Recessed lighting can be a stylish and functional addition to your home. Learn how these sleek, hidden lighting fixtures can brighten your home.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.