Recessed Lighting Part 1 โ€“ The Basics

Aurora Recessed
Aurora Recessed by Pure Lighting

Designer credit: Michael Richman


What is recessed downlighting? What is its purpose and when/where is it used?

Recessed lighting is a highly practical, multi-functional and aesthetically pleasing lighting solution that blends well with most design schemes. Recessed down lights, sometimes known as can lights, are the most common form of architectural lighting found in residences today.

Recessed lighting can achieve a wide range of lighting effects appropriate for a variety of purposes in diverse indoor and outdoor environments. Ambient lighting, task lighting, accent lighting, and wall washes are all possible with recessed lighting fixtures using incandescent, low voltage incandescent, LED, and/or compact fluorescent lamps.

Use recessed lighting to illuminate an entire room, accent chosen features within the room, highlight textured surfaces for visual drama, and/or direct functional light toward specific areas where necessary.



What are the two basic components of a recessed lighting fixture? What is a recessed lighting housing? What is a recessed lighting trim?

A recessed lighting fixture comes in two separate sections that are usually sold separately.

The housing is the portion of the fixture installed above the ceiling. It contains all of the electrical parts, including the bulb socket, as well as a mounting frame for New Construction Housings. Remodel Recessed Housings are designed to work with your existing ceiling. There is an immense variety in housing options to accommodate a wide range of ceiling conditions, lighting effects and functions, and trim sizes.

The trim is the visible portion of the fixture.



Concerto LD3G Square Pinhole Trim

Do I want a line voltage, low voltage, fluorescent, or LED housing? What are the features and benefits of each?

Several factors will help direct you toward the appropriate technology for your downlights, including function, special geometry, operation, and maintenance. For accent and task lighting, low voltage lamps provide the designer flexibility to manipulate the beam and achieve certain lighting effects, whether accenting a piece of art or providing task lighting at a desk or other work surface.

Spatial geometry, in particular ceiling height, will play a role in your selection. Higher ceilings often require larger apertures, such as 6โ€, to accept higher wattage PAR shaped bulbs. If your application is one that requires lights to operate for extended periods, such as commercial applications or common areas in multi-family facilities, you might weight the benefits of more efficient sources, such as CFL and LED, where operating costs are lower and maintenance cycles are reduced. Considering all of these factors should help guide you through the many technologies available.




I am looking for an energy-efficient solution for recessed lighting. What are my options?

It is always a good idea to use dimmers rather than switches where you can. Not only does dimming give you the most control over lighting effects within a space, it also extends the life of your incandescent and halogen lamps. Dimming these lamp types 25% can quadruple the life of your bulbs. Also consider the maximum wattage rating of your fixture and ask yourself if you can get by with a lower wattage bulb.

Other lamp types can offer extended life while consuming less electricity. Consider LED bulbs or compact fluorescent bulbs for your line voltage fixtures or opt for low voltage fixtures in LED. Both technologies can be retrofit into your existing fixtures, offering comparable light levels while consuming less wattage. LED retrofit kits are a fantastic solution.




ยป Also see Part 2 of our Recessed Lighting Series: Recessed Lighting Housings and Trims.




Looking for more information?
Our lighting experts would love to help you plan and select your recessed lighting, whether for new construction, renovations, or simple LED upgrades.

Contact us at (866) 954-4489



Aris Goorji

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