How to Light Your Home on a Budget

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Last Updated on January 22, 2024 by Allison Lancaster

I am so excited to have the team from on my site today sharing their input and ideas about how to light your home on a budget!

Lighting design gives your home personality, provides ambience, and serves a functional purpose. However, many people don’t think about lighting when remodeling their home, so they don’t budget for it. Instead, they run out of money and end up buying fixtures that don’t enhance the home design, look cheap, or don’t provide proper lighting for the space. But just because you are on a budget, doesn’t mean you can’t add style, increase the perceived value of your home, and get practical use from lighting. If you are considering doing your own lighting design it is best to first learn about lighting. This will help you plan your design and show you how you can incorporate visual appeal with functionality. Not every room is to be treated the same, which means not all fixtures will be appropriate for the space. Shopping for fixtures can take a huge slice out of your budget, so having a strategy will be helpful. Even after you finish the lighting design process, you can continue to save money for years to come by using tips to keep your lighting costs down.

Learn About Lighting

If you are on a lighting design budget, you will need to do your homework in order to keep your costs down. How you start your project will dictate your results. So, knowing how lighting works will save you time, money, and help you create the look you want. Lighting design requires understanding lighting layers, knowing the types of bulbs, and determining which light works best. Not to mention, there are other factors that will affect future costs, such as energy efficient lights and proper installation.

3 layers of lighting design

Each room should have appropriate lighting that fits the use of the room. For example, the lighting in your kitchen shouldn’t be the same as the lighting in your bedroom. A kitchen should have bright illumination so you can prepare food and a bedroom should have lighting that will make you feel comfortable and cozy. Ambient lighting, task lighting, and accent lighting are the three layers used in lighting design to give a room a certain tone and serve a specific lighting purpose. Ambient is the general overhead lighting in the room. Direct lighting, where the light directed down from the ceiling or walls, is a method that will create ambience. You can also choose indirect lighting where you up-light the ceiling instead. The light will reflect from the ceiling and produce ambient lighting. When performing specific functions, then use task lighting. It works best for cooking, reading, or putting on makeup. Start with this layer when beginning your lighting design. Lastly, if you want to highlight any artwork or focal points, accent lighting will do the trick. If you have textured walls, get creative with accent lighting and use a spotlight to make the features stand out!

How To Light Your Home on a Budget Terms for describing light bulbs

Now that you’re familiar with the three layers of lighting design, knowing the different types of bulbs will help you create those layers. The type of bulb determines its brightness, life-span, and how much energy it consumes. Pay attention to the attributes of the bulbs because they can help you cut future lighting costs!


The color of light is measured in kelvins. Typically, bulbs are between 2,500 to 6,500 kelvins. The lower the number, the warmer the color. This means a bulb that is 2,500K will produce a yellowish, orangish glow. However, 6,500K is considered a cool temperature and will give off a bluish-white color. Moonlight is a great example of cool temperature.


A bulb’s brightness is measured in lumens. To put it into perspective, a properly lit living room needs about 1,500-3,000 lumens, while reading requires a minimum of only 98 lumens. So, a living room uses substantially more light than a reading area. If you have poor vision or are older, you should then increase the lumens for your comfort. As a reference, use the chart that was created by the Lighting Research Center. It breaks down the number of lumens that would be needed for particular tasks or certain rooms. For example, dark areas like dressing rooms, stairs, and hallways all require over 1,000 lumens. However, the closet, dining table, and kitchen counters require only a third of those lumens.


Once an indicator of brightness, now wattage only represents energy consumption. For example, halogen bulbs use less energy than incandescent bulbs. However, LED lights use less energy, or watts, than halogens. So, this means LEDs are more energy efficient and eco-friendly of the three.

The U.S Trade Commission requires companies to label packages to help consumers choose their light bulbs. If you are educated on light bulbs, not only will you save money but you will know what how to properly light different areas of your home.

Designing a DIY lighting plan

First, draw a floor plan of the area you want to light and be sure to make it to scale. Include all details, such as the location of windows, furniture, and doors. Know the purpose of the lighting. Because you are on a budget, you will likely need to use a little creativity to find the proper lighting for the space. Keep in mind that the scope of the lighting design and style should be factored into your budget. Walk through all of your rooms. Decide which ones could use updating and look for areas that need additional lighting. Think about how the space is used and refer to the chart provided by the Lighting Research Center for the number of lumens needed. Once you have come up with a budget, stick to it!

A lighting designer will charge about $250-350 an hour, but many lighting showroom salespeople have similar training and experience. Many are certified by the ALA (American Lighting Association). Try asking a lighting showroom professional to help with, or review your lighting design plan. They will not charge for the consultation, and even if you need a lighting consultant to come to your home, most showrooms will deduct any associated costs from your order.

Decorating magazines are a great way to get ideas for designs and fixtures. You also have Pinterest and Houzz as online resources for inspiration. Bring those pictures with you when you go shopping for fixtures. That way, you can hunt for cheaper versions of similar fixtures. Compare store prices and include the cost of shipping in your budget. Once you’re ready to install your fixtures, be careful! To avoid personal injury or fires, ask an expert for help. Try asking hardware stores for advice, as well. Don’t forget to add the installation cost into your budget.

