My Recessed Lights Are Not Working (Possible Causes & Fixes)

Ossiana Tepfenhart
by Ossiana Tepfenhart

Recessed lights are a visually appealing and modern way to add depth to a room. You can change the aesthetic of a room completely when you install recessed lights, that is when they work. So, what does it mean when my recessed lights are not working?

A blown fuse, bad bulbs, and sagging trim can cause your recessed lighting to stop working. Too much insulation can overheat the lighting fixture, damage the wires, and create a fire hazard. Check to make sure that your bulbs are rated for the fixture and that your wiring is connected if your recessed lights are not working.

Problems with recessed lights can sometimes create a fire hazard, so it’s important to fix them right away. Follow along as we explore what you can do when your recessed lights are not working

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My Recessed Lights Are Not Working

Recessed lights can stop working for several reasons, such as a blown fuse, bad bulb, or bad wiring. You don’t typically need to replace recessed lights that are not working. Luckily, any homeowner can fix recessed lights that are not working with a little bit of troubleshooting.

1. Blown Fuse

A blown fuse on the circuit that your recessed lights are on can cause them to fail. You can tell that this is the problem if you have no electricity in the room where the lights are. Inspect your circuit breaker and look for a fuse that has visible signs of damage.

It costs an average of $250 to replace a blown breaker fuse and it is necessary. You cannot repair a blown fuse because it is useless once it is damaged. Remove the wires from the terminal on the old fuse and attach them to a new one to replace it. Hire a professional if you are uncomfortable with electrical work.

2. Bad Bulbs

Bad bulbs are the easiest problem to solve if your recessed lights are not working. You can tell that this is the case if some of the bulbs are working and others aren’t working. This can also occur if you install bulbs that are not the proper wattage.

Replace the bad bulbs with bulbs that are rated for your recessed lighting fixture. Otherwise, your bulbs will continue to go bad.

3. Sagging Trim

Healthy recessed lights should have trim that is flush with the ceiling for them to work properly. Recessed lights won’t work if the trim sags too low because the trim supports the fixture. Trim can sag when the building settles if you recently built your home.

The wiring connections can come loose and fail to make contact when the trim sags. In this case, you will need to remove the trim and fixture to reinstall them. Take extra steps to ensure that your trim is flush with the ceiling and use super glue or a similar strong adhesive.

4. Too Much Insulation

It is easy to overdo it and install too much insulation around your recessed lighting. Excessive insulation can cause your recessed lighting fixture to retain too much heat and cause damage. Too much insulation can create a fire hazard and make your bulbs more likely to burn out.

The extra heat can overheat the wires in the recessed lighting fixture. Remove some of the insulation or reinsulate the fixture altogether if there is too much insulation. This will reduce the risk of fire and allow your recessed lighting to work.

5. Blown Sockets

Believe it or not, the sockets that hold the light bulbs in your canister can blow too. This is rare, but it can happen. When a faulty socket occurs, the light will often “misbehave.” Lights that are being used in a socket that is only stating to go bad may make a light fizzing or sizzling sound. You might even smell something burning. (Note: If you notice a burning smell, turn off the lights and call an electrician ASAP.)

If the socket is left to continue to sizzle until it’s totally blown, it just won’t work at all. You will be able to place a brand new lightbulb in, only to see absolutely nothing happen. When this happens, you will need to replace the socket before you attempt to use it. Otherwise, you might have a fire hazard/useless socket on your hands.

6. Bad Wiring

Did you notice a strange issue with flickering lights lately? Did you have a lot of burnouts? Perhaps it was a sign of a burned out electrical outlet first, then maybe a couple of lights that won’t turn on. Whatever the reason, if you’re noticing a lot of widespread electrical failures in a certain room, it may be a good idea to have a professional take a look at your home’s wiring.

A house that has wiring over 20 to 30 years old needs to have it rewired. Sadly, there is not much that can be done outside of this. Thankfully, this is a rare issue when it comes to affecting your whole room. In a lot of cases, the bad wiring is a result of a leak in the roof that made the wiring corrode. So, don’t assume that you should immediately rewire your whole home if you recently had a leak. It could (hopefully) be a spot problem.

Moreover, sometimes wiring ends up falling off the socket for one reason or another. So, it may be as simple as reconnecting the wiring to the canister.

7. Bad Limit Switches

Believe it or not, recessed lighting can carry a bunch of different fire risks with them. They need protective gear. Limit switches are the protective gear that comes with every type of recessed lighting. These are specialty switches that detect when your recessed lighting gets too hot. When your canister shows signs of overheating, your limit switch will be the thing that automatically shuts it off.

If your limit switch goes bad, it will no longer be able to tell when your sockets are overheating. This will lead it to shut your lights off at random or just make it impossible to turn your lights on. Having an electrician look at this can help you figure out what you can do about this.

When Should You Call A Professional?

Unless you have some serious experience with working electronics, we strongly suggest that you hire an electrician for any problem that cannot be fixed with a new light bulb or a fuse reset. Electrical fires are no joke, and if you don’t know how to troubleshoot your home, you could easily overlook a serious problem that is in dire need of addressing.

Sometimes, a bad socket is just a bad socket. If you feel like the issue is isolated and easy enough to fix with a Google tutorial, then you might be able to get away with being able to avoid a call to a professional. However, if you notice that the recessed lights aren’t the only thing that’s malfunctioning or if you have reason to believe that there is an issue with your ceiling, it’s time to call pro. After all, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

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Related Questions

Is recessed lighting outdated?

Recessed lighting will not go out of style anytime soon. In fact, it’s actually becoming more trendy than before. Because it tends to add a sleek and modern touch to every type of home décor. Most home remodeling companies noted an uptick in demand for recessed lighting especially when it comes to homes that are being put through the “fix and flip” situation.There are a lot of people who enjoy recessed lighting, but it’s not entirely universal. One of the reasons why it’s not everywhere deals with the expensive installation and leak risk associated with them.

How many LED recessed lights do you need for a room?

Though this can change from place to place depending on your lighting needs, the rule of thumb is that you should put between a single recessed light for every four to six square feet. So, if you have a petite walk-in closet, then you can suffice with one or two lights. If you have a large banquet hall, you may need as much as 16 to 20 depending on the size of the venue.Of course, you also have to take your own room’s look into account. If you need an extremely bright lighting setup, you may need double the norm!

Can recessed LED lights burn out?

Yes, and it’s actually more common than you think. If you have reason to believe that your LED lights have burned out, then you will need to replace the entire unit. This is actually one of the biggest drawbacks of having recessed LED canisters rather than the traditional “incandescent” style of lighting. This can get pretty pricey, so try to save up for it every 5 years.

Ossiana Tepfenhart
Ossiana Tepfenhart

Ossiana Tepfenhart is an expert writer, focusing on interior design and general home tips. Writing is her life, and it's what she does best. Her interests include art and real estate investments.

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