At All Suburban Electric we hear about them all the time. The do-it-yourself project that starts with a gusto, but months later is not complete.
The home remains in a constant state of “under construction.”
We encounter one DIY project in particular that frequently becomes a DIY nightmare…recessed lighting.
We understand the appeal. Recessed lighting adds a touch of modernity and freshness to your space.
However, taking on this project without the help of a professional is a challenge most do-it-yourselfers wouldn’t want.
Before you start a new home project learn a little bit about recessed lighting. If you would like to speak with a professional, the experts at All Suburban Electric are here to help 24/7.
1. They’re Energy-Efficient
Old school light fixtures are notorious for wasting energy.
This is related to their canisters, which are unsealed and have a tendency to usher warm air out of the room and into your attic. And because they can’t be covered with insulation without risking fire, they create a gap in what would otherwise be a well-insulated ceiling.
For the environmentally-minded and cost-effective homeowner, installing new recessed ceiling lights, specifically IC- and AT-rated can lights, can eliminate several of these issues.
IC means you can put insulation over the light without creating a fire hazard, helping to store heat. AT means the canister is airtight, keeping warm air from escaping the room.
For more answers about IC versus AT lights, check out some of these frequently asked questions about recessed lights.
2. They’re Streamlined
One of the biggest drawbacks of old-school light fixtures is that they take up physical and visual space on the ceiling. Some spaces are too narrow – or the ceiling is too low – to make these kinds of lights practical.
Recessed ceiling lights are set into the ceiling, which makes them functionally flush with the ceiling. This way you get the benefit of light without the visual clutter of a traditional hanging light fixture. This makes them a great option for kitchens or narrow spaces like closets.
However, some ceilings aren’t compatible with recessed lights for that reason. Concrete ceilings typically don’t work well, and neither do ceilings with elaborate plasterwork or delicate molding from a style and installation perspective.
Recessed ceiling lights are generally easiest to install between ceiling joists, especially in newer buildings or major remodeling, but some lights are specifically designed for retrofitting.
If you’re not sure whether your home is suited to a recessed fixture, it’s best to ask an electrician.
3. They Let You Choose the Light You Want
Unlike hanging chandeliers or other standard fixtures that demand a specific type of bulb, recessed ceiling lights offer far greater flexibility in terms of what type of light you can use for your specific needs. There are four good options for recessed lights:
- “R” bulbs, which are the most common type of bulb for recessed lights, have a mirrored surface on the back of the bulb.
- Incandescent bulbs are a great all-purpose choice, and they generally run cheap.
- Halogen bulbs are available as flood or spotlights to fit 4- to 6-inch fixtures and are great for creating a clean, white light.
- For a lower-energy option, low-voltage halogen bulbs are a great choice. However, these bulbs require the use of specialized low voltage housings and transformers, so if you don’t know what you’re doing or aren’t sure, it’s best to bring in a professional electrician.
4. They Make the Room Look Bigger
Because recessed ceiling lights are set into the ceiling, they give as much light without taking up any extra visual space on the ceiling. This creates the illusion of greater space, especially with the amount of light you get from recessed lights.
In rooms that require a great deal of lighting without space for a standard hanging fixture, recessed lights can get you a lot of bang for your buck without the clutter.
5. They Make the Room Feel Bigger
This is due to an effect called “wall washing”, and no, it has nothing to do with soap and water.
Wall washing is an effect created by using recessed lights to cast more light around the room using a certain type of trim (the part of the light visible from the hole in the ceiling.) Wall washing trim uses a directional reflector and a light scoop to cast light on the wall.
By aiming the directional reflector, recessed ceiling lights wash the wall with ambient light, creating an effect of openness. Thus the name wall washing.
Wall washing works best with the correct spacing of the light from the wall and from other lights. A 9-foot wall, for example, will have recessed lights placed 2-3 feet from the wall and each other. Higher ceilings will also require greater spacing to achieve the same effect.
6. They Highlight Design
The wall washing effect of recessed ceiling lights can also be used to highlight a wall from a design perspective. This effect is particularly useful if you want to highlight a work of art, a nook, a wall bookcase or another design aspect of a wall.
However, you will need to be careful of spacing to keep the lights from looking like an airplane runway. A good rule of thumb for spacing is to match the size of your fixtures to distance apart – 4-inch fixtures should be four feet apart, 6-inch fixtures should be six feet apart, and so on.
7. They’re Clean
If you want the extra light without the extra fussiness, recessed ceiling lights are a great way to bring a touch of modernity and cleanliness. They also don’t call attention to themselves, keeping the focus where it belongs – the design elements they’re highlighting.
8. And They’re Easy to Clean
Recessed ceiling lights are the just the basics – the housing, the trim and the bulb. This makes cleaning recessed lights a breeze because you don’t have to worry about the various small parts of the light. No flourishes, no crystals or complex metal designs – just the light itself.
9. They’re Versatile
Think of recessed ceiling lights as the chameleons of the lighting world.
Because the lights are low-fuss, they are highly accommodating to a broad array of styles, especially for a sleek, modern look. However, if your design style of choice is a bit more old-school, frilly or vintage, then recessed ceiling lights might not be what you’re looking for.
10. They Let You Personalize
Most recessed ceiling lights come in two parts – the housing and the trim – to which the bulb is added. The housing is a basic metal canister installed in a hole in the ceiling.
What you do with the trim is up to you – options include wall-wash, reflector, baffle, lensed and adjustable. You also have a variety of options in terms of color and size for precisely the effect you want.
11. They’re Kid-Friendly
Remember the moment in every cartoon when a character swings from the chandelier? Every parent’s nightmare, right?
With recessed ceiling lights, there are no arms to grab onto, small danging crystals to break, and no hanging fixture to run into. The housing also helps to protect the bulb in the ceiling, so you can rest easy knowing the kids can’t do harm to – or be easily harmed by – the lights.
12. They Can Be Downcast
Unlike standard light fixtures, recessed ceiling lights essentially shine straight down or to one side. Many standard fixtures, by comparison, shine outwards and up, which means they reflect a great deal of light off a painted ceiling.
This makes recessed lights great for some situations and not others. For example, they’re excellent for lighting a kitchen, where cabinets can limit space near the ceiling and you need a great deal of light for the countertops.
Bathrooms, by comparison, don’t work nearly as well with recessed lighting – especially in front of mirrors. Because the light shines directly down, it’s possible to have the light only illuminating the top of your head, rather than the whole face, or reflecting off the mirror if slanted improperly.
When considering whether recessed lights or standard fixtures would work for a room, it’s best to ask what kind of lighting effect you’re looking for in a room.
Recessed lights can have the effect of spotlights, so if you need a lot of light in a specific direction, these would be a great choice. On the other hand, if you need a more diffused light to illuminate the whole room outwards from the light, then a standard fixture could be what you’re after.
Need more lighting tips? Check out these ideas on how to light your living room.
Ready to Get Your Recessed Ceiling Lights?
Think recessed lighting is just what your home’s been missing?
Ready to get started? Give us a call at the phone number for your service area.
Not sure whether to DIY it or bring in one of our professional electricians? Check out our blog post on when to do the wiring yourself and when to bring in extra help.