What is a Hanging Light?

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  • Written By: Gregory Hanson
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 19 October 2019
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A hanging light is a variety of light fixture that is suspended from a ceiling or other structure, typically by a chain or cable. These fixtures are most commonly a form of interior lighting, although versions adapted for use in outdoor spaces do exist. Usually, such lights will be mounted securely to the ceiling where their electrical boxes are located. In some cases, however, this type of light may be mounted in a wall and then suspended from an architectural feature that juts out into a room, and some older models have no electrical box and simply dangle from bare cords. Hanging lights are most often used for aesthetic appeal and are widely available in a variety of different styles and materials.

Lights suspended from above are a very efficient way to illuminate interior spaces and have been in use since early in human history. Chandeliers containing wax candles or oil lamps are only rarely used as a primary form of illumination in the modern world but are still frequently seen as decorative accents. Electric chandeliers capture much of the antique charm of the older versions, and have been consistently popular because of their attractive appearance.


Not all types of hanging light originate in the era before electricity, however. Lights with clean, modern lines, with housings made of metal or painted in solid, vibrant colors, are commonly used by designers who wish to use light to enhance the appearance of a room. Small hanging lights are especially common in modern kitchens, where designers use them to provide light to specific areas of the workspace as well as for their aesthetic appeal.

Hanging lights may also be purely utilitarian. They may be suspended over a workbench or in a utility space, where they can be ideal for providing targeted illumination for a workspace. The types of hanging light designed for utility rooms are most often designed to be plugged into an existing electrical outlet. This makes such lights portable and removes the need for a dedicated electrical box over a shop workspace.

Older types of hanging light, especially those designed for utility purposes, were sometimes installed without the use of an electrical box. A wire would be extended from a plate mounted on the ceiling to an assembly containing a switch, usually a pull-chain switch, and a socket for a bulb. Such lights are rarely used in modern construction and may not meet electrical code requirements in safety-conscious areas.


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