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How Much Does it Cost to Install Downlights?

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If you are thinking of upgrading your home lighting, downlights are a good option. Enhanced lighting can make it easier to read, play, and can create a much safer home environment. Let's take a closer look at downlights, what they are, the different types available, and how much you can expect to pay for installation.

What are Downlights?

Downlights are usually installed into ceilings. In fact, they are recessed so they take up very little space. Each light is not meant to light up a large area, so it usually takes several downlights to illuminate a room. Downlights focus light in one direction and are perfect for increasing illumination or casting light on a special feature in the home.

Types of Downlights

Not long ago, halogen lighting was the preferred type of bulb. However, over the past few years, many people are switching to compact fluorescent or LED bulbs and for good reason. You will receive the same amount of light and use far less electricity.

You can install downlights in just about any part of the home. They are versatile and you have many options for colour and trim.

Fluorescent lighting is cheaper to operate than halogen and LED is cheaper than fluorescent. In addition, LED is cool to the touch and is a safer lighting alternative. However, there is one drawback. Efficient lighting options cost more to install because the bulbs are more expensive and they require transformers. Since they are more efficient and last longer than standard halogen bulbs, you will recoup your investment and then some, over time. In fact, some LED bulbs are made to last as long as 50,000 hours or more. So if you are interested in saving on electricity, consider the most efficient bulbs you can afford.

Besides bulb types, there are several different models to consider. For example:

  • Fixed - the bulb fixture cannot be moved.
  • Pivot - these fixtures can be rotated to focus the light in different directions.
  • Round trim
  • Square trim
  • Painted finish
  • Chrome finish
  • Brass finish
  • Black finish
  • Under cabinet downlights
  • Dimmable lighting
  • Coloured downlights

How Much Do Downlights Cost?

Your light cost will vary according to what you buy. A typical budget halogen downlight kit may be as cheap as $12 each. You may be able to buy fluorescent light kits for $35 to $40. LED can run from $20 to $80 or more each, depending on the kind of lights you choose.

Installing Your New Downlights

When it comes to new installations, only a licensed electrician can do the work. This law is in place for a good reason, too. It only takes one mistake or one bad splice or connection to create a fire hazard. An electrician knows all the laws and requirements and will make sure everything is installed and connected according to local building codes and ordinances.

It is possible to do your own install if you are changing over. For example, you can buy special LED bulbs made to fit into your halogen sockets.

Electrician Fees

Fees for your installation will vary due to the number of lights you want and how easy or difficult the installation is. For example, installing downlights in the ceiling of the first floor (in a two storey home) is much harder than a single story home. If the house has very tall ceilings or narrow hallways, this can create a challenge for the installer also.

Your electrician may charge you by the light (like $100 apiece) or might charge an hourly rate of $75 plus the cost of the materials. Always get a quote for complete services before any work begins and check with several electricians to make sure you are paying a fair price for the installation.

Saving on Installation Costs

You can check out lighting suppliers to see what type of downlight options they offer. Some suppliers may provide installation services with their materials. This can save you money and you will receive one price for both materials and installation labour.

If you need to use an electrician, you may save on costs by buying your lighting beforehand. Once your new materials are delivered you can contact an electrician about an estimate for the job and this way you are only paying for the labour. When an electrician has to supply the materials, he must pay for transportation and take time from work to get the materials and this can add a great deal to the materials cost.

Do you plan to add more downlighting in the future? If so, it may be a good idea to wait and have all lighting done at the same time. This way, you only pay one call out fee and you might save additional money on labour. In fact, you can get three estimates:

  • One for the current job
  • One for the future job
  • An estimate for all the work

This will give you a good idea of how much you can save by waiting. For example, a small job may cost $500 and a larger job $1000. However, you may be able to combine both projects for $1350 and this would save you $150.

Buying the Best Downlights for Your Home

When you shop for downlights you will see a number of things that you might not be familiar with. Knowing about these issues can help you save money and ensure you get the kind of lighting you really need.


Bulb wattage tells you how much energy your downlight uses. For example, most halogen downlight bulbs are rated at 55 watts. On the other hand, LED bulbs range from about 5 to 14 watts and put out more light per watt than halogen.

Lighting power

It is important to know just how much light each bulb can produce. This power is rated in lumens. The more lumens it has, the more light it can produce and the brighter it will make the room.

LED light efficiency

When you want to know the actual efficiency of LED lighting, check the lm/w (lumens per watt) rating. Lumens per watt lets you know just how many lumens a bulb will emit for each watt of power consumed. A typical halogen bulb provides about 20 lumens per watt. Fluorescent bulbs average around 60 lumens per watt. LED bulbs average more than 80 lumens per watt, giving you the most light for your money.

If you can afford LED downlights, you will save the most money over time. Talk to a lighting professional to make sure you get the best possible installation for the most reasonable rates.

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