Best recessed kitchen lighting - suggestions please.

alyson_2008July 16, 2008

I'm remodeling my kitchen -- in a rural area -- and can't find anyone to help me with lighting. I'm doing an open kitchen in a lovely Federal period house. I'd like the lighting to be as invisible as possible. I need to be able to dim everything. I need in ceiling lighting, under cabinet lighting and a couple of pendants (that I'm sure, with a little more research, I should be able to settle on). It's the recessed ceiling lighting and under cabinet lighting that's got me mind boggled. I'd like the light to be matching (e.g. no white light from the ceiling but yellow light under the cabinets, for example). I'd like the light to look natural, the ceiling lights to be directional and the energy usage to be best possible. Any recommendations? I'm aiming for the most professional look.

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Hi there.
My personal favorite is low voltage halogen for recessed lights. They're small, extremely bright, last a very long time and are more efficient than normal incandescent bulbs.
In my opinion, they're more efficient than fluorescent- when taking real world use into account (dimming and true life span). But on paper, fluorescent beat them out.

They also don't have poisons in them like fluorescent and are dimmable.

You can also look for trimless recessed lights. They are great. More pricey though. But there is no trim visible and the bulb is more hidden. There is literally just a small hole in your ceiling.

For the best energy efficiency and life though, go with an LED bulb. The Cree LR6 is a 6" diameter and the LR4 is a 5" diameter. Those options are great since they're dimmable, put out a wonderful color of light and will literally last you over 25 years. But they are bigger, so more visible, than the halogen.

I have gone through more than 500 of these in the last few months and to a person, everyone has been thrilled.

The nice thing about the halogen is that very soon there will be replacement bulbs for those 3.5" cans which are LED. So basically, your first round of bulbs will be halogen, then you can go LED. Since the technology is moving so fast.

Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2008 at 1:56PM
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Wow. That's really helpful, lightguy. I've always liked the look of halogen. Do you really think I could later replace the bulb in those fixtures with LED if it seemed so very much more energy efficient? Are there any manufacturers you particularly like for halogen? I looked at the Cree website and these look great also. I notice they offer Neutural or Incandescent types. What's the difference? Are there any guidelines on how many cans you need per (for example) square foot of room? And what should I be thinking about for under cabinets if I chose the halogen or LED options? And finally, you mentioned that halogen is dimable. Is that also true of LED? I HAVE to dim! Right now leaning toward halogen ... will it be too clinical? My place is a rural country home... Thanks for your help!

    Bookmark   July 16, 2008 at 9:00PM
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Are you saying that you prefer the LED to the Halogen? I wasn't aware that there were 6" LED bulbs available for recessed lighting.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2008 at 9:52AM
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In my house I put low voltage halogen fixtures. To me style is the most important with energy efficiency net. Low voltage halogen combines those.
And yes, I have MR16 LED bulbs right now which are about as bright as a 25 watt MR16 halogen. So it's just a matter of time until an LED is available that gives you the brightness of a 50 watt halogen.

Actually, I'm working with a manufacturer now who claims to have an LED replacement for halogen recessed lights which is as bright as a 50 watt halogen.

As for placement, for kitchens I use the same placement regardless of light source. I'm more concerned with shadowing. So even though halogens and LEDs are brighter than incandescent, you still need overlap. I just don't use fluorescent.

Halogen bulbs offer a whiter light than the Cree, but it's still a great room light. As for the Cree, if you use it, go with the 2700k. It's warmer than the cool white.

The Cree LED is dimmable with any standard dimmer.

Yes, there is a 6" LED retrofit kit to use in any standard height 6" can. It is a bulb/ trim kit.
I also use wonderful PAR 30 LED replacements which are quite bright.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2008 at 1:11PM
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Kitchengutter & lightguy: I'm thinking I'd like to go for halogen. Any thoughts on where best manufacturers/models? And what kind of under cabinet lights would look good with them? I don't need to go as far as trimless (then again, how much more pricey are they? .....I like the idea of it.) but it would be nice if they could be directional. Any leads on where to get them?

    Bookmark   July 17, 2008 at 1:15PM
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Trimless are pricier.. around $300.00/ pop. I use LED for under cabinet lighting.
I'd go to your local showroom to see what they suggest for low voltage halogen. There are a lot of perfectly acceptable companies out there.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2008 at 5:00PM
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Lightguy: when you're talking "low voltage halogen" are you saying 25 or 50 watts? Remember, for sure, I'll be using dimmers... And in terms of placement -- to get that "overlap" -- do you need one every two feet, three feet, five??? Just a rough idea will do. Thanks!

    Bookmark   July 17, 2008 at 6:48PM
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The cans are rated for 50 watt. So use those. If you end up dimming them, you'll extend the life of the bulb and use less energy anyway.

