How Many Can Lights For A 12 X 12 Room?

Are you considering using recessed can lights to illuminate your room but do not know how many you will need? Well, you have come to the right page as we have taken the time to do in-depth research to help you find the answer.

Depending on the room usage and light intensity needed, you will need 5-9 recessed can lights for your 12 x 12 room. This number of can lights will also assure that the shape of the light will touch each other and not leave gaps.

The easy part is to determine the general number of lights needed for a bare 12 x 12 square feet room. However, you may want to consider the light intensity based on the room usage and be precise in the light placement to avoid cast shadows.

Knowing about other considerations will also help you finalize your light placement. Read on as we discuss the lowdown and the best possible lighting for your room.

Luxury living room with ceiling fan and can lights, How Many Can Lights For A 12 X 12 Room?

How Do You Determine The Number Of Can Lights A Room Needs?

To determine precisely how many you will need, you may choose to follow the process below and use any of the following formulas to help you come up with the precise number.

New home construction lights and ceiling

Draw A Ceiling Diagram

Draw a ceiling diagram to work out the spacing arrangement of the can lights. You can use grid paper to help you visually see the spatial distances of the light positions.

Remember that canned lighting is usually distributed equally around the room, with rows of an equal number of cans per row, or in the case of a square room with five can lights, a center lamp in the middle of four equally spaced lamps.

Ceiling Height Formula

Manufacturers indicate a spacing criterion number in their can light products, usually between 0.5 and 1.5. To calculate spacing, multiply the spacing criterion with the ceiling height:

Spacing Criterion x Ceiling Height = Spacing

Having determined the spacing distance, you can find out how many lights will fit in your ceiling space. If the ceiling height is 9 feet and the Spacing Criterion is 0.5, then 0.5 x 9 = 4.5 feet.

Applying this to your ceiling diagram, you will see that this will come up to 5 can lights evenly spaced out in your 12 x 12 room while still keeping 2 feet away from any wall.

Wattage Formula

You can also use this formula:

Total square footage x 1.5 / bulb watts = bulbs needed

If you use 40-watt bulbs for your 12 x 12 room, then 144 square feet x 1.5 / 60 watts = 5.4 bulbs.

You may choose to use 5 or 6 bulbs depending on the lumens rating of the bulb used. Lumens refer to the measure of the total amount of visible light from the bulb or lamp.

Lumens Formula

An accurate way to determine how many lights are needed is to use the lumens formula to determine how many lumens your room needs and then base how many bulbs/lamps will be required based on its lumens rating. To determine the total necessary lumens use this formula:

Room Square Footage x Foot Candle Requirement = Total Lumens

Foot Candle requirements vary depending on the room usage. However, the average room requirement recommendation runs from 20 to 50 FC for bedrooms and workrooms, so it would be prudent to consider your intended use for the area first.

Using 20 fc as a basis thus gives us 144 square feet x 20 fc = 2,880 lm.

If you are using a 600 lm LED lamp, then 2,880 lm requirement / 600 lm LED lamp = 4.8 LED lamp.

What Else Affects The Number Of Can Lights In A Space?

Newly remodeled room of house with finished wood floors

Here are factors that should help you decide the exact number and placement of your can lights:

Linear Distance From Each Can Light

The standard distance between two can light fixtures should be no more than 4 feet on a linear path. This will allow the cone of the light emitted to overlap or evenly light the room.

For a 12 x 12 square feet room, this gives you an equal length and width of 12 feet.

Length 12 feet / 4 feet = 3 can lights

Width 12 feet / 4 feet = 3 can lights

Total: 6 can lights for two rows, or nine can lights for three rows

Distance From The Wall

Outdoor lighting fixture illuminating a walkway

Placing the can light too close to the wall creates a light coning effect. You may want that if it is an effect you desire; however if you want to avoid that and achieve an even light wall washing, place your can lights 2 feet away from the wall.

Potential Obstructions

Careful consideration should be placed where overhangs, cabinets, and shelves can affect the lighting and produce cast shadows.

Wall And Ceiling Fans

Detailed trim white wood tray ceiling with a ceiling fan

Wall and ceiling fans can also produce a strobing light effect, so you must ensure not to place a can light directly above the fan and its blades.

Test the light placement with the installed fan before you cut a hole in the ceiling.

Light Focus

Determine if you desire just an overall clear ambient light or if there will be an area of focus, such as a workbench or reading space. Consider this in your overall lighting plan.

You may have an area you want to be a point of focus where you may place the first light, then arrange all the other lights at an equal distance, keeping the recommended spaces in mind.

What Are The Different Kinds Of Can Lights?

There are different types of can lights available on the market.

By understanding the available technology, you can determine what type to install and compare the watt and voltage rate against the quality and intensity of light.

Knowing the efficiency of different types will also help you cost-wise in the long run.

The types will fall into the following general categories:


Incandescent light bulbs are the traditional and original ones used in recessed can lights. As such, they are the least efficient and shortest lasting of the different types.

They also require larger housing and emit more heat. Incandescent light bulbs are being phased out in most countries due to their mercury content.


Halogen lamp

Halogen bulbs emit whiter and brighter light by 30% than fluorescent bulbs. They are also smaller in size, require less power, and consume less energy than the standard bulb.

The disadvantage is that they are even hotter than the standard light bulb. Like the standard bulb, halogen bulbs are also scheduled to be discontinued and banned by most countries.

Compact Fluorescent

Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFL) are even more energy-efficient alternatives to fluorescent bulbs. They are four times more efficient and last longer, emitting equal light or lumens at a lower watt.

This translates into savings and maintaining the same lumens. The efficiency and lower heat emission make the lamp last longer and replacement costs lower.


Small solar powered led light with motion sensor

Light Emitting Diode (LED) is the latest development in lighting technology and has the most potential for saving money long-term.

It has the longest lifespan among the types of light bulbs and is the most energy-efficient. Even better is that it emits no heat or ultraviolet emissions.

Click here to see these LED lights on Amazon.

What Changes Can I Make To Can Lights?

Now that you know how many can lights to use and how to position them for your 12 x 12 room, you may want to know what other elements and options are available.

We have listed below some of the basics that you may want to consider:


A 3000-kelvin yellow-producing light will be better for a bedroom. For a work area, a kitchen, or a large bathroom, white light at 4000-5000 kelvin will be needed to see clearly.

Note, too, that light at either the yellow or blue spectrum of the scale may change the perceived color of the wall but will be valid for white light.

Wash Or Tight Spot

You can wall wash, highlight a painting, or spotlight specific areas of the room for a more sophisticated mood. Accent lighting should be three times brighter than the room's ambient light.

Dimmer Switch Option

LED can lights also offer a dimmer switch option to control the light's intensity and give off a calm mood. You can turn them up when working or dim them down for relaxation.

Click here to see this dimmer switch on Amazon.

LED RGBW Color Changing

LED RGBW is the latest technology that will allow you to produce any color by mixing the primary red, green, blue, and pure white light.

This lends additional architectural lighting and decorative effect to your room.

See these LED RGBW adjustable lights on Amazon.

To Wrap It Up

You will need 5 to 9 can lights to light up your 12 x 12 room for ambient lighting. Considering the fixtures and overhangs, you can determine the spacing to avoid cast shadows. Knowing what light effects are possible will give you further options in choosing what type of recessed can lights to install.

Finally, if you are interested in other lighting ideas, check out these posts:

How To Light A Room That Has No Overhead Lighting [7 Alternatives]

What Type Of Floor Lamp Gives The Most Light?

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