Help!! New house is completely DARK!

whidbeyFebruary 9, 2009

We are nearing the end of construction and the electricians just put the bulbs in for our recessed lights about two weeks ago. Our house is soooo dark! Everything is on a dimmer but there is no way I'd ever be able to use one as I need every light on in the house to see anything at this point.

There are plenty of recessed fixtures: 8 in the great room (approx. 400 sq. ft.), 8-10 in the kitchen (approx. 185 sq. ft.), 4 in each bedroom (approx. 150 sq. ft.). Our old house had only 4 can lights in the great room (about the same size as our new one) and there was plenty of light.

Our kitchen is so dim that even with every light on I can't see what I'm doing at the counter. We paid more than $20,000 for our electrical. The lightbulbs are recessed VERY deeply into the housing (I'd say you can see 1 1/2 - 2 inches of trim inside). The can lights are 5" Juno IC20.

What can be done?? Do they make longer bulbs or can something inside the housing adjust so the bulb comes down more to allow for more light? Also, the bulbs are halogen, all SPOTlights (vs. flood), ceilings are 9' (great room is 14' sloped).

Please HELP! TIA...

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Many house designers & builders are not lighting designers and you are seeing the results. The fixtures may be poorly chosen, poorly placed and have the incorrect lamp. Recessed fixtures should not be the only light source in your home. You'll likely need on-site help from a lighting designer to see how to best improve things. Lamps (bulbs) recessed 2" into the housing is a good thing and not part of the problem. The fixtures should have been placed over where you need light. The lamp might need to be changed to something with a wider beam spread. Please post the trim model number and exact wattage and beam spread of one of the lamps.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2009 at 9:51AM
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Thanks for the response. The recessed cans ARE over the correct areas, they are just not giving off enough light. These are all 5" Juno IC-20 with 205W-WH trim. The great room has eight Juno 928 Sloped Ceiling with 604W-WH trim. I don't know the wattage of the bulbs right now, only that they are Halogen spotlights.

We will have undercabinet lighting installed as well (when the cabinets are finished being installed). Our other hanging-type light fixtures are not in yet wither, however I cannot imagine having to turn on every available light in my house to see. And my dimmers will never get used as they are all as low as I would ever want them. It's sort of like the whole house has "mood lighting"... all the time.

We have never had this problem before and a friend of mine who recently built does not have this problem either. She says she usually only turns on HALF of her lights.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2009 at 11:50AM
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Wattage is 75w. Electrician said that was the highest wattage they could put on those dimmers.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2009 at 12:32PM
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Please describe "dark". There are several things that affect how a room feels and functions. Lighting designers take into account finish material colors, ceiling heights, fixture spacing, foot candles desired on each surface for task, general lighting for the entire space, etc. One can have well lit horizontal surfaces with dark walls and the space will feel dark. This can be a common problem when relying on mostly down lighting in a space.

The term "spot" is not very helpful because it is used too loosely. Some call all halogen reflector lamps "spots". A true spot is usually something much narrower than 25 degrees and it is unlikely that your electrician put in that narrow of a beam spread.

The Juno IC928 housing with 604 trim will accept up to a 90 watt Par 38. If you are limited by circuit capacity try changing the lamps to Philips IRC 70 watt par 38 which give off similar lumens. But first you need to figure out the beam spread you have and need.

The Juno IC20 housing with 205 trim cannot accept a 75 watt lamp. It maxes out with a 50 watt par 30. You'd need a 216 trim for that housing to take a 75 watt lamp.

A lighting designer starts with what light is needed and chooses fixture types, lamps and spacing. Then they choose the fixtures to meet these needs. The fixtures must hold the selected lamps and trims. Non lighting people tend to choose fixtures first. Interior designers and lighting designers work together to create or furnish a space and the lighting for it. The reason I'm going over this is because you need to think this way but may have to make the best out of what you have to work with. In many instances you can end up needing to remodel your new house to fix lighting errors. A good lighting designer may come up with a few solutions at different levels of costs to choose from.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2009 at 2:45PM
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Very simply, the depth of the base can be adjusted so the lamp is closer to the trim base. With the lamp recessed into the can 2" you are getting a very focused light instead of the wider range you are expecting.

We are electricians in Dallas, and have installed more cans than I care to count. We install the lamps just inside the can. Recessed cans, however, are primarily for ambient lighting. More direct light can be accomplished with chandeliers, floor and table lamps, pendant lights, etc.

Do not accept any one's advice that they know better what you should have for lighting. Simply tell them you are paying the bills and this is what you should expect!

    Bookmark   February 11, 2009 at 11:22AM
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our bulbs are adjustable. they can be pushed up more making the room dimmer or pulled down more to the trim base. call them and ask them if this can be done.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2009 at 12:21PM
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The OP has told us that they have halogen par 30 lamps, "spots", which are a tight beam spread. Even if we allow that these lamps are not spots but floods at around 40 degrees or less beam spread, moving them up and down 2" in the recessed fixture will not make the room "brighter" and will have no effect on the surface directly below. What you'll get when moving the lamps closer to the ceiling surface is more glare when looking at the par 30 lamp from across the room. Glare can be perceived by some to be more light but it is distracting light. The cutoff angle of the recessed fixture and par 30 trim and differing trim finishes are used to control glare. You can demonstrate this to yourself with a light meter and moving the lamp position up and down.

The higher the ceiling in a room the deeper the lamp must be recessed to hide the glaring light source from people across the room. The fixtures can become so deep that you could cut off beam spread of a par flood lamp but generally you will be using narrower beam lamps to keep the light levels high in the space below them. There are computer programs that use data from lighting manufacturers created by testing fixtures, trims and lamps so that one can model what a specific lighting design will do in a space.

Adequate lighting level is dependent on the age of the eyes. Older eyes need more light to see as well as younger eyes.

When the OP finishes having all of the other fixtures installed which include under counter, chandeliers, pendants, sconces, floor lamps, table lamps in the home they may not be as disappointed.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2009 at 5:40PM
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Thank you for your responses. My husband bought some "test" bulbs. He bought 60w FLOOD bulbs (which were less wattage than the 75w SPOTS that were installed). Huge difference. They do come down almost flush with the ceiling and are not as "pretty" as the current ones which are recessed 2" into the housing.

Here's how the current lights are working:
My daughter's room is pink with a white ceiling, 144 sq ft., 9' ceilings. There are 4 can lights near the corners of the ceiling. The light doesn't show anywhere but DIRECTLY below the spot, there is a distinctive 1/4 circle shining in the corener on the floor. There is no light shining on the tops of the walls... nothing until you get down almost halfway towards the floor. Move over 6" from the spotlight: DARK. Center of the room: DARK. I'm telling you, this is WEIRD. We had a 350 - 400 sq ft great room at our old house with only 4 can lights above, on a DIMMER that we USED, and we had plenty of light... all over the room.

The way I described my daughter's room is true for the rest of the house as well. We will have other fixtures (they're coming soon) installed, but why should I have to have every light on in the house for ample lighting? And again, we paid for dimmer switches everywhere but will never be able to use them with this poor lighting.

We have had comments from subcontractors working there even... during the DAY.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2009 at 11:36AM
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