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


My Recessed Lights Are Not Working

Recessed lighting is one of the hottest things to become a mainstay in home design. They are chic, cool, and so insanely versatile, they can work with almost any type of style that you could imagine. While there are a lot of people who might find them to be a must-have, they are notorious for being a pain to fix and diagnose. What could be the cause of recessed lights that stopped working?

There are several key causes for recessed lights that won’t turn on. The most common causes include:

  1. Blown Fuses
  2. Bad Bulbs
  3. Sagging Trim
  4. Over insulation
  5. Blown Sockets
  6. Bad Wiring
  7. Foul Limit Switches

There are so many little things that go into creating a good light bulb setup, especially with recessed lights. This guide will help you understand the most common reasons you might have a malfunctioning recessed light grid.

What Causes Recessed Lights To Fail?

There are a ton of reasons why your recessed lights aren’t doing what they should be. Let’s take a look at the top seven reasons why you might have a hard time with recessed lighting.

1. Blown Fuses

This is the most obvious reason why your lights might not work. If you notice that none of the electricity in the room working, then you have a blown fuse. You can either replace the fuse, or flip the switch to make this problem go away. Repeated fused blowing, though, could be a sign of something dangerous.

2. Bad Bulbs

If you only have one or two lights that aren’t working, then you might want to check out the lightbulbs. The bulbs in question could be burnt out, which is the more common issue. The other issue that you might have is that the bulbs are too high a wattage for the socket in question. Though this is rarely the issue, buying the wrong bulb can and will cause lighting issues—recessed or not.

3. Sagging Trim

The way that recessed lights work is simple: the trim around the light is supposed to remain flush with the ceiling. This is actually what holds up the fixture that your light is plugged into. When your building settles, there is a chance that the trim will start to sag. This is particularly common among houses that have a lot of humidity.

The sagging trim can make it hard for the wiring to do what it’s supposed to do. In some cases, it can even cause the wiring to separate from the socket. If you notice your trim sagging, it may be time to fix it.

4. Overinsulation

Did you know that recessed lighting is often surrounded by insulation in the ceiling? It’s true. In small doses, the insulation can act as a protective part of the setup. It can help keep things dry and also help the area around your lights keep an even temperature. However, there is such a thing as “too much of a good thing.”

Too much insulation can end up trapping heat in your lighting area. When your lights get too much heat, they begin to act like any other electrical outlet that is too hot. The cylinder and wires that carry the electricity will usually end up burning out. In rarer situations, this could also cause the wires to catch fire or the bulb to burn out prematurely.

This is usually something people tend to notice after a remodel or even after too many bulbs that burn out. This is a potential fire hazard, so if you notice that your canisters’ sockets have blown fairly frequently, then this could be an issue to check for. Insulation should never be that tightly packed.

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.

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 decor. 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 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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