How To Layout Recessed Lights With A Ceiling Fan?

When choosing a layout for your recessed lights around a ceiling fan, the lights must be far enough from the fan’s blades to avoid strobing. The ideal distance between the blades and recessed lights is 1.5 to 2 feet. Read on to learn about further details.

Layout Of Recessed Lights With Ceiling Fan To Avoid Strobing

When planning the layout of your recessed lights with a ceiling fan, you should plan it in such a way as to avoid strobing. Strobing or flickering is caused when the ceiling fan’s blades cut through a path of light, casting fleeting shadows in quick succession.

Strobing is known to negatively impact the human brain, so you probably don’t want to create this effect in your home. Some of the adverse side effects of strobing include:

  • Causing migraines
  • Affecting emotions
  • Increased eye fatigue
  • Attention dispersion, i.e., inability to focus
  • Triggering a photosensitive epilepsy attack
  • Flicker vertigo, where you feel disoriented and struggle with balance and depth perception

Additionally, strobing can cause behavioral disturbances in people with autism since they are usually sensitive to environmental changes.

Layout Guidelines For Recessed Lights And A Ceiling Fan

Choosing the correct layout for your recessed lights around a ceiling fan is not only for aesthetic purposes, but it has health implications, too. You want to illuminate your room and create a specific ambiance that doesn’t include a strobe light effect whenever the fan is on.

There aren’t definitive rules about how far recessed lights should be from a ceiling fan. However, you want to ensure the ceiling fan’s blades don’t cross the path of the light shaft. This is because the closer the light is to the center of the fan, the higher the strobing frequency will be.

combination of recessed lights with an illuminated ceiling fan at the center
Recessed lights and ceiling fan with lights

The higher the strobing frequency, the more irritating or damaging its effects. The light that shines from a fixed open recessed light is in the shape of a cone. It starts narrow at the light source and flares out into a wider beam of light.

With that in mind, you want to keep the lights far enough from the fan so that its blades don’t cut through the light beam from any angle. However, it’s not always as easy as that. Other factors will determine the distance between your recessed lights and ceiling fan. They are discussed next.

The Position And Size Of The Ceiling Fan

Ceiling fans come in many shapes and sizes. They can be as small as 20 inches or as big as 72 inches. The recommended minimum distance between a fan blade tip and recessed light is 2 to 3 inches. This is workable for fans mounted close to the ceiling.

However, even a distance of 8 inches between a ceiling fan’s blades and a recessed light can cause strobing. Thus it is recommended to have a length of 1.5 to 2 feet between the recessed lights and fan blades if possible.

The Type Of Lighting For The Room

Recessed lights are used for task, ambient, and accent lighting. Their layout can be monotonous or contrasting. A monotonous format is when the lights are placed equidistant from each other. On the other hand, contrast lighting allows for variation in the spacing and placement of recessed lights.

Depending on the ceiling space, you might have to employ contrast lighting. When planning the layout of recessed lights with a ceiling fan, you must also consider the distance between the lights and the walls. Recessed lights that are too close to a wall will cast shadows on it.

Whatever the pattern or function of the recessed lighting you choose, the minimum gap of 3 inches between recessed lights and fan blades should be observed.

The Size Of The Area

The positioning of a ceiling fan and recessed lights around it will also depend on the size of the area to be illuminated. In larger spaces, the recessed lights can be set further apart, eliminating the chance of strobing altogether.

You should be able to completely eliminate strobing with a distance of 18 to 24 inches between the fan blades and the recessed light. However, illuminating smaller spaces will mean the recessed lights need to be closer to the fan, increasing the chances of strobing.

Ways To Fix A Bad Layout Of Recessed Lights And Ceiling Fan

As mentioned, there are no rules for laying out recessed lights around a ceiling fan, only recommendations. But what if you’re already sitting with the problem of strobing but can’t afford to redo everything?

Next are some things you can consider to fix or reduce the strobing problem:

Use Halogen Lights Instead Of Fluorescent Bulbs

Fluorescent bulbs are designed to disperse light, whereas halogen alternatives tend to shine in a direct path because of their smaller beam angle. This way, the fan blades are less likely to intercept the light beam angle.

Just be sure that switching to bulbs with a smaller beam angle will illuminate the area sufficiently.

Install The Fan Closer To The Ceiling If Possible

If your fan is suspended with an extension rod, the fan blades are more likely to interfere with the light. You can try to fix this by using a shorter extension rod (about 1 foot) or repositioning the fan further away from the recessed light.

Alternatively, consider installing a low-profile fan or a fan with shorter blades (44 inches or smaller). You could also get a fan with its own light source to bypass the issue, although it doesn’t solve the problem entirely. However, it is probably cheaper than redoing all the recessed lights and repairing or replacing the ceiling boards.

Change The Trim Of Your Recessed Lights

If your recessed lights have to remain in their current position, consider changing over to an adjustable trim. Adjustable recessed lights allow you to tilt and direct the light path slightly away from the ceiling fan. This way, the blades won’t obstruct the beam of light from the adjustable recessed lights.

Various types of adjustable trims exist for recessed lighting. Examples include eyeball, eyelid, wall-washer, and gimbal ring. Before purchasing them, however, you should check if the existing housing units for your recessed lighting are compatible with the trims. If not, you will have to get new housing units, too.