Adventures in recessed lighting: Choices, Terminology, and Taste

In swapping out our builder-grade flushmount fixtures, we’re making the choice to opt for recessed lighting. It wasn’t an easy decision, and felt like choosing the lesser of two evils (flushmounts are generally ugly, and some say recessed lighting is dated), but we opted for what we hope will make our ceilings feel higher and our lines all-around cleaner…

So where to begin? First, there are a variety of technology choices, chief among them: standard cans (for standard bulbs), halogen cans/spots, and/or LED lighting.

LED is gaining a lot of momentum for its superlow cost and eco-friendliness, but its drawbacks are its natural (“cooler”) lighting color which can look much like flourescent, and looks that feel like light panels and can seem somewhat industrial. To lower costs, many builders have begun importing LED recessed lights from China which, some say, produces product of lesser quality, however the impact of these imports has dramatically reduced the costs of LEDs on the market. What was once the most expensive option is now in keeping with other recessed choices.

HALOGEN cans/spots are ideal for “task lighting” or spot lighting a particular spot. They aren’t usually sufficient for overall lighting (which we need), but make ideal accents, as an occasional halogen fixture doesn’t create a great deal if incremental heat (halogen does create heat when used more widely, and is certainly hotter than LED).

STANDARD CANS Lastly, standard cans are standard: nothing wrong, but the high clearance needed to install (5-6″) makes them somewhat complex for some of our shallower soffits that conceal A/C or fire sprinkler piping.

Interestingly, though these are the 3 primary recessed lighting types, there is ample evidence that the lines traditionally dividing the “tasks” of each type of lighting are blurring: take, for instance this mini LED that serves the purpose of highly-concentrated halogen cans:

Each of the above photos link to product pages on Amazon, which is just a starting point in researching these options. I encourage you to explore the links to the various LED recessed lighting options: they are cooler (in temperature and style) than traditional recessed options, and not particularly less affordable, particularly when you consider any potential savings in electric costs. Happy hunting!


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