Large, central light fixtures can make a statement in a room, or they can end up collecting dust if they don’t adequately serve your purpose. If your goal is to use one, large fixture to light a space, you might end up disappointed. To achieve the best lighting, you need general, task, and accent lighting, which an overhead light just can’t do alone.
If you’re in the market for a DIY fixture installation, you need to select on that suits your décor and your current electric wiring. If you want a wider variety of fixture options, hire a professional. One of the primary benefits of professional installation is that an electrician can modify your home’s wiring to suit the light that you like the best, rather than restricting you to lights that are compatible with your home’s current electrical setup.
To select the best possible light fixture, avoid the following pitfalls.
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Don’t Expect a One-Source Solution
An overhead fixture isn’t Superman, so don’t expect it to solve all of your lighting needs. Even if the fixture is large, it won’t illuminate the edges of the room. You may be tempted to select a really bright overhead fixture so that you don’t have to install other lights, but this isn’t a smart choice. One bright light will end up being an eyesore, literally, because it’ll be too bright in the evening when you’re trying to unwind.
A bright, crisp light is exactly what you want in the morning and afternoon. Bulbs that produce a lot of blue light reduce your melatonin production, which makes you feel awake and alert during the daytime. However, that same light will hinder your melatonin production at night and can interrupt your natural circadian rhythm. Your health is just one of the many important reasons to add multiple layers of light to your home.
Overhead fixtures restrict the direction of light, so if you’re reading in a chair near the perimeter of the room, the light will never reach the pages of your book. Central fixtures rarely, if ever, provide suitable task or accent lighting.
Don’t Assume That It’ll Work with Your Electrical Box
If you’re not familiar with electrical boxes or how to assess whether your new fixture is compatible with your existing wiring, you could end up taking a whole lot of trips to the store and wasting a lot of time exchanging fixtures.
If you live in an older home, one that was built in 1985 or before, many overhead fixtures sold by big box stores like Lowe’s or Home Depot won’t be compatible with your wiring. The heat rating for older wires isn’t suitable for some new fixtures and can create a fire hazard. Installing a light fixture isn’t rocket science, but there are a lot of steps where you can make mistakes and get a nasty shock. If you’re not sure what you’re doing, ask for professional assistance.
The size of your electrical box needs to be compatible with your new light, both to provide adequate room for the wires and strength to support a large, heavy fixture. A professional can make sure that your electrical box is sturdy enough for your fixture and will make sure that the wires are not overcrowded.
Your Light and Switches May Not be Compatible
When you shop for a new fixture, it needs to be compatible with all of your existing electrical components, not just the electrical box. Light switches can be line voltage (runs on the electrical line coming into the house at 120 volts) or low voltage (runs through a transformer that brings the voltage from 120 down to 12 volts). Your entire system needs to use the same type of voltage to work correctly.
After determining the type of voltage that runs through your switch, you also need to know the maximum wattage that it can handle. If you have multiple lights on a single switch, the total wattage of all of the lights needs to be equal to or less than the switch’s max. An electrician can assess your overall room lighting to ensure that your wattage doesn’t exceed the maximum.
If you decide that you want more granular control over the lighting in your room, an electrician can install additional switches so that each light is on its own. Should you decide to take it up another notch, you can upgrade to dimmer switches that are compatible with each light.
Each compatibility factor reduces your fixture choices if you want to DIY the replacement, but professionals can upgrade any incompatible components, like switches, so you never have to settle for a less-than-perfect fixture.
Don’t Forget About Color Temperature
So, you’ve finally found a fixture that works with your electrical box and switches and that has a design that you can live with, only to discover that it’s a cold, blue light that clashes with your paint and décor.
Most of the fixtures that home improvement stores sell come with LED lights pre-installed. While this is great if your primary goal is energy efficiency, it’s not ideal if you’re trying to create an ambient, cohesive lighting scheme.
The wrong color temperature can make your room look and feel off. Warm lights make cool colors like grey and blue look dingy, while cool blue lights diminish the earthy warmth of colors like red and orange. If your new fixture isn’t the same color temperature as other lights in your space, it’ll stand out even more. To achieve cohesion in your lighting scheme and your décor, consult a professional.
Don’t Try to DIY Your Lighting
If you’re not up to speed on the NEC (National Electrical Code), you’re taking a risk by installing your own lighting. If you make any mistakes, like connecting a neutral wire to a hot wire, you introduce fire hazards to your home. Stay safe and give us a call instead.
Don’t get stuck choosing from a small handful of fixtures that are compatible with your existing electrical. Instead of settling for less, let us use our skills and expertise to install the lighting of your dreams.