Why Don’t Most Hotel Rooms In The U.S. Have Ceiling Lights?

by SharonKurheg

Have you ever been in a hotel room in the U.S. and noticed that there are lights in just about every place you can imagine…on the dresser, nightstands and desk, maybe a floor lamp or wall sconce or two…but rarely do you find ceiling lamps? There’s a reason for that. Read on…

As a general rule of thumb, ceiling lights give off more light than lamps that stand on the floor or a table/desk. They’re higher up, so their light can spread further. Yet you’ll usually find hotel rooms with 4 or more lamps, while one ceiling lamp could often provide the same amount of light as all of them (and granted, nightstand and desk lamps are specifically there for close-up light needs. But you know what I’m saying…)

So why is it?

Cost, of course.

However many years ago, builders lobbied for an electrical code change that would allow the light switch to be connected to a receptacle instead of an overhead light. This saved them the cost of running wire to a ceiling box, putting drywall around it, and fitting an overhead light. The cost of making some receptacles switches is next-to-nothing in comparison since receptacles are already required by code. Anyway, this reasoning is especially true when many hotels, especially chains, use prefab or poured concrete slab construction methods, which would make fitting a ceiling light even more difficult. You’ll notice the same situation with many modern-day apartment complexes.


Of course, there are some exceptions. Older buildings, built before the new code, may have ceiling lights. Some places (especially fancy, expensive ones) might be willing to spend the extra money for ceiling lights so their clients can have a better (and brighter) hotel experience. Bathrooms usually have ceiling lights (or at least sconces that are high up), and kitchens in suites or extended stay places often do, too. But both of those areas have running water and code requires lighting in those areas to be appropriate for damp locations. My guess is that overhead lamps are just easier in those areas (and let’s face it – you need good lighting in the bathroom and kitchen).

All those reasons, and yet the Hyatt Centric Key West Resort and Spa manages to have this in the closet…

Oh, and the fact that it’s impossible for hotel guests to know which outlet(s) is/are connected to the switch(es) in the hotel room? Too bad, so sad ;-). Just make sure that when you go to charge your phone, you’re using an outlet that will still be “live” when you shut the switch at the end of the night. Well, or use the lamps’ respective on & off switches instead of the wall switch. Or just use the USB port. 😉

Want to comment on this post? Great! Read this first to help ensure it gets approved.
Want to sponsor a post, write something for Your Mileage May Vary or put ads on our site? Click here for more info.

Like this post? Please share it! We have plenty more just like it and would love it if you decided to hang around and sign up to get emailed notifications of when we post.

Whether you’ve read our articles before or this is the first time you’re stopping by, we’re really glad you’re here and hope you come back to visit again!

This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


Glenn June 28, 2020 - 6:33 pm

Good article, something that appeals to me engineer senses. However, lights near water do not have special restriction. It is outlets that need to be GFI (ground fault interrupt) that are within (generally) three feet of water. That way if you get a potential electrocution situation, the circuit can detect that and turn off. You can tell these type of outlets by the reset button in the middle of the duplex outlet.

Bill G June 28, 2020 - 11:26 pm

@glenn I believe in the US the NEC says that kitchens MUST have ceiling lights.

StAugustine June 29, 2020 - 10:02 am

I always thought that it was so that the maintenanceperson did not have to get up on a ladder to change the overhead bulb.

NB February 27, 2022 - 11:56 am

Why on earth would you want a ceiling light in a bedroom? It’s very 70s as it spreads far too much of a harsh light. It’s bad for working, bad for reading, bad for watching tv and is just lazy interior design.

SharonKurheg February 27, 2022 - 12:00 pm

I think many people would counter that by saying wall and desk lamps are way too dark for a fairly large space such as a hotel room. But that’s why our blog is called “Your Mileage May Vary.” 😉

RaflW February 27, 2022 - 12:17 pm

One positive is that by not having a ceiling penetration, there’s less chance for noise to travel between floors. Noise is often my biggest concern and frustration (good control of room temp is a close second). I’m glad that ceiling lights are rare here.

Doug April 12, 2022 - 9:46 pm

Do you want to look terrible? Ceiling lights are the way to go.

SharonKurheg April 12, 2022 - 10:04 pm

I’m not disagreeing…but I don’t think that was one of their motivations 😉


Leave a Comment