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We're finishing a basement room, but want to leave the old ceiling joists exposed (we like the look). I like how mr16 bulbs light up the room, but I'm having trouble figuring out a safe way to install them on a budget and in an unobtrusive way (not a lot of big conduits/junction boxes in view). I'm also on the fence about 120V or 12V. The transformers and voltage drop over distance of 12V seem like a hassle.

I was thinking of black NM stapled right up to the fixtures, maybe with those NM cable splices to join right to a gu10 socket, with the bottom of the bulbs right at the bottom of the joists. However, I imagine the two wire pigtail coming out of a socket is not code exposed in a joist well. I'm also not sure how sturdy a gu10 bulb in a ceramic socket screwed right to the joist is likely to be.

I'm struggling to come up with any real slim or cheap gu10 or mr16 fixture that I could run NM right into. They all tend to be bulky and expensive unless it's those little metal recessed fixtures (and again I'm sure sure of the wiring would be code if exposed). Could I fab up some little metal or wood enclosures for the socket and pigtail to live in so they aren't "exposed" until it turns to NM? Or, I see there are regular E26 screw type mr16 bulbs, or I could just go with regular floods. Maybe that would give me more fixture/socket options that would work here?

Would low voltage get around some of the form factor problems? I see lots of people using LED strip lighting, where the little 12V wires can apparently be run without any worry about code until you get to where the transformer is wired to 120V. Would sticking with 12V mr16 allow me to run wires in my joist wells without worrying about NM shielding and junction boxen?

Open to any suggestions! Thanks!

  • There is 24V striplight out there, if that helps alleviate your voltage drop concern any...also, would painting conduit to match the ceiling be an option? (Heck, your supply house might be able to get you factory prefinished conduit, even!) – ThreePhaseEel Aug 20 at 1:51
  • Voltage drop on low voltage systems is much less of a concern now with LED lamps. When LV incandescent lighting was use (say for outdoor lighting) an 18 watt bulb would need 1.5 amps at 12 volts. At 120 volts, that would power an 180 watt bulb! Fat wires were needed (fat is a highly technical term, so don't snip me on that! )! While I'm not familiar with specific fixtures (and product recommendations are OT here), using low voltage might open up a lot of options and not many code issues on LV circuits. – George Anderson Aug 20 at 13:12
  • I've found that cheap DC Jack terminal adapters fit those bulbs directly. You can use a vampire splice clip to attach 12v-providing mating male jacks anywhere you want along a long "trunk", then just plug in the adapted bulb. – dandavis Aug 20 at 20:33

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