Need advice for 50-watt recessed lighting in the kitchen

mystikyApril 26, 2011

In about a weeks time, construction will begin to expand my kitchen. This will involve moving an outside wall and completely rebuilding the existing parts from scratch (floors, ceilings, drywalls, electricty, tiles, cabinets, etc.)

My design calls for 15 recessed lights to be implemented, using 3-zones. Although I do have a budget, I want to see if I have any other options besides what is being suggested by my general contractor.

I know many folks are using the EuroFase products as a good, decent solution. I am especially aware of their GIMBAL MR16 , 12V GIMBAL HOUSING/TRIM KIT product:

It will run me about $70 for each kit + light (not including installation costs). What concerns me is that I have heard from a few people that use them that the transformer often starts to develop a "noise" issue, which believe me, could become bothersome. These units are made in Canada thought.

So my questions are:

1) Is there another brand (include the model please) that's out there, which costs up to $100 that does a better job -- meaning a more consistent product? I am looking for the simple, classic white trim to go with the recessed light.

2) Generally, what is the difference in light output (lumen) between a 120 volt bulb or 12 volt bulb (MR16/C). For example, the wattage of MR16/C is 50 watts and so is on the GU10 type. But are both lights shining equally strong?

3) Again, this is lighting for the kitchen only. I want to have bright lights as I have a 9 foot ceiling there. I am not looking for soft white for this occasion. LED is out of the question.

4) Are there any companies that make a non-transformer 50-watt recessed lights that you would recommend? I know it rarely happens, but if the transformer goes bad, the ceiling will need to be cut open for repair/replacement.

I hope that you have some guidance for me. This is my first time doing such serious home improvement work and I want to make sure that it is done right.


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MR16 lights are not usually used for general lighting.

If your county mandates the use of energy efficient lighting (such as title 24) incandescent lighting will not be feasible. Title 24 mandates that no more than 50% of the wattage be used for incandescent lighting.

You will need to consider alternatives such as CFLs/ T8 fluorescent lighting or LED.

The cheapest lighting available today is T8 fluorescent lighting. They are also probably the least aesthetically desirable too.

If you want recessed lights,
1. 6" can housings are the most common and the cheapest. Title 24 mandates that the housings are air tight and use GU24 or some other non edison (E26) base.
2. Integrated CFL housing have the electronic ballast inside the housing, separate from the bulb. If it goes bad, you need access to the topside of the can. It means that you have to tear out the ceiling or crawl through attic insulation to change out the ballast. The bulb (lamp) itself will probably cost more than the standard screw in CFL bulb.

3. The trim is usually considered a separate item like the bulb.

4. CREE CR6 LED lights come with the trim attached and are cost competitive with integrated CFL can lights.

5. Low voltage light cans (total package) will cost more than 6" line voltage cans.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2011 at 12:25PM
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Another vote for the Cree CR6 - sold at Home Depot (under the Ecosmart brand, but clearly marked with Cree identification). These include a white trim kit and fit into most inexpensive 6" recessed fixtures (but the bulb itself is sized more like those usually used with 5" fixtures, if not smaller) - the two together could cost less than $75. Most of the CR6's have a standard incandescent-style Edison base, but a GU24 version is available for the same price (and presumably sold in areas like California that require them). These can be dimmed to 5% of normal brightness using most standard dimmers. The bulbs use only 10.5 watts apiece and have 35,000 rated life.

The Eurofase fixtures/trim kits have a swivel feature for the bulbs - do you need these? There are lots of manufacturers making fixtures and trim kits for MR16 bulbs (with GU5.3 bipin base), which are usually 12 volt halogen mini-reflectors, although LED retrofits have recently become available. There are also 35w halogen bulbs that are as bright as 50w bulbs usually are. All 12v bulbs require a tranformer (often several) to convert from 120 or 240v, and these sometimes hum (higher-quality ones shouldn't), and always require special low-voltage dimmers that are pricey (if you want dimming). I'm quite a fan of MR16's for their outstanding color rendering and (if the bulb is dichroic and the fixture designed for them) not throwing heat downward - making them great for lighting countertops and kitchen tables because food looks colorful and great. They aren't widely used for general lighting, probably due to their expense, although there's no reason you can't if that's what you like. The MR16 bulbs are available in different wattages, qualities, and beam spreads - choose carefully.

I'm less experienced with GU10 bulbs; these are kind of like MR16s but run on 120v rather than 12v and have bayonet bases. Other options that are less expensive are small recessed fixtures that take PAR20 (or the slightly smaller, harder to find PAR16) 120V reflector bulbs - these all have the traditional screw-in Edison base. These are only slightly larger than MR16 fixtures, although the light quality isn't quite as pleasing. There are even MR16 bulbs with small integral transformers that fit Edison bulb sockets.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2011 at 9:25AM
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What state do you live in? Are you pulling permits? What color is your backsplash, counter top and cabinets?

Wow - 15 lights. How far apart are these lights? You ceiling could look like swiss cheese with this many lights.

While MR16's are beautiful and they have fun little gimbal trims, they are just not bright enough for your kitchen - "task lighting." Neither is a 50 watt lamp.

A lamp that you might want to consider is a PAR 30 / 75 watt. They require a 6" can. 5" can will only allow 50 watt (due to heat). Many subscribe to a smaller diameter can but that often requires more holes. I like the look of fewer holes, so I like a bigger can becaue I can get a brighter light per hole.

Can lights are most effective over islands, since upper cabinets and your body will block most of the light. Ideally, you want to install under cabinet lighting. LED will be ideal but it runs about $100 per lin ft, whereas, fluorescent runs about $30 per lin ft. So if you have a budget. Juno uses the super high quality T5 lamps which do not look blue. But I've noticed that the 12" length uses a completely different color lamp that the 18" & 24" which can look really strange. So I found a place to special order a 12" lamp from Phillips. Ideally, I try to order all my lights in the same length because I'll get a perfect match in color across all the lamps. Sounds crazy, but thats the nature of fluorescent.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2011 at 2:17AM
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FWIW, my kitchen has one light--a ceiling semi-flush fixture with a 60w bulb under a glass shade, along with a window and a door with a window, and it's fine. I could probably use another task light over the sink, but it is a minor issue. I put four times as many in my laundry room which is the same amount of space but in the basement and it feels like a laboratory with all the light. Good for the laundry room, too much for most other rooms.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2011 at 11:11PM
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