When first choosing recessed lighting (also referred to as “can” lights, “pot” lights or “downlights”), it can all seem a bit daunting—but it need not be.
Trim Appearance A Flangeless Trim gives an unmistakable high-end look that is completely flush with the ceiling surface. Flanged Trims yield the same premium appeal with a thin ceiling flange that sits on the surface of the ceiling.
Trim Shape Square aperture trims provide unique architectural appeal—they tend to be more modern Round aperture trims provide classic styling—and tend to be more at home in contemporary and transitional style rooms Trim Style Bevel Trims provide visual depth and architectural appeal Flat trims provide an ultimately clean, minimalistic aesthetic
Refer to the manufacturer’s instruction manual for step-by-step instructions and safety information. If in doubt, consult a licensed electrician. For general instructions, see Install Recessed Lighting.
There’s basically three types of lighting to choose from—incandescent, fluorescent and LED. Although they cost more up front, many consumers are gravitating toward LED because in the end, LEDs use far less energy and last much longer; you’ll also see a good return in your initial investment over a short period of time.
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Recessed lighting comes in both new construction and remodel housing choices. If the space is new construction, and you have access to your ceiling from below and above, use a New Construction housing. If the space is a remodel and you don’t have access to your ceiling below and above, use a Remodel housing. Double-check with a professional on this to be sure.
Line-voltage kits are the standard light kit. They run on household current. Low-voltage kits use a transformer to reduce household voltage and help with energy costs, but are more expensive. Some kits have a built-in transformer, while others require a transformer that is sold separately.
LED retrofit kits let you convert incandescent recessed lights to LED and work with existing housings.
Bulb is inset as with baffle trim style Mirrored surfaces make the most of illumination Tinting is available on some fixtures
There are two major components of recessed lighting—the housing and the trim, both chosen (and oftentimes sold) separately. The housing is what’s above the ceiling, and it contains all of the electrical components, such as the light source and the means to mount the fixture. The trim refers to what we see below the ceiling, such as the trim style or the parts that direct the light.
Has a tempered glass lens Wet-location listed for use over a shower and in bathrooms
You can also change the trim for a different finish or style at any time without changing the housing. 6-inch trim comes in more varieties, but 3-inch and 4-inch trims are also available in other finishes.
The good news is yes. There are special ceiling housings and trims designed for sloped ceilings, and they’re available in new construction and remodel iterations.
Bulb is flush or nearly flush with ceiling Offers unrestricted illumination from the bulb
Finally, take your time in planning your lighting layout and choosing the right recessed lighting for your needs—and preferences—and seek professional advice.The YLighting Sales team is a great place to start for professional advice and planning – give them a call at 866.314.0965.
To get the housing and trim in one convenient package, look for a recessed light kit. Kits are available for many sizes and types of recessed lighting.
A shield over half the light restricts light to a specific area Useful for highlighting features such as a fireplace or a painting
Never exceed the maximum wattage recommended for your light fixture. Read the inside of the housing to determine what wattage and bulb type to use.
A dimmer switch can let you change the mood of the room with recessed lighting — just ensure the fixtures and lamps are listed as dimmable and that you use the appropriate switch.
Narrows the light to a tight beam Can spotlight areas or items
“CRI” stands for “Color Rendering Index,” which is the measure of a light source’s ability to show realistic or natural colors on say, artwork and other furnishings—not to mention fruits and vegetables in the kitchen. On the CRI lighting scale of 0 to 100, LED light sources with an 85 to 90 CRI are considered very good at color rendering; white, halogen incandescent is 100 CRI. Fluorescent is usually poor at reproducing acceptable CRI.
New construction housing is used in new homes or when adding a room onto your house, before the ceiling is installed. Remodel housing is designed to allow installation in an existing ceiling. Insulation-contact (IC)-rated housing is designed for direct contact with insulation.
Non-IC housing must have at least 3 inches of clearance from insulation. Airtight housing reduces the airflow between the unconditioned space above (usually the attic) and the conditioned room below. Shallow ceiling housing is used in ceilings with 2-inch by 6-inch joists.
Slope ceiling housing allows space for the light to be angled in a sloped ceiling. Check angles before purchasing.
