A Definitive Guide to Wall Lights. Shedding Light on your Wall Lighting Woes


The terminology associated with wall lights can be hard to understand and can render you feeling unsure when you come to add or replace your wall lighting. This guide will help to simplify some of the jargon and help you discern what you need. A comprehensive guide covering types of wall lights, potential issues that may be preventing you from installing a light fitting on the wall and solutions to common pitfalls. It’s an ideal guide for those looking to buy a wall light but uncertain which. We’ll help you to learn the right height to mount the light, which lights dim, when a double insulated light is need and so much more.

  1. Hard Wired Wall Lights
  2. Double Insulated Wall Lights
  3. Wall Lights with Switches
  4. Considerations for Adding Wall Lights
  5. Swapping Old Wall Lights for New
  6. Where to Position Wall Lights
  7. Wall Lights with Plugs
  8. Dimmable Wall Lights
  9. LED Wall Lights
  10. Types of Wall Light

Hard Wired Wall Lights:

Astro KYMI paintable ceramic wall washer wall light (large)

Wall lights are referred to as hard wired when they are wired into the mains. In other words, they are lights that are not plugged in via a plug, like a table lamp would be, but connected to your cables within your home, which may be buried in the wall or surface mounted.

Many wall light fixtures are operated by a standard wall switch (like the one which would operate your ceiling lights) but not always. How the wall light is switched depends largely on the cables you have in your home. There will be potentially 3 cables a live, neutral and earth cable. One may be a switch cable, or it may be a permanent live cable. If the cable is set up to be a switch cable (and this is a basic explanation to aid understanding; we recommend that you utilise a qualified electrical contractor), then you can use the wall switch to operate the lights. If the cable is a constantly live cable, then the wall light will stay on all the time, unless there is a switch directly on the wall fitting.

As already stated an electrical contractor should be the person who deals with any electrical work, even simple jobs can be more complicated than expected; this is especially true in older homes as many so called ‘cowboys’ may have adapted or circumvented the safety measures. The electrician is trained and legislated to deal with any electrical problems. We were all taught as babes in arms that electricity can be extremely dangerous so for your safety and that of family and visitors to your home, it’s well worth the expense of getting an expert to tackle electrical work. Costs are relatively cheap to change a light fitting.

Double Insulated Wall Lights:

The Lighting Book FERRARA Polished chrome hotel style wall light complete with taupe silk shade.

Sometimes there isn’t an earth cable in the home, in this circumstance only double insulated (class 2) lights may be used. Sometimes this is written as class II. Here at The Lighting Company, we offer a vast selection of lights with this extra safety protection feature.

Homes that were built before 1970 were completed before the introduction of a regulatory requirement for an earth cable to be used, so many houses before this era will need to use double insulated lights. If you are unsure, you can safely use these double insulated lights in any home and most rooms (with the exception of a bathroom), where a specific bathroom rated version must be used too. Lights classified as class 2 have a double layer of insulation built in to protect the live parts, this will prevent any shocks from touching the switch or light fitting.

Wall Lights with Switches:

The Lighting Book KENNEDY wall washer light in chrome with silk shade

Wall lights can be operated separately from the other lights in the room, if they have a switch on the fitment, known as an integrated switch. This can be useful when you’re trying to create a low level of light or a relaxed ambience. Types of switches are:

  • Pull Cord (illustrated above) – A string switch that you pull down
  • Toggle – A ‘joystick’ style switch
  • Rocker – A rocking on/off switch
  • In-line Rocker – A rocker style switch situated along a cable
  • Dimmer Dial – A switch used to dim the light (anti-clockwise) or brighten (clockwise)

If you don’t need your wall light to be separately switched, but the light you love is only available with an integrated switch, you’ll be relieved to that know a switched wall light can still be operated by the mains switch (just ensure the integrated switch is in the ‘on’ position all the time). If you are replacing your old wall light fitting, you should really replace like for like, so make sure you include this important information when you are searching.

Considerations for Adding New Wall Lights:

Ensure that you can get to cabling that will allow power to your lights as you wouldn’t want to find you have no mains wiring available for your new fittings! Also explain to your contractor how you want to operate the lights as they will need to ensure the correct cabling is installed allowing for switching the way you want it.

Swapping Old Lights for New:

The benefit of swapping wall lights is that you know you’ve got access to the mains wiring and won’t find yourself without power. Have the old fitment removed and replaced with your shiny new one! Make sure you choose a wall light that will provide a similar or more adequate level of light and that it has correct mains power cables to operate the lights correctly (unless you are replacing one light for another light with the same switching configuration). Regardless if you have or haven’t got the right cable in place, there will be a suitable wall light. Find the complete collection of switched, un-switched or double insulated wall fixtures at on our online shop.

Where to Position Them:

There’s no correct answer to exactly where a wall light should be positioned as it’s dependent on the intended use. You may want the lighting to be higher in hallways or if your ceilings are high, however as a general rule, you should consider placing your wall lights approximately 150cms (or 60”) higher than floor level for most places, with an exception in the bedroom, as you may consider siting them much lower for bedside lighting. If the lights are wall washer types, you may prefer to mount these above eye level, so you do not just see the inside of the fitting. With regard to the spacing between consecutive lights, we’d recommend between 2.5 – 3 metres as a suitable spacing, however this is of course always subject to personal preference and wiring suitability. Often if you are replacing an old light, the cable will determine where the new light will need to go, however do be aware that the style of light you choose may have differing cable entry points. A top tip for those who don’t want to ruin the current decor, is to opt for a wall light with a larger back plate or mounting plate this will cover all the previous screw holes and be large enough to hide the missing paint or wallpaper that is most often discovered when an old light is removed.