Placement in kitchens is more dependent upon where your work surfaces are. So, for example, you might space the cans 5' apart in a hallway or along a wall in the living room. In a kitchen though, you would put 2 cans on a 4' counter- to get the overlap.

So that's why it's hard to follow to spacing rules in a kitchen since it's such a task oriented area.

But think about mounting the recessed light above the edge of your counter first. Then figure how you're working and standing. You can get a decent idea of the placement for the cans.

You can always upload an image of what you have come up with and we can check it out.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2008 at 7:57PM
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Oh, lightguy, you're savior! You've made this very simple to understand.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2008 at 7:23AM
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I'm no professional but lightguy is giving good advice.
For myself, I prefer the 4" recessed can lights from Halo.
Easy to wire and there IC cans are nice and compact.
The trims fit snuggly in the fixture and don't cost too much.
I absolutely HATE fluorescents.
alyson of you're looking for a good source for 50watt par20s, has very reasonable prices.
DO NOT buy bulbs at the bigboxes as they're very expensive.
LEDs hold great promise and will hopefully banish fluorescent to the scrapheap soon!

    Bookmark   July 18, 2008 at 9:35PM
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Hi Lightguy --

We're undertaking a big remodel and will have a shed roof over the living/dining area that will result in sloped ceilings with a 2 to 3/12 pitch. At it highest point the ceiling will be 15-16' in the living room and then running to its low point of 9.5' in the dining room. The kitchen will have a gabled rood that will result in a sloped ceiling with a steeper pitch of 7/12 and top height of 12'. Our architect has spec'd Juno 4" LV cans throughout. We're trying to figure out if there are other options.

Some questions:
1) given the ceiling height in the living room would a 6" line voltage can for a sloped ceiling throw out more light? Could we use the Cree LED light in these cans?

2) We want to be able to use LED lights as they become available. One electrician told us that if we use LV, we won't be able to use LEDs -- that we are then basically married to halogen. Is this true?

3) Do you have other suggestions for us?

Thanks for you help.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2008 at 11:29AM
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Hi Fletcher,

I obviously don't know the layout of the room, but I like what your architect is suggesting. 16' is high. So also keep in mind the hassle of changing the bulbs. Halogen Par bulbs last about 2500 hours. I have an MR16 for low voltage cans which lasts 20,000 hours. And if you dim it, you'll extend its life.
Now, as to the actual layout, that's a different story. I tend to use recessed along the perimeter of the room and then do something decorative- hanging light, ceiling fan, monorail lighting, etc, in the center on a different switch. I just don't like a bunch of holes in a ceiling throughout a room.

The Crees don't gimbal yet. Although we have used them successfully on a sloped ceiling. I had a customer claim he tested one at 15' and was thrilled with it. But I didn't see it.

I do have LED Par bulbs which can fit in a line voltage can and can be gimbaled. But I think we're about 80% there. So I wouldn't count on it as the major source of light.

Finally, you already are able to use MR16 LED bulbs in a low voltage can in the future. I have bulbs now which are as bright as a 20 watt halogen. So they're not bright enough yet for overall use.

I'm working with a company which claims they have a low voltage LED retrofit bulb which is as bright as a 50 watt MR 16. I should have that in my hands soon.

So actually, that's one of my selling points. If someone wants the small 3.5" or 4" opening, I suggest they get the low voltage halogen can now. By the time they need to change the bulb, there will be an LED available for that can.

Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2008 at 2:33PM
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Hi Lightguy

Thanks so much for your input -- it is very helpful!

    Bookmark   July 30, 2008 at 12:25AM
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HELP, we are remodeling our kitchen and have been told we have to decide whether to replace the fuses in our 6inch cans and use LED lights or change everything out and go to fluorescents,
We have 9 ft cielings and now use either 65 watt or 100 watt incandescent lights which we love.
Can we keep the same lighting if we use LED or will we have to go to fluorescent to get as much light as we have now?
Thanks for any thoughts

    Bookmark   August 2, 2008 at 6:38PM
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I'm not sure what they mean by the fuses. Sockets, maybe?
Are your cans 6" diameter?

If you're not in California, then the Cree LR6 regular screw in version will work just fine in your cans. Just make sure the can is standard height (~7" tall), rather than a shallow can.

If you're in California, then you simply change the socket in your can to fit the Title 24 version of the LED. A literal 30 second job and is UL approved.

The LR6 will give you 65 watts worth of light at only 12 watts of energy usage. So it'll be fine for you.

There is no need to go fluorescent.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2008 at 8:37PM
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Thanks so much, you have put my mind at ease

    Bookmark   August 6, 2008 at 11:37PM
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lightguy -- I have the Title 24 CFL 4-pin recessed cans in my ceiling that I'd like to replace. In order to install the LR6, I'm told I'll need to bypass the junction box, which may be difficult to get to. Would you recommend going that route or replacing the entire can unit?

    Bookmark   October 28, 2008 at 4:50PM
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