New construction - dimmable recessed lights now or later?

rawhitSeptember 24, 2013

we are building a new house and definitely looking for recessed lighting in kitchen, dining, living, family and master bedroom.
The build is quoting about $750 for a each set of 4 lights installed ($3750 total) which seems to be a bit on the higher side.
We are wondering if getting it done post construction would have a severe disadvantage.
Any other thing we should be aware of if we get it done from the builder ? It seems like LEDs are becoming popular but we are not sure if we should go for CFLs now and replace them with LEDs down the line (any concerns with compatibility with the dimmer and cans between lighting types?)


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Search these threads because there have been several similar questions that have been answered already. Short answer - builders almost always charge rip-off prices for upgrades; if it's something that can be done later by someone else (as opposed to something like a higher ceiling in the basement that can't be changed later), have a 3rd party do it.Do have the builder prepare it if possible by adding an extra electrical circuit and run a wire up to a closed elecrical box in the attic where you want the lights installed.

As for type, for new construction use LED. The overwhelming favourite here deservedly is the Ecosmart ECO-575L sold at Home Depot stores for $35 each, or $30 online if you buy 2 or more at a time. These are really a rebranded version of the very well-reputed Cree CR6 downlights; Ecosmart is a HD house brand, not a manufacturer. They fit into nearly any 6" can, and have built-in white trim rings that would normal cost $10 per recessed light, so the effective price of the LED bulbs is only $20. This for a flood lamp bulb that lasts for 15 years and draws only 9 watts, yet is bright and gives off high-quality light nearly indistinguishable from incandescent bulbs. And can be dimmed to 5% with most standard dimmers. There are 5000k daylight balanced versions available too that give off a cool, bluish light similar to sunlight, but most prefer the familiar warmer, more yellowish 2700K light from the warm white version, and a small 4" version too. But the warm-white 6" is the modern staple of recessed lighting.

There are some restrictions to how many lights can be dimmed with one switch that varies by the dimmer switch you use: not an issue if you use a non-dimming switch. There's also a brighter 800 lumen 6" LED available from Cree (home depot doesn't sell those) but they're about $20 more than the common 625 lumen model, as well as alternative color temperatures. Insist on the "TrueWhite" versions, not the "full definition" bulbs that Cree recently started selling; the latter dulls colors noticeably and is suitable only for hallways and such.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2013 at 8:25PM
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Thanks for the detailed reply (Should've searched the forums)!
Knowing exact bulb type and version helps a lot. Now looking at some dimmers (Lutron etc.) to go along with the cree.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2013 at 5:16PM
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At today's prices, it is difficult for a CFL recessed can light (ballast built into the can) to match/ beat LED solutions like the CR6/ CR4, RT6/ RT4 which come with an integrated trim and are dimmable.

If you're using dumb (non home automation) dimmers, Lutron CL series work well.

If you intend to install home automation, the dimmers should be ELV compatible and (preferably) tested with the lamp.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2013 at 12:37AM
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Thanks David.
Probably a separate topic but for lighting home automation would it make sense to go with Insteon or ZWave? Quick search seems to reveal more insteon options for dimmers.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2013 at 12:21AM
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I would look at zigbee, enocean or Lutron's proprietary solution. Insteon is the next generation of x10, which still doesn't perform very well. Z wave is better but not the only game in town.

If you want something rock solid from a single vendor, Lutron's radio RA would be a nice choice.

If you intend to DIY, lowes, HD have zigbee and Z wave solutions. Zigbee is based on an IEEE standard.

Enocean is interesting as it utilizes energy harvesting wireless switches/ controls. You could create multiway switch configurations without having to run electrical wiring. Like Zigbee, Enocean has a pretty impressive coalition backing it.

Then, there is 80211ah...

    Bookmark   October 3, 2013 at 11:23PM
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$750 for 4 lights is pretty insane. I just did the electrical in my house addition, each of the LED 4" cans I used were less than $30, halo housings about $10. Most of their cost I'm guessing is running the extra wiring up to those spots and taking into account where switches (3way, etc) would be located.

I wonder if you request them to run the cables only, if it would change the price a lot for you? Opening up the walls at a later date could be pretty expensive too. If you do decide to go that route, definitely TAKE PICTURES of your ceiling/walls before drywall goes up.


    Bookmark   October 17, 2013 at 11:13AM
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My contractor had quoted based on 6 recessed lights in the living/dining room. I put in more like 20. For the additional wiring and cans, he charged about $85 per can. This included some extra switches ( 6 zones of lighting, mostly 3-way), but did not include another ~$40 per can I paid for CR6 LEDs. So, about $125 per can total for wiring, can, switch, LED. I live in the SF Bay area.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2013 at 3:41AM
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