The national average cost of recessed lighting installation is $130–$150 per fixture, including lighting materials and labor costs. Most electricians and lighting contractors offer package rates to provide a bulk installation discount.
Installing recessed lighting in a ceiling instantly brightens up a room that has no ceiling fixtures at all, which is a common situation in older homes—making it a simple home improvement project that delivers dramatic results. Recessed lighting fixtures are perfect for task lighting, rooms with low ceilings, and can also be waterproof for sleek lighting in showers or outdoor areas. If you're ready to install recessed lighting, here are the cost factors to consider.
What’s in This Cost Guide?
- What is Recessed Lighting?
- What Affects the Cost of Recessed Lighting
- Ceiling height and material
- Attic space
- Additional fixtures
- How Much Does Recessed Lighting Installation Cost?
- Bulb type
- How to Hire an Electrician
- How to Save on Recessed Lighting Costs
- How Much Does an Electrician Make?
What is Recessed Lighting?
Recessed lighting, also called can lights or pot lights, are light fixtures recessed up into the ceiling or otherwise installed flush with the surface of an indoor or outdoor space or piece of cabinetry. Recessed fixtures can provide ambient lighting, task lighting or accent lighting to draw attention to artwork or items displayed on built-in shelving. Recessed lighting can also make a room look bigger thanks to an effect called "wall washing," which casts more light around the room using a certain kind of trim—the part of the light that is visible from the hole in the ceiling. Wall-washed trim has a directional reflector and a light scoop that directs light onto the wall. Recessed lighting is subtle enough that it withstands trends, making it a safe choice for house remodeling if you’re considering selling in the future.
What Affects the Cost of Recessed Lighting
Like any home improvement project, the cost of recessed lighting is impacted by your home's unique variables. Your ceiling height impacts cost, as does the type of recessed lighting you want to install, the number of installations you need, your zip code, whether you have electrical wiring in place, if you need the pros to cut holes, whether you have an attic or not--all these variables impact your project cost. Because variables can be unknown, many pros—for larger projects such as new construction homes—will provide free estimates. Here's a deeper dive into what affects the cost of recessed lighting installation.
Ceiling height and material
High ceilings sometimes—but not always—increase the cost of installing recessed lighting because of the increased labor required. Higher ceilings require tall ladders and more stringent safety precautions. Beyond height, the material that the ceiling is made of also affects the overall cost of installation. As an example, sheetrock is easier to work with than a plaster ceiling, says Marrow of NY Lite Design. It takes less time to cut through sheetrock than plaster, which is harder and messier to deal with.
Marrow of NY Lite Design says installing recessed lights in a ceiling with attic space above it is much easier than putting in recessed lights where no attic exists. When contractors can access an attic space, the overall cost to have recessed lighting installed is usually lower because their labor time is less.
If an electrician has to install switches where none existed to control newly recessed lights, the average cost will be $75–$150 per switch.
In addition to recessed lighting, many areas of a home also have other types of lighting fixtures. A dining room, for example, may have a chandelier over the table and recessed lights along the sides of the room. Electricians can install both types of fixtures at the same time, which will increase costs. The amount of increase depends on the extent of the job and required labor and materials. Lumping together your electrical projects into one service visit will reduce costs, so plan ahead to save.
How Much Does Recessed Lighting Installation Cost?
The cost of recessed lighting installation varies based on the electrician, the number of lights you’re installing and any electrical wiring work you need done. In addition to installation cost you need to calculate actual lighting costs into your total. Ray Marrow, owner of NY Lite Design in New York City, says his rates can start at $60 per fixture to install recessed lighting, not including the cost of the fixture, which is about $15–$30 each, depending on the size and whether the lights are dimmable. Install pricing can go up depending on the complexity of the project. Many pros have a minimum service fee to account for their time and business overhead costs, so always inquire so everyone is clear on pricing from the start.
Recessed light fixtures come in two different types of housings. Insulation contact (IC) housings are designed to come into contact with attic insulation safely without posing a fire hazard. Non-IC housings should not be installed where they’ll come into contact with insulation, but if there is no insulation within 3 inches, non-IC housings are fine. Recessed lighting fixtures feature a self-resetting thermal switch to prevent overheating, but it’s still a good idea to pay attention and select IC or non-IC housings appropriately. IC fixtures cost only a few dollars more each than non-IC fixtures. Housings are also categorized for installation in new construction or remodeling projects. New construction fixtures cost about 30 percent less than those intended for remodels.
LEDs, or light emitting diodes, are the latest in lighting technology and very popular because of their energy efficiency. LEDs last 50 times longer than incandescent bulbs, use 1/10th of the energy and don’t contain mercury. LEDs are starting to replace the compact fluorescent (CF) bulbs that emerged as a step between incandescent and LED bulbs. Marrow of NY Lite Design says he only installs LED recessed lights these days, noting that LED technology is still in its infancy and will continue to improve. LED bulbs cost more upfront than incandescent and CF, but will cost less over time in terms of electricity bills and replacement costs. Marrow says that not all LEDs work with dimmer switches, so to be sure to get the appropriate bulbs if you want that option. Marrow says he is partial to 3- or 4-inch recessed light fixtures and bulbs these days because they fit better with current design trends. In prior decades, 6-inch recessed lights were popular, but today it’s more common to see smaller light fixtures (and install more of them) to achieve the desired effect. Here are the national average lighting installation costs based on the number of lights installed at one time:
|Number of lights Installed||Average Cost Nationwide|
How to Hire an Electrician
When working with electricity, it's so important to hire a licensed electrical contractor. Typically electrician licenses are overseen by a state licensing body, but your region may license at the city or county level. Most states have an online license lookup feature, such as the Texas State Department of Licensing and Regulation which will verify your pro’s good standing. Because poorly executed electrical work can have dangerous outcomes, it's important to determine that your pro is qualified. Check out our tips for smart hiring here. Additional suggestions for finding a great electrician include:
- Reading peer reviews
- Requesting a written contract outlining scope of work
- Negotiating payment information prior to commencement of work
How to Save on Recessed Lighting Costs
Save money when you install recessed lighting by reducing the electrician's workload. Source the light fixtures yourself so the materials are on-hand on install day (word to the wise: always have your electrical contractor sign off on your lighting choices beforehand so you get the correct voltage, size, and proper type of light bulb and lighting fixtures). In addition to sourcing the materials, if you are experienced installing fixtures, once the electrician has run the wiring, you can do the actual install yourself. Unless you are a licensed electrician, never run electrical wiring yourself. And unless you have experience and know you can safely place the lighting fixtures in, do not DIY this step just to save a few dollars. Beyond potentially getting shocked, you run the real risk of creating a fire hazard. No one wants to burn down the neighborhood.
How Much Does an Electrician Make?
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, electricians make on average $54,110 per hour and $26.01 per year. Electrical contractors with advanced experience, such as master electricians, often earn a higher wage and may apprentice other electricians.