Wall Lights with Plugs

ORIGINAL BTC PORTABLE - Medium Pleat Wall Light Sand And Taupe Braided Cable

If you have a requirement for a wall light, but don’t have the cabling ready to site one, you can consider one of the many wall lights that come with a long plug lead and switch, similar to table and floor lamps. A downside is that you will be able to see the cable, so it’s worth tacking the cable down where you can to avoid it looking messy or selecting one with fabric cords rather than a plastic. These are great for saving bedside table space or simply to avoid wall channeling. The plug in to a socket style of wall lights are particularly useful for those in rented homes as you can hang this type of luminaire in much in the same way as hanging a picture.

Dimmable Wall Lights

The Cairo wall light from Mullan Lighting. Image credit Mullan Lighting / deVOL Kitchens / Owl Design.

These wall lights are suitable for use on a mains dimmer switch, or will have their own dimmer dial to allow the light output to be altered accordingly. This is ideal for bedrooms, living rooms and dining rooms where ambient lighting and mood lighting are often required. Many lights can be dimmed, it is dependent on a few variables. If the light has a dimmable type of bulb is the main consideration. Some LED bulbs are dimmable but as these bulbs are super low wattage ensure the dimmer switch is suited to such a low wattage. If the light has internal electronics, for example a 12-volt light will have a transformer, a fluorescent may have a ballast (sometimes called choke), then the internal parts may not be compatible with dimmers. If you are looking to buy a dimmer-able wall light, browse the collection and you’ll note all the Lighting Company products will explain if the lights suits dimming. Of course, you can always call, email or use online chat to ask a question get help buying a wall light from lighting experts, whose role is to make shopping for lights easy. That’s what you get from The Lighting Company, along with Free delivery on orders over £50 anywhere in mainland UK (there’s a small charge for highlands and UK Islands).

LED Wall Lights


Wall lights which are LED lit, are very energy efficient as they use a very minimal amount of power to maintain a high output of illumination. Some of these wall lights are LED integrated, which means that the light source is inbuilt into the fitting. Some people worry that they will have to replace the light when the bulb goes, but led lights last such a long time that the average expectancy is about 15 years, so an inbuilt LED negates the concern of replacing bulbs entirely. It’s understandable that innovative technology can be viewed dimly in the early stages of entering the market, but you may be surprised to know LED’s have been around since the 60’s! It’s only now that they are commercially viable and affordable to us all that we question the longevity of them, so if you need a little peace of mind you’ll be pleased to know at The Lighting Company you’ll get 2 years electrical warranty as standard on all light fittings; this is twice the amount you’d get as an industry standard.

Alternatively, you can also use LED bulbs in any other wall light providing there is an LED version of the bulb type it uses. Explore the range of retro fit led light bulbs we’d recommend in our light bulb section of the online store. We also show the LED bulbs that work with the light when you add them to your basket.

Hopefully this detailed blog will help you understand what is the best wall-light fitting for your home. All you’ll need to do now is choose which wall light you’d like. Below you’ll find a little further help explaining the type of wall lighting available to buy. There’s short cut links to each selection simply type the style that suits you best and you can go straight to the safe secure online shop and browse the collection.

Types of Wall Light

So, you’re nearly an expert in wall lighting too, so the last step to consider before you head on to style, is the type of wall light.

  • Wall Washer – These will sit close to the wall and generally have a diffuser at the base or top of the light, or even both and wash a pool of light up and down the wall.
  • Wall Sconce – Typically this is a single wall light with a candelabra design.
  • Single Wall Light – As it suggests this is a wall light with a single light source.
  • Wall Spot Light – These provide directional adjustment and are ideal for task lighting.
  • Flush Wall Lights – Ideal for rooms with minimal space or for narrow hallways these fit close to the mounting point.
  • Wall Pendants – A wall light with a hanging light source similar to a ceiling pendant.
The Rio wall light from Mullan Lighing. Image credit Mullan Lighting / Relic Interiors.
  • Swing Arm Wall Lights – These wall lights are perfect for reading and task lighting and offer versatility in any setting.
Momo Wall Light
  • Flexible Arm Wall Lights – Similar to swing arm wall lights they offer adaptability but with a freely flexible neck rather than a hinge like mechanism.
  • Scissor Arm Wall Light – A wall light that can be extended from its mounting point due to its scissor like mechanism.
  • Wall Chandelier – A decorative wall light with a statement, taking a similar aesthetic to the standard chandelier these are great alternatives or additions.
  • Hospitality Wall Lights – These wall lights are perfect for lighting in hotels, restaurants and bar settings. Functional, decorative and easy to maintain.
Cairo wall lights from Mullan Lightint. Image credit Mullan Lighting / Les Agenceurs.
  • Paintable Wall Lights – Often made with ceramic or plaster these wall lights can be painted in a colour of your choice, great for contrasting or blending into your scheme
  • Bathroom Wall Lights – IP44 rated (or higher) wall lights which provide protection against water and steam ingress so are safe for use in bathrooms, cloakrooms and en-suites.
  • Exterior Wall Lights – IP44 rated (or higher) these wall lights are suitable for use outdoors with protection against the elements.
  • Recessed Wall Lights – These wall lights fit recessed into the wall taking up no room space. Perfect for practicality.
  • Backlit Wall Lights – These lights tend to light toward themselves or their mounting surface and rely on reflecting the light back from its material or mounting surface towards the wall. It’s like art work!
  • Picture Lights – They cast illumination back towards the wall and are designed specifically for lighting subtly or highlighting a picture or any type of wall mounted art work.
Picture Lights