Recessed lighting is all about light output. Learn how these sleek, hidden light fixtures can brighten your home.
Recessed lights are flush with the ceiling, making them great for rooms with low ceilings. Sometimes called can lights or downlights, recessed lights have three main components: the housing, the trim and the light bulb (or lamp). Use recessed lighting in the bathroom, kitchen, living room or office. For more information on lighting your home, check out Home Lighting Tips.
The housing is the actual light fixture. It sits inside the ceiling and holds the trim and the light bulb. Find the housing that suits your needs:
The trim fits inside the housing and extends to form the outer ring you see when looking up at the ceiling. Find the trim that fits your decor:
For flexibility, install a dimmer switch to change the mood of the room. Check the packaging to see if the recessed light is dimmable.
To get everything in a one-stop shop, look for a light kit. Kits are available for all sizes and types of recessed lighting.
Selecting the proper recessed light depends on where you plan to install it and the function of the light. Recessed lighting is available in 3-inch to 6-inch-diameter lights. Locate the ceiling joists, and measure the amount of space in between. This will tell you what size light fixture you need.
The 6-inch recessed light projects a wider beam of light and provides ambient lighting. It’s best to use as a main light source such as in a kitchen or living room. Smaller recessed lights are better for accent and task lighting. Use 3-inch to 5-inch recessed lights to highlight a painting or light a kitchen island.
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 your best option if you want the trim to blend in with the ceiling. Popular trim finishes include:
You can also change the trim for a different finish or style at any time without changing the housing. Six-inch trim comes in more varieties, but 3-inch and 4-inch trims are also available in other finishes.
Refer to the manufacturer’s instruction manual for step-by-step instructions, safety, and warning and caution information. If in doubt, consult a qualified electrician.
Interior Lighting Install
Don’t forget light bulbs. Things like color temperature, lumens and wattage all play a factor in your room’s quality of light. Halogen and LED bulbs are the most common bulbs for recessed lights. LEDs help lower energy costs and 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.
Never exceed the maximum wattage recommended for your light fixture. Read the inside of the housing to find out what light bulb type to use.