A Simple Buyer’s Guide to Home Recessed Lighting

August 13, 2018

A Simple Buyer’s Guide to Home Recessed Lighting

Recessed lights are light fixtures that are installed in a hollow in the ceiling to create an illusion of a light shining from the ceiling. Recessed lights are made up of three parts, the bulb, trim, and housing. The bulb is the light source with most recessed lights using LED bulbs. The trim is the visible part of the light fixture which attaches to the outer part of the ceiling. The housing is the part that goes into the ceiling. It contains the bulb holder and the baffle. In most cases, the housing is made of metal.

Recessed lights can be used to provide an ambient layer of lighting in a room, highlight a unique feature in a room such as a painting, or create a dramatic effect by washing a wall with light. Most recessed lights are circular with a diameter ranging from three inches to six inches. There are, however, recessed lights that come in other shapes such as square, oval, and rectangular. Different shapes and sizes of recessed lights serve different purposes and do well in different settings. Let us look at how you can choose the best type of recessed lights.

What purpose do you want the light to serve in the room?

There are many types of recessed lights with each serving a different purpose. The first question that you need to ask yourself is what you want the recessed light to do. Do you want it to create an ambient light or highlight something in the room? Of course, you should have a lighting plan with your lighting designer, but you need to visualize what you want the room to look like after installing the light. If you want the recessed light to create an ambient light effect in the room, go with a light with a baffle trim. A baffle trim softens the light to reduce glare and make it more comfortable for the eyes. Recessed lights with a baffle trim are suitable for bedrooms, living rooms, and dining rooms.

If you want ambient lighting for a kitchen, you might want to get a recessed light with a reflector trim. A reflector trim has a shiny inner surface that helps produce bright light for areas such as kitchens and commercial spaces. The reflector surface comes in different tints to help create different moods according to your preferences. For bathrooms, you need a recessed light with a lensed trim. Recessed lights with a lensed trim have a glass or plastic lens that protects the light from moisture. Apart from bathrooms, it is a suitable choice for other areas with a lot of moisture such as closets and basements.

For accent lighting, you want to get a recessed light with a pinhole trim. The pinhole trim focuses light in a single beam like a spotlight. This type of recessed light is suitable for highlighting items such as artwork and displays located directly below it. Their area of coverage is minimal so you will need several of these depending on the number of items in the room that you need to highlight.

Room and placement

Before embarking on a recessed lights shopping trip, you will need to know how much light you need in the room. Recessed lights do not have a wide coverage when casting light so you will need a number of them depending on the amount of light you need in a room and the size of the room. You also need to consider whether you are going to use the recessed lights with any other additional light type. You can even get recessed lights that work with a dimmer such as the Lutron Diva dimmer switch to control the amount of light that they emit. You can choose to connect all the lights in the room with a single dimmer or connect lights different parts of the room with different dimmers. Using different dimmers can help you dim lights according to the area of the room they are in so that you can control the lighting in each area of the room independently.

Fixture size

When shopping around for recessed lighting, you will need to keep in mind the size to function ratio. The standard aperture size for ambient recessed lights is normally six inches in diameter. Although current design trends seem to favor smaller aperture sizes, it does not necessarily mean that they are better. Larger aperture sizes are better for ambient lighting while smaller aperture sizes are perfect for accent lighting. You also need to factor in your ceiling height when picking a size for your recessed lights since what works perfectly for an 8-foot ceiling may seem dim on a 15-foot ceiling. You may need to consult your contractor or a lumens specialist to determine the right light size for the job depending on your ceiling height.

Is it new construction or a remodel?

Recessed lights come in new construction and remodel housing types. The main difference between the new construction and remodel housing is how you install them. Recessed lights with new construction housing require you to have access to the ceiling from below and above because they are designed for installation between ceiling joists. Recessed lights with a remodel housing, on the other hand, do not need you to have access to your ceiling from below and above. You are only required to cut a hole into the existing ceiling where the remodel housing recess light can be installed and held in place by clips. It is advisable to consult your contractor or lumen specialist if you are unsure of how to differentiate between the two types of housing.

Light source

You need a light source for you recess lighting to be complete. Most recessed lights use LED bulbs such as the Sunco dimmable LED bulbs as their light source and for a good reason. LED bulbs consume very little power and have longer lifespans. Of course, you can go with a different type of bulb as your light source, but you need to keep in mind the long-term costs. Using recessed lights requires you to use more lights due to their small lighting angles. More lights translate to more bulbs which translate to more power consumption if you use bulbs such as halogen bulbs. Although LED bulbs have a higher price point, the power and maintenance fees that you save on them will more than compensate for their initial cost.


Recessed lights seem to be a trend that is not going away any time soon due to their elegance. They also save space especially in low ceiling rooms such as basements. When choosing your preferred lights, it is wise to consult with your contractor to see if they are a viable choice. You should also keep in mind the codes and regulations in the area especially when purchasing your bulbs and housing choices of recessed lights.

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