September 24, 2020
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Get to Know the Fundamentals of Recessed Lighting Fixtures

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Category: General

Recessed light fixtures offer accent lighting, general lighting, and task lighting. It can be the main element in terms of style and function. You get a streamlined and clean look. You can use it to highlight artwork or increase illumination on the kitchen island or make the space look big.

Fundamentals of recessed lighting

When to use…..

Recessed fixtures are designed for new construction and remodeling projects. In the former, the fixture frame is nailed or screwed to ceiling joists. In the latter, metal clips get pushed into the ceiling space through holes that are made for accommodating the wiring. The new construction fixtures are less expensive than the remodel fixtures. You get to choose between IC housing and non-IC housing rated fixtures.

Recessed lighting is not appropriate for concrete ceilings or plasterwork with molding details. In such a situation, choose a chandelier, table lamps, or wall sconces. You can read more on the chandelier blog on

Where to position…..

  • Avoid recessed lights positioned close together in a row. It will look like an airport runaway. A common rule is to match the size of the fixture with the distance. For example, a 3” fixture needs to be placed 3 feet apart.
  • If you desire to light a drapery panel, bookshelf or painting then center the fixture 12” to 18” in front.
  • The recessed fixture used as task lighting or reading must be positioned overhead, so your shoulder or head does not block the light.
  • For creating a 3D lighting on objects like flower arrangement, sculpture or the fireplace use 2 to 3 different angles for getting the necessary effect.
  • For making space look bigger install wall-washing recessed lights around the room’s perimeter. The walls seem to get pushed beyond making space look bigger.

How to size recessed lighting fixtures…..

It doesn’t matter if you choose low voltage halogen, standard line voltage, or fluorescent fixtures. The common sizes available for household use are 4” to 7” in diameter. The size will depend on the area you wish to light and where you desire to install the light.

A 4” fixture properly lights the kitchen countertop with 8 feet ceiling height. If the ceiling is 10 feet then the 4” fixture can work as area lighting as the light will disperse more. The 6” fixture is popular, so you will get a variety of trims to choose from.

Different light bulb types for recessed light fixtures

  • Incandescent bulbs – Suitable for general lighting or wall washing using reflectors. An inexpensive or eco-friendly option.
  • LED bulbs – LED bulbs have a long life as they have a high energy efficiency level. You can install them easily in a small diameter hole.
  • Halogen bulbs – You get clean white light. Available in spot and flood types.
  • Halogen bulbs with low voltage – It has a long life and supplies more light than the incandescent bulbs. However, you need to use a transformer and low voltage housings.
  • CFL – Compact Fluorescent Lamps need ballast for current control but are energy efficient.

Bulb shape also matters for directing the light. Understand abbreviations.

  • R or reflector for emitting light downwards
  • BR or Bulged Reflector for flaring more light downwards
  • PAR or Parabolic Aluminized Reflector for accent lighting
  • MR or Multifaceted reflector produces a tight beam

Before you rush to buy recessed lighting fixtures for your home remodeling project get advice from a professional electrician.

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