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I have an old basement room with shallow ceilings and a terrible central ceiling mount "boob-light". I would like a nice array of recessed LEDs but cannot find guidance for my room's dimensions, the main issue being the ceiling height.

  • Ceiling height: 82.5in (6.9ft)
  • Width: 214in (17.8ft)
  • Height: 136in (11.3ft)

Given the rule-of-thumb: "space your lights by ceiling-height divided by 2" each light should be about 41in (3.4ft) apart. Using this formula I would need ~5 x ~3 recessed lights. 15 lights is fine if it means nice uniform lighting, but I am not sure what lights I should choose.

In a similar sq-ft 8-foot ceiling room upstairs I used eight 6in LED lights to great effect.

I assume using 15 6-in (800-1100 lumen) lights in the basement space would be blindingly bright unless heavily dimmed. Is this a case where 4 or even 3 inch lights (300-700 lumen) would be appropriate? Do these smaller lights have a different "rule of thumb" for spacing?

Most of the recessed lights I see on HomeDepot's website have a beam angle of 109°-113°. Perhaps fewer of a larger-beam-angled-light would work?

Also what is the best minimum spacing from wall-to-light with such low ceilings?


EDIT: I am purely concerned with general lighting in a box room. No accent or task lighting.

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  • Rules of thumb are quick guidelines that encompass many assumptions. Depending what you are actually doing in/with the space, far fewer lights might be just fine. What do you need it "evenly illuminated" for? At what height? Are there workbenches? Reading chairs? A home theater? What's going on here?
    – Ecnerwal
    Apr 10, 2022 at 0:36
  • Its just a big square room with no furniture right now. So probably as general purpose evenly lit as possible. I like the idea of a game room or home theater but a future owner could easily make it into a bedroom. So I am thinking no task or accent lighting at this time. Apr 10, 2022 at 1:37

3 Answers 3

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15- 6" cans is way too much in my opinion. Even 8 of them seems excessive.

If this is a general purpose room (such as a bedroom) I would put maximum 4 lights in.

If you are wanting super bright lighting and plan on keeping them dimmed down for the most part, then do 6- 6".

This is a to-scale layout of your room with 6- 6" cans. This leaves about 77" in between the lights. For this I put them 30" from the walls each way. If you decide on 4" cans instead, then you could do 8 of them. This is all still overkill in my opinion. I never want my general room lighting to be so bright- I use task lights for areas that need that.

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  • Do you not feel that having the short 6ft 9in ceilings changes that math? My concern (as a taller 6ft guy), my head going in and out of bright and dim spots. The light has a lot less room to evenly spread with such short ceilings. Apr 10, 2022 at 2:41
  • I agree that 4 - 6" lights provides enough lumens for the space to be comfortable, but my main concern is the "cones of light" and evenly lighting the space, and I can use much smaller lights for that. Apr 10, 2022 at 2:42
  • I agree with OP's concern re: downlights being spaced too far apart and not doing a good job covering, it seems like your reco is based on starting at lumens per square foot and figuring number of lamps from there. It could be that the commonly made ones are made for higher ceilings or simply have too many lumens for the job. That seems like a supplier/product selection issue. Or downlights being a misfit for the task at hand. Apr 10, 2022 at 6:53
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I ended up going with TWELVE (4 x 3) 4-in lights on a dimmer (link). The room can get very bright thats okay because I plan to primarily use the space for a makerspace which needs good lighting. The light is pretty uniform with mild shadows. The lights I got could dim down to 5% so I can still get the room very dark for movies or whatever. So I am happy with my choice.

bright_lights

dim lights

enter image description here

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I’ve always considered there are 3 kinds of lighting: 1)General lighting, 2) Utility lighting, and Sex lighting.

  1. General lighting we use for average coverage of the room and walls. We use this for multi purpose rooms or when there is specific task in the room. We move the light fixtures closer to the walls so there are no dark areas on the walls. We like the “light” to hit up the wall about 6’ from the floor. It will light pictures, etc. on the wall too.

  2. Utility lighting is used to cover areas not normally covered by General lighting or Sex lighting. This lighting will illuminate the floors and walls for cleaning.

  3. Sex lighting is used to highlight a piece of art, like painting or sculpture.

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    That doesn't really address any special considerations for low-ceiling rooms. I want general lighting. Apr 10, 2022 at 4:53
  • You can have special lighting in a low ceiling room. If you have a bar counter that needs special lighting or a sculpture to highlight in a corner, etc. it can be done in a low ceiling room.
    – Lee Sam
    Apr 10, 2022 at 7:27

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