Pros and Cons of Recessed Lighting

lisadluAugust 14, 2010

I was all set to do (6) recessed lights in my kitchen but am now seriously thinking of going with flushmount's for better, even lighting. My kitchen with breakfast area is 20'x 11', with the kitchen itself 11x11. I was going to do (6) can lights in the kitchen area and keep my 300watt fixture in the breakfast area part but I am concerned I will get shadows & too much heat from the can lights. I'd like to hear your opinions, pro and con, on your recessed lighting. I need to make a decision this weekend because electrician is coming Monday armed with the can lights! :)

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Surface mounted lights will probably be cheaper than recessed lighting. Whether you get shadows and sufficient lighting depends a lot on the selected fixture(s) and placement.

With recessed lights there will not be a protrusion on the ceiling.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2010 at 1:48PM
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I'm not a lighting designer, and I don't mean to disparage anyone else here. But I do visit other people's homes. And I'm of an age (mid-50s) when good lighting is getting more and more important to me. So maybe I'm a bit biased. And maybe all my friends just didn't have good lighting designers.

But I will flatly state that - regardless of the ages or styles of the homes I've been in - I've never seen an installation of recessed lights that produced as even a light as that from good old simple surface mount or pendant lights.

This isn't hard to figure out. Bright sunshine streaming in a window feels good, but (especially if your floors are dark) it doesn't really light up the room very well. Your cat will love drowsing in that pool of warmth, but it's not the best light for reading, is it?

On the other hand, outdoors under a tree is a great place to take your book. There you're getting some direct sunlight, and some light reflected from the atmosphere, clouds, earth, vegetation, and buildings.

Lighting designers, being observant folk, figured that out in the early to mid 20th century. Vision and productivity are best when the room lighting is even - coming from many directions, like daylight.

So they (re)designed lighing fixtures so they (the fixtures, not the designers) produced both direct (from the fixture right to the living area) and indirect (reflected from walls and ceilings) light.

We seem to have more or less forgotten those designers' work. Cans - all direct light, shadow producers like direct sunlight - have been fashionable now for quite a few years. You see them in the glossy home improvement magazines. That's what almost all the builders automatically install in new construction.

You can improve things a bit by having lots of different "suns." You can also add fixtures and systems specifically intended to add some indirect light.

Of course, all that costs more to buy and costs more to install.

If you have well designed (or even fairly simple) pendant and surface mount lights, they'll send light in all directions. That light will fall right on what you're doing, and also reflect off the walls and ceiling - just like good natural light.

You'll see better and feel better. You'll spend less money on fixtures, have less complexity, have lower installation costs, and most likely use less energy. You'll also have better room insulation (instead of a swiss-cheese ceiling full of holes) to reduce your HVAC bills and improve comfort.

If you're young and see just fine in poor to mediocre light, if you're going to sell your house in 5 years and are concerned about not following fashion, then maybe cans are for you. If you want good, practical lighting at reasonable cost and with moderate energy use, and you're remodeling or building for the future - then I suggest that you consider surface and pendant fixtures instead.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2010 at 10:31PM
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I think this all depends on the look you're trying to create. But generally speaking, the cons of cans :) aren't as bad as they used to be, if at all. I used to use high watt halogen bulbs in my cans. But they were just to hot. I have since switched to compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs and they are fantastic. I got the dimmable ones. Since the dimmable ones are a bit longer they extend a little farther, but not beyond the plane of the ceiling. As a result, these cans no longer have a spotlight effect and effectively cast light in all directions. I have also eliminated the heat issue. I tried two temperatures. The cool was way too white and bright. I ended up keeping the warm white which is a little whiter that incandescents but still warm. The brand of bulbs I chose was Neptun. I hope this helps.

Here is a link that might be useful: Neptun CFL

    Bookmark   August 27, 2010 at 11:05AM
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I cannot imagine a flushmount in a kitchen.

I think you need a good variety of lighting in a kitchen. Cans are good for strong overall light and they have their purpose. They are not good for task lighting. For that you need good undercabinet mounted lighting. Over your table, you need a drop light or pendant to illuminate the eating space. No one type of light will give you what you need in a kitchen.

If I had to choose between my cans, ceiling fan with attached light, double pendant over my kitchen table, under cabinet lights and over cabinet lighting, hands down I would keep my cans. I cannot tell you how many times in cleaning, cooking, unpacking groceries, etc. I have turned on my cans before anything else.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2010 at 12:28PM
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Thanks for all the responses! I did end up putting in six recessed lights. I'm not sure how they will light yet since we are removing the popcorn from the ceiling and have not installed bulbs yet. I've had several people tell me that if I don't like the bulbs to try the CFL or LED bulbs. We will see. My kitchen is small and filled with natural light, I will have LED undercab lighting, and a fixture over the kitchen table. Hope I like it! Thanks again!!

    Bookmark   August 27, 2010 at 1:34PM
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I was reading today a little bit about how you can control the level of diffusion, glare, etc., with different types of recessed lighting - using the right baffle for instance, and one thing mentioned a lens light. I need to go research these terms more but I'd like to think that well-engineered lighting can be in a ceiling too ... maybe it doesn't happen so readily as with a not-in-the-ceiling type, but I hope with hard work I can find some that is good. And of course supplement w/other light.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2010 at 12:47AM
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The CREE LR6 is actually pretty good - not glaring. The first time I looked at it at LampsPlus, I was really surprised that there wasn't any glare when compared to other recessed CFL cans beside it.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2010 at 1:06AM
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I would go with cans on two separate controls using dimmable CFL's and under-counter lighting for the work areas. The dimmable CFL's will give plenty of light but won't generate the heat of incandescent bulbs.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2010 at 10:10AM
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