If you're thinking about installing a new light fixture, there are a few simple things to consider when estimating the cost. Electrical projects can be dangerous for homeowners to attempt, so the first major expense is hiring a licensed electrician. This is a critical step because there are local codes your electrical work has to uphold, and you need to make sure you hire someone who is versed in these codes and licensed to perform the intricate work required. Once you find the right pro, then the cost of lighting installation is easier to predict.
What Type of Lighting Fixture Are You Installing?
The most significant factor when it comes to the final cost of installing a light is the type of fixture you choose. Simple options are usually quite affordable, and may cost $100 or less. On the other hand, more intricate features such as recessed lighting and expensive fixtures such as detailed chandeliers can cost upwards of $1,000 or more when all is said and done.
Not all lights fit into every space, either. To avoid further costs and difficulties, before purchasing a fixture you should check with an electrician to ensure it is rated for the power provided to that spot and that there is space to fit it onto the wall or ceiling.
Traditional Ceiling Mounted Lights
This is the most common type of lighting fixture and the one most often found in older homes. These lights are mounted to a metal box that is secured to overhead studs or joists. This box is then connected to the in-house electrical wiring and may also connect to a switch.
Traditional mounted lights range from half dome-shaped flush mounts to hanging chandeliers and ceiling fans, offering a selection of options diverse enough to match the decor of virtually any room. While the costs of the fixtures themselves vary dramatically, the installation costs for ceiling mounted lights are usually on the low end, taking only an hour or two of labor and costing homeowners anywhere from $88 to $222.
Virtually identical to ceiling-mounted styles, wall-mounted lighting fixtures require the same access to a mounted electrical box secured to a wall stud and connected to in-house wiring. The styles of wall-mounted lights include traditional sconces, powerful LEDs, and more modern shapes that create a targeted lighting environment in a bathroom, hallway, or stairwell, for example. The costs to install a wall-mounted light are similar to the ceiling-mount, taking just a few hours with a cost range from approximately $90-$230.
Unlike mounted lighting options, recessed lighting fixtures are not part of a room's decor. Also known as can lights or pot lights, they are set up into a ceiling in order to provide targeted or overall light without altering the lines of the ceiling. A recessed lighting installation job is therefore more complex than a mounting one because it involves cutting and finishing drywall around each inset fixture along with installing a junction box to power each light or a system. In general, installation takes about three hours to complete. The cost ranges from approximately $175-$225, not including the materials.
Track lights are an easy way to provide targeted, personalized lighting to any room. Popular commercial uses include those in museums and art galleries, which use the tracks to highlight specific installations. In homes, track lights are popular in kitchens where homeowners can customize the arrangement on the metal tracks to suit their space and workflow needs.
Installing track lights in a room that already uses overhead lighting is a simpler job than installing them alone because electricians can easily tap into existing wiring and switches. Installation also includes securing the lights to the ceiling using either drywall or stud screws. The process generally takes three hours and costs approximately $100-$250.
As their name suggests, pendant lights hang down from their ceiling mounts like a pendant on a necklace. Although this style was traditionally used in restaurants to create ambience and low light, many homeowners install pendant lights in their kitchens over food prep and service areas such as breakfast nooks to create a similar, restaurant-like atmosphere.
Often lightweight, many pendant lights are easy to anchor into ceiling drywall with drywall screws. Due to their low voltage requirements, they can operate off of a junction box from a larger light. The cost to install varies, however, depending on the existing structures in the home. Electricians may need to install a switch, for example, which can add an hour onto total labor costs. Typical installation usually takes between one and three hours and costs approximately $95-$250.
Fluorescent lighting is most often found in garages or other workspaces where the function of a light is more important than its style. However, the lower cost of operating fluorescent lights compared to standard incandescent bulbs also makes them popular among energy-conscious homeowners.
Styles of fluorescent lights vary slightly, but most are standard 36-inch, two-bulb fixtures that electricians can either mount into ceilings, especially drop ceilings, or anchor to ceiling studs. Depending on the electrical setup of a room and the wiring options available, installation takes between one and three hours, costing between $85 and $217 excluding supplies.
Other major contributors to the final price of any lighting fixture installation project are the existing wiring and power supply in the house and the existing setups in the wall and ceiling. When building new, the electrician needs to install all the wiring, junction boxes, and switches before the drywall goes in and direct contractors to leave spaces for the lighting as needed, which adds to labor hours and final costs.
In older homes, outdated wiring or insufficient amperage may require electricians to completely rewire a home or room. Electricians may also need to cut and patch drywall in order to add more detailed fixtures such as recessed lighting. If homeowners need to add a switch or dimmer to a light, this also increases time and cost by an average of $104.
Homeowners renovating older homes have additional considerations to make because electrical wiring, wall outlets, panels, and amperage may need to be upgraded in order to pass inspection or support a more modern lighting system. Here are some common issues in older homes that may affect the final cost of your lighting fixture installation project:
Knob and Tube Wiring
Any home built before 1900 likely uses knob and tube wiring, a system in which builders nailed insulated ceramic knobs to the joists in homes’ frames to keep the wires off the wood. When a wire needed to run through a joist, a tube was used instead. While not inherently dangerous, it is hard to determine if this old style of wiring, which was phased out by the 1930s, can meet modern codes. Electricians who work in homes with knob and tube wiring need to discontinue the knob and tube service and run a new wire for every light that they install.
A more dangerous older-home wiring feature, aluminum wiring presents a clear safety hazard when compared to the safer, modern standards of copper wiring. Homes built in the 1960s and 1970s are those most likely to have aluminum wiring features, which can loosen over time and cause electrical fires. Homes with aluminum wiring may still meet codes if there are no issues present, but electricians may want to install pigtail or copper connectors at any point where they work, including circuit breakers and any junction box or receptacle.
Insufficient Power Supply
The power needs of the modern homeowner are far greater than those of previous generations. As such, homes built prior to the 1970s often lack enough incoming amperage to run all the necessary equipment of modern life such as air conditioners, hair dryers, washers, and dryers. Once upon a time, the standard home amperage level was 60 amps. Today, that standard is 200 amps, although smaller homes under 1,800 square feet may be okay with only 150 amps.
Upgrading your power draw is not only important in terms of convenience but for safety, too; an insufficient power supply can damage certain equipment. Homeowners may need to consider much more extensive work to their homes that involves installation of a new, larger electrical panel. It may also be necessary to work with a local electric supplier to increase the amperage supplied to the home.
Adding lighting options that complement home decor and provide the ideal amount of illumination is as much an art as it is a science. Homeowners can visit local hardware stores to peruse the variety of choices that exist in terms of style, electrical usage, and design that make selecting lighting as fun and diverse a decoration task as picking out wall colors and trim details. To join in on even more design fun from the comfort of home, visit HomeAdvisor’s DesignMine Gallery to learn inspiring new lighting tips and view examples of the types of installations that can enhance your home's decor and functionality.