Whether the downlight is on or off, the ceiling aperture is always visible, so it’s important choosing trim that’s aesthetically pleasing to you. For example, ELEMENT by Tech Lighting downlights offer these choices in either round or square trims:
When considering recessed lights, pay attention to the type and size of bulb or lamp the fixture uses. Some recessed lights work with screw-in bulbs while others use pin-base bulbs. Factors such as color temperature, lumens and wattage all affect the quality of light in a room. Halogen and LED bulbs are the most common bulbs for recessed lights. LED lighting helps lower energy costs and the bulbs are cool to the touch. In general, look for a warm white color temperature for living rooms and bedrooms, a bright white color temperature for kitchens and workspaces and a daylight color temperature for reading nooks and studies. For more information on light bulbs, check out the Light Bulb Buying Guide.
Functions much like eyeball trim Lamp does not extend below the ceiling as much When fully pivoted, housing blocks some of the light
Some LED recessed lights will offer a choice of color temperature. To differentiate the various hues of white, artificial light sources are labeled with a correlated color temperature, or CCT. CCT is measured in degrees of Kelvin (K). This communicates the tone of white light that will be emitted from the fixture. Warm light typically is 2,700K to 3,000K, while 3,500K-4,000K is a cooler, whiter light. This comes down to personal preference, but typically, in residential settings, 2,700K to 3,000K are used for a “warm” color, and in commercial settings, 3,500K to 4,000K for a whiter light.
To begin, you should have a lighting plan in place with either a lighting designer or your contractor. What are you trying to do with the recessed lighting? Provide general illumination for the room? Highlight architectural features? Or, are you adding another layer of light in addition to perhaps pendants, wall sconces or ceiling fixtures? It can be one of these or all three. Be sure to consider other lighting that is or will be in the room and the height of the ceiling because these also dictate how many recessed lights you’ll need and which sizes are appropriate.
Recessed lights are generally offered in 3” to 6” size apertures—but lately, as technology has improved, 2” are becoming more readily available. As a general—but not mandatory—rule, smaller sized downlights are used for more modern styled spaces, and the larger for more traditional or transitional styled spaces.
Ribbed interior minimizes glare Bulb fits up inside the fixture and is not flush with the ceiling Most common recessed lighting trim
Recessed lights are typically available in sizes ranging from 3 to 6 inches in diameter. The size you need depends on the planned function and location of the light.
Recessed light fixtures are flush with the ceiling, making them great for rooms with low ceilings. Sometimes called can lights or downlights, these fixtures have three main components that can define the type of recessed light — housing, trim style and bulb or lamp type.
Trim colors—Many downlight trims come in colors other than black or white, such as satin nickel, brass or bronze. Many designers believe it’s best to match your ceiling color. Wood ceiling options—There are manufacturers which offer trims for wood or stone ceilings without unsightly transitions or hardware for wood or stone ceilings.
Dimming—Look for downlighting that offers this feature. Not only can you set the mood for the room by dimming your recessed lighting, you can also save more energy. Mudding—Certain types of recessed light’s require mudding (plastering) into the ceiling where the installation is then finished and painted; be sure to check the product’s installation information See the manufacturer’s information on spacing the lighting as it depends on many variables, including the ceiling’s height, whether you want to create general illumination, feature architectural details, or add an additional layer of light.
Pivots to focus light where you want it Can function as accent or wall-wash lighting
Housings for new construction are attached to the ceiling supports before the ceiling surface is installed. IC or “insulation contact” rated housing must be installed wherever insulation will be in immediate contact with the housing. A “Non-IC” or “non-insulation contact” is used when the fixture is not in immediate contact with insulation. For example, use Non-IC recessed lighting for spaces where there’s no insulation between the ceiling and floor above it.
The trim fits inside the housing and extends to form the outer ring you see when looking up at the ceiling. Below are the most common types of recessed lighting trims.
You can use recessed lighting in the bathroom, kitchen, living room or office. For more information on lighting your home, check out Home Lighting Tips.
Small recessed lights fit well with modern decor styles. They are good for highlighting areas and work as accent or task lighting. Larger lights work with more traditional looks and can be useful for room lighting. Keep in mind your ceiling height. Lights installed in a higher ceiling will cast wider — but more diffuse — light.
Take a cue from the existing finishes in your home. If the door handles and cabinet hardware are all in brushed nickel, choose a trim in a complementary finish. White is usually your best option if you want the trim to blend in with the ceiling. Popular trim finishes include:
The housing is the actual light fixture. It sits above the ceiling and holds the trim and the light bulb. Find the housing that suits your needs: