How to choose recessed lighting?

Now that we’ve gone through what recessed lighting is, it is important to know how to choose recessed lighting before you go on reading our DIY on how to install recessed lighting in existing light fixtures.

There are three different types of recessed lights and they are:

  • Ceiling
  • Walls
  • In-ground

This means that recessed lighting can easily be applied in a ceiling, on a wall, or in-ground as long as there is enough space in there to fit the electrical box

So, let’s look at how to choose a trim before learning how to install recessed lighting in existing light fixtures.

The trim is responsible for the aesthetics and the desired lighting effect. You’ll find round aperture, square aperture, flangeless, flanged, bevel, flat trim, and more. A flangeless trim is good for aesthetics while a square aperture provides a modern look. A flat trim definitely provides a minimalistic look which many enjoy while a beveled trim is great for demonstrating depth.

Besides the look and how they match your room’s aesthetics, trims have their own uses too. Wet location trims are great to install in areas where there is a risk of water while dry location trims can be installed anywhere dry. Directional trim is great with directional light while open reflector trims are great for exposing too much light.

Spacing in rooms for recessed lighting

You also need to know the required spacing for each room before learning how to install recessed lighting in existing light fixtures. The living room requires low ambient lighting hence having a two to three-inch trim can do the job perfectly. In such locations, 400 to 800 lumens per bulb is required with 2700K to 3000K color temperature.

For rooms like a dining room where moderate lighting ambiance is required, a two to four-inch trim will work wonders. You also would need 600 to 1000 lumens light bulbs with 2700K to 3000K color temperature.

The kitchen and bathroom are those locations or rooms where a lot of light is required. A trim of three to four inches for kitchens and two to three and a half inches in bathrooms would be perfect. 700 to 1200 lumens per light would be needed while color temperatures would remain the same at 2700K to 3000K.

Low ambient lighting is great for hallways and even rooms with accent lighting. Hallways would require two to three-inch trims while rooms with accents would need about 2 inches of trim. Hallways require a 400 to 800 lumens light per fitting while accent lighting rooms require 200 to 400 lumens per light. Color temperatures would remain the same at 2700K to 3000K.

Tips on voltage

The national electric code requires that housings must have insulation contact rating if the housing was installed near the insulation (approximately three inches). However, you do not require insulation contact rated housings if your housings were fitted more than three inches away from the insulation.

Once that is determined, find out the voltage of your housing. America uses around 120V in homes and 277V in commercial spaces while you would find a generally accepted 220V in most of the world.

The three types of housing based on voltages are:

  • Line voltage housings are connected to 120V wires and are the easiest to maintain due to their low costs.
  • Low voltage housing works with 12V or 24V and it is great for people looking for more control over their light meaning dimming features and more.
  • Integrated LED housings are the most energy-efficient of the three, however, if the bulb dies out you need to replace the entire unit.

How to install recessed lighting in existing light fixture: Tools required

how to install recessed lighting in existing light fixture

If you want to know how to install recessed lighting in existing light fixtures then you need a DIY thumb for that. We will show you how to install recessed lighting in existing light fixtures however you would need the following tools before you can install a new fixture.

  • New light fixture
  • Bulb (Preferably LED)
  • Screwdriver
  • Hacksaw blade
  • Drywall saw
  • Voltage tester

DIY: How to install recessed lighting in existing light fixtures

Here are the steps to follow on how to install recessed lighting in existing light fixtures.

  1. The first thing to do before you even start messing with electricals is to switch off the power. First, switch off the light and then go to your breaker box and switch off the relevant breaker. This is to avoid any electrical mishaps that might occur during installation.
  2. Now that your power is off, simply remove the light shade. It’ll expose the light and also the screws. Get a screwdriver and start to undo the screws of the light fixture or housing. Once the fixture is loosened and the screws kept in a safe place, bring the housing down to reveal the wires. This part is extremely important, so pay attention. Don’t pull on the housing. Simply let it hang as the wires are exposed. Use a voltage tester to check each wire to ensure that the power to the wires is off. If you detect any voltage through the tester, go to your house breaker box and turn off the right breaker. Repeat this process until all the wires have no electricity going through them.
  3. Now that you’ve ensured that electricity is off in the wires, you need to remove the fixture. Simply start by unscrewing the wire connectors that connect the circuit wires to the fixture wires. Once you’ve unscrewed the wire connectors, disconnect them from each other by separating them. A good tip at this point would be not to cut the wires as you’ll risk making them short.
  4. If your new recessed lighting fixture requires a larger hole to fit in, don’t panic. It’s normal. You can easily trace around the opening of the electrical box with the template provided. Use a drywall saw to cut according to your markings. If there are no templates provided with the purchase of the new fitting, then use a pencil compass to guide you. Try to remember math class from grade 9, should work out easily. Make sure that the hole you’re cutting is not larger than an eighth of an inch of the diameter of the canister. This is so that the fitting does not slip from the hole.
  5. Now that you’ve widened the hole, remove the old electrical box. Cut through the nails if there are nails to hold it securely in place. Use the back of the hammer to pull out the nails or cut them with a hacksaw blade. You would need to loosen the cable clamps allowing you to easily remove the box from the ceiling.
  6. Now comes the part that you’ve been waiting for. The part that made you search the internet for how to install recessed lighting in existing light fixtures. Get your new light fixture and view the electrical splice box. Install cable clamps to the box and ensure that the circuit cable goes through the clamps installed and straight into the electrical box. In order to tighten or fasten the cables, tighten the clamps’ screws. Make sure that some of the cables extend outside the clamps, roughly about a fourth of an inch.
  7. Open the fixture manuals and see their drawings. Connect circuit wires according to the manuals to the fixture wires. Use a wire connector to help you secure each connection. The common way to attach the wires is to connect blacks with the blacks, whites with whites, and so on. But don’t take our word for it as some manufacturers may have changed their color codes, hence read the manual.
  8. Once the wires are connected, now you have to put the new fixture in the hole you’ve widened. Proceed by putting the electrical box first and then the canister. Put your hand in the canister and find the ceiling clips. Simply lock them into place by snapping on them. The clips will lock on the backside of the wall. If there is a separate component for the light bulb, then insert it into the fitting and connect the wires as you do so to the housing. Once done, push the component in the canister and install the light bulb in it. What you need to keep in mind is the maximum wattage rating of the new fitting. The light that you’re going to be using should not exceed the wattage limit on the fitting installed. Use LEDs and avoid halogen bulbs.
  9. Proceed to turning the power on from the breaker first and then go to the light switch to turn it on and off for testing purposes.
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