It is important to select fixtures that fit the look of the space. Buying fixtures within your budget will take quite a bit of work. However, it is possible to find an inexpensive stylish fixture of good quality. For example, barn lights are great affordable industrial fixtures. They are timeless and compliment a space that has a look rustic. It is also possible to go with cheap lights as long as the room doesn’t take itself seriously. It’s a bold, creative statement that adds style and character to a room. Or if you want to be simple, use generic fixtures, such as drum shades and basic lanterns. They don’t draw attention and can serve as placeholders until you can afford to upgrade.

Lighting tips for each room

As mentioned, each room will require different lighting fixtures. Now, that you know about lights it will make the lighting design process easier. If you know how many lumens a space require,  then buy the appropriate bulb. Compare the bulbs discussed above – incandescent, halogen, and LED lights – by looking at the package labels. Since you will know how specific rooms will need to be lit, you can calculate the future lighting costs by comparing the number of kelvins, lumens and wattage of the bulbs.


About 5,000-10,000 lumens will properly light a kitchen. However, the kitchen in its entirety will not have the same lighting. Placing halogen or fluorescent lighting under the cabinet over the sink creates task lighting. If you decide to put a chandelier in the center of the room, make sure it has a shade that will direct the light down for ambient lighting. Add recessed lights on the sides of the ceilings to reduce shadows. Always keep shadows in mind when you are figuring out light placement. You wouldn’t want low lighting or shadows in your task areas, especially when cutting up fruits or vegetables.


Bathrooms use 4,000-8,000 lumens, making it a bright space. However, if you want to apply makeup or shave, ambient lighting will produce shadows. The right selection and placement of fixtures makes a big difference. Placing lights on the sides of the mirrors gives you tasking lighting and reduces shadows, allowing you to perform your morning rituals. You can also use led strip lights that are the length of the mirror. For big mirrors, put a fixture with shades above the mirror to remove shadows. Make sure to position the shades down to point the light in that direction. Last, there’s nothing worse than waking up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom and being blinded by the light -as we all know. Installing dimmers is a great solution!

        Living rooms

One of the most versatile rooms, the living room uses anywhere from 2,000 to 4,000 lumens. Many different tasks take place in this space, including watching TV, reading, and talking. So, be prepared to use the three layers quite a bit. Use your drawn plan as a lighting reference for the room. To avoid shadows, don’t place lights directly over seating areas. But, if you choose to install lights there, then angle them away from the seating area. Put task lighting, such as lamps, in places where you’ll be reading. Use spotlights for accent lighting to highlight objects and create a focal points. If you are using picture lights, which are fixed directly above pictures, put each of them at a 30-degree angle.

Dining rooms

This is another room where dimmers are ideal. The lumens of a dining room are between 3,000-6,000. With dimmers you can easily switch the mood from lively and entertaining to romantic and cozy. Again, avoid placing lights above the seats so that they don’t create shadows on faces. If you want to highlight centerpieces or other decor, get adjustable recessed lights so you can change their angles. If you are tall you may have bumped your head on a low ceiling fixture at some point in your life. These ceiling fixtures should be 12 inches less than the table width to avoid such injuries.

Home offices

Portable lamps are a great option for this room. Because a home office also uses about 3,000 to 6,000 lumens, reflections will be an issue. You can move portable lamps to minimize reflections on your computer screens or other reflective surfaces. If you want to brighten up your office and make it look larger, the wall-washing technique will do the trick. Just position, or train, recessed lights towards the wall to create that illusion. Think about installing occupancy sensors to reduce energy cost. The lights will only turn on when someone is in the room. For accent lighting, adjustable recessed lights or surface-mounted spotlights will produce focal points and highlight diplomas and artwork.

Shopping for fixtures

Brass fixtures are a great option since they are usually less expensive than other finishes. If the brass doesn’t match the decor, spray paint it another color using paint specifically made for metal. Buy fixtures that perform multiple functions to save money. That way, you have ambience, task lighting, and accent lighting for when you want to utilize a layer. Keep up with current trends. Some manufacturers will make affordable versions of popular lighting due to their high demand. However, be aware that the materials will probably be cheaper than the original fixture. Get creative by opting for a few small similar fixtures in large spaces rather than large fixtures. Add a little personality to the room by hanging the fixtures at different heights. Other ways to help you stay within your budget is to keep an eye out for sales, sign up for email alerts, and shop in the clearance section.

Tips for lowering lighting costs

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission requires lighting companies to label packages. That way, consumers will know the yearly energy cost, life-span, where the light falls on the kelvin scale, and the number of watts the bulb uses. Instead of incandescent bulbs, opt for energy-efficient light bulbs, such as LED lights. They will burn less watts, yet provide as much light as regular bulbs. LEDs also last longer than other bulbs, so you replace them less frequently. The life-span of LEDs is about 60,000 hours or 7 years of continuous light. It’s no wonder these lights are becoming more popular! Dust affects the brightness of the bulb and makes the fixture less visually appealing. Clean the fixture regularly to keep it in good condition to avoid having to spend money on a new one.


So, having an impressive and stylish lighting design without a huge budget is certainly doable. First become familiar with how lighting works, then draw up a design plan. Do a walk-through of your home. Remember that all rooms will not be lit the same. Use the lumens chart as a guide for how specific rooms should be lit. Research cheap fixtures and place them in areas that can handle inexpensive lights without looking tacky. You don’t want a cheap fixture in a room that has upscale decor and a sophisticated vibe. Think about your lighting design in the short term and the long term. Will your lighting design work with your budget? Will your design reduce lighting expenses in the long term? And although you may be tempted to, don’t go over your budget! Be sure to factor in installation and lighting costs. The decisions you make now will save you a lot of money in the future!

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