4 Tips For The Best Closet Lighting

closet lighting

People tend to overlook closet lighting, even though it is a highly useful investment. A lot of closets are either not illuminated at all or inappropriately so. Having no light in the closet is inconvenient, but having a closet packed with clothing, shoes and other flammable items, which is also poorly illuminated is downright dangerous. Using halogen lights in closet areas, for instance, increases fire risk, as these tend to get hot quite fast. Energy-efficient LED lights are a smarter choice. Plus, these use considerably less energy. 

Both safety and convenience need to be considered when you are thinking of closet lighting ideas. Because sometimes this type of lighting can get quite complicated, especially with walk-in closets, many people deal with it during a remodel or when they first buy a house. This way they have the assistance of a professional electrician, who is up to date with the National Electrical Code (NEC) published every three years by the National Fire Protection Association. This sets the rules and standards which apply in most residential and commercial spaces. 

1. Know The Code Requirements for Closet Lighting

closet lighting requirements

Closet lighting is covered by all building codes. However, old homes don’t seem to abide by those regulations. And one of the major issues is the use of standard incandescent bulbs, which are even more dangerous when exposed. 

Inside the closets, all recessed and surface-mounted incandescent light fixtures have to be completely enclosed. Having them partially enclosed is not going to be good enough. So, in case your fixture does not have a glass globe or some type of cover, you should replace it. 

Here are some of the most important closet lighting NEC requirements: 

  1. Closet lighting is regarded as “best practice”, so it’s not mandatory to install light fixtures in your closet. Having an adequately illuminated closet will increase the level of convenience and it will make an appealing addition when selling your home. 
  2. Walk-in closets should have switch-controlled lights and outlets. Now, although the idea of a walk-in closet is a bit unclear in NEC, this does specify that all closets of 50 square feet or larger should be illuminated by a ceiling light fixture operated by a wall switch, installed near the entrance. Electricians usually consider walk-in closets part of this category. 
  3. For the surface-mounted incandescent or LED light fixture, the distance between fixtures and storage items needs to be minimum of 12 inches. For recessed incandescent or LED light fixtures, as well as fluorescent light fixtures, a 6 inches distance will be sufficient. 
  4. No exposed or partially exposed incandescent or LED lamps (bulbs) are allowed. Even though this was accepted in the past, regulations have changed and all light bulbs need to be fully enclosed.

2. Choose The Right Type of Lights

closet lighting types

As mentioned above, halogen lights are not a good choice for closet space. This is a type of incandescent lighting and it includes a gas, meant to increase the light output. This helps tiny halogen bulbs to produce an impressive amount of light. 

However, even though the light generated by these bulbs is strong, they tend to get hot rather quickly. This is why they are not suitable for small, enclosed spaces, where they could easily get in contact with other materials. They can indeed be quite decorative and a lot of designers favor them. Still, there are other fixtures just as decorative, which use energy-efficient LED lights. 

In fact, LED lights are probably the best options for bulbs you could install in a closet. One of the main reasons for that is they generate a minimal amount of heat. So, even if you install them behind glass cabinet doors for a certain display, they are a safe option. Additionally, they last longer and have energy-efficient qualities, which means you save energy. 

3. Go For Hard-Wired Fixtures

A fixture wired into an electrical circuit is the best choice for closet lighting. And it’s even better if you have an attic, because this way, the electrician will have easy access to the existing circuit. Go for an LED fixture and install a switch on the outside of the closet. It can’t get more convenient than that. 

4. Research Closet Lighting Ideas

closet lighting ideas

Lighting can transform any space, so whether you have a walk-in closet or just enough space to store your items, you can still give it a chic, elevated look. It’s all about strategic placement of lights and choosing the right type, from recessed puck lights and ribbon lights to hanging chandeliers or LED strip lights. 

Having a well organized and optimized closet is something worth investing in and great lighting is part of that project. Here are a few tips to help you not just simply illuminate the space, but also add to it and improve its functionality.

  • Location: to create a pleasant atmosphere, you need to carefully consider where you will be placing the lights. Recessed puck lights are best on top shelves, ribbon lights along the edges, while a brightening at a cabinet’s base helps obtain the desired atmosphere; 
  • Ribbon lights: to provide the best visibility for your wardrobe, you should consider running recessed ribbon lighting above clothes along the length of the closet rod. It’s a great idea for any storage space, big or small;
  • Recessed lights: to showcase some of your best items, try installing recessed puck lighting around the cabinetry’s top perimeter; 
  • Base lights: illuminating the base of a cabinet will give your space a bold and modern appearance;
  • Track lighting: if you want to have the freedom to play with the lighting, then you might consider track lighting and light bars, especially if you have exposed beams with no attic; however it’s not always a preferred type of lighting as it can be too much of a spot light;
  • LED lights: LED strip lights are incredibly simple to install because of their adhesive backing and they can be installed anywhere in the closet; 
  • Hanging lights: for a dramatic, unforgettable look, a chandelier or pendant light is exactly what you need. But don’t go too far. If your closet is small, go for a flush mount chandelier. 

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