Help with recessed lighting in kitchen

rupesOctober 24, 2010

I am remodeling my kitchen and struggling to figure out which recessed lights to get, how many to get and where to put them. I would appreciate any help.

The kitchen is about 12' X 12' and just over 8' high.

I would like to use efficient lighting if the cost is not too prohibitive (most likely I will not be here long enough for the extra cost to pay for itself). I plan to use LED under counter lights.

I have access from above in the attic which is unfinished. The joists are only 4" high and attached to those are 3/4" strips and below those is lathe, plaster and 3/8 blueboard. So from the bottom of the joists to the finish surface of the ceiling is basically 2". So even though I have access because of this I believe that IC rated remodel cans make the most sense (the collar on the IC rated new construction cans does not seem to protrude down very far). The 3/8 blueboard has not been put up yet so I could possibly mount new construction cans to the lathe from below but would need to make a big opening.

6" cans?

My original plan was to go with 6" cans. Below is the design I came up with with the help of someone at a lighting store (the numbers along the top and down the side are in feet). This was based on using 75W Halogen bulbs. The blue light would be a pendant above the sink. But I now have two concerns:

- Will 6" cans look bad in a 12' by 12' room with an 8' ceiling?

- I had this idea that either now or in the future I could use Cree CR6 bulbs. Since I would not have to buy trim rings the different is about $30 per can. However a 75W PAR30 is listed at 1100 lumens and the CR6 is listed at 575 lumens (even though it is rated at 65W). So unless I am missing something this plan would not work. If I was confident in the result I would consider designing around Cree CR6's.

I have not really looked into CFL cans but the dimmable ones I have seen have been disappointing.

I think smaller cans would look better but I believe if I go down to 4" I would need more of them and don't know how to determine how many I need or where to put them. It would also be more expensive. I also looked at low voltage 4" halogen and one thing I discovered is that they do not make a IC rated remodel version which I believe is the best option based on the construction of my ceiling.

Thank you for looking


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I have 8 ft (actually slightly less) ceilings and a kitchn about your size and we installed 7 - 6 inch cans. They look fine. I have the CR6 blubs from Home Depot ($50 each) and think they look great.

Not sure about the lumens, but it could be because the halogen does not direct the light as efficiently as an LED, so lumens my not be a good measure of brightness. Also, the halogen lights will get hot.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2010 at 10:26AM
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Thanks numbersjunkie. Could you tell me what the dimensions of your kitchen are?

    Bookmark   October 25, 2010 at 3:33PM
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We have a 14' x 20' x 8' kitchen that is primarily lit by six 6" cans. Three lights are pretty much evenly spaced down each side of the room's long dimension approx 24" from the wall. One of the lights is bumped out a little further because it is in front of the fridge and pantry.

We also have a light kit on the fan that is centered in the room. It is rarely on.

If I had my druthers, I would have put in some undercab lighting, just to get that extra light on the counters. However, I don't ever miss not having it.

Up until recently, all the cans had Philips 40W Halogena floods in them (95% sure they are BR30s). These are equivalent to the 65W bulbs that we originally had.

We just replaced one with the CR6 .... what a great product! Any new 6" can we put up will have the CR6 in it. In terms of the light output and pattern, we don't see any major difference between the Halogena and the CR6.

The only thing we noticed is that the CR6 has a slightly higher color temp. And by "slightly", I mean that unless you are specifically doing a temp comparison, it is difficult to see a difference.

That being said, when the lights are dimmed, the color temp difference become more obvious.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2010 at 10:01AM
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Thanks. I have heard nothing but good about the CR6. Over the weekend I was in HD and went to check out the EcoSmart version but they were sold out. I was told that as soon as they come in they sell.

I have narrowed it down to one of the two designs below.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2010 at 11:19AM
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I think the 6" cans will be fine. However, I wonder if the lighting won't be a bit thin toward the center of the room. Just a thought.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2010 at 12:46PM
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Thanks roadbike. Someone at a lighting store helped me come up with design 1. She did not think the lack of lighting in the center of the room with be a big problem. I don't have enough experience to know for sure...

    Bookmark   October 28, 2010 at 12:52PM
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I see darker areas in the center and especially the lower left.
I would spread out and possibly add to the can count to give even lighting throughout the room and use CFL rather than Halogen. It's not clear from your message but it looks like the designer is using the cans to light up the counter workspace. It will work but you will get shadowing. I would use undercounter lights you mentioned as supplemental lighting for the counter areas.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2010 at 11:18AM
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I continue to suggest that recessed lights are the worst possible choices for task areas such as kitchens. You want even lighting, which comes from fixtures that provide a mix of direct and indirect lighting. Cans don't do that. They have no indirect component and produce lots of shadows. In order to get good lighting with them, you have to make your ceiling into swiss cheese.

Of course you can add fixtures that provide some indirect light, such as striplights along the cabinet tops, but then the complexity and cost of the installation increase rapidly.

A few simple, reasonably priced surface mount or pendant fixtures, ones which radiating light in all directions including upward toward the ceiling will be more effective, and will cost much less to install and operate.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2010 at 12:53PM
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roadbike my curent plan is to use LED CR6 bulbs in the recessed lights. I don't think I need much lighting in the lower left but I don't have a good feel for how dark it will be there. Hopefully I will not have shadow issues along the sink wall.

davidr can you point me to any photos of a kitchen lit as you suggest?


    Bookmark   October 29, 2010 at 1:40PM
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I'm not proud enough of my own kitchen to want to post pix of it! :) So I did some looking on the net and, alas, found about what I expected. Today recessed cans are so much in vogue that it's almost impossible to find any decorator or vendor suggesting anything else. Most people just don't think of any alternatives.

But here are a few pictures of fixtures that provide a good blend of direct and indirect lighting. These are often suggested as supplemental, with large quantities of cans being recommended as primary. However, when properly placed, IMO these or similar fixtures can and should serve well as principal lighting for a kitchen.

As a bonus for those who love period-accurate older homes, some of these (though not all) are much more appropriate in terms of decor than anachronistic recessed lights.

Ironically, although Rejuvenation's period lighting collections are meant for folks refurbishing old houses, many of these fixtures typify pre-1970 rational thinking about how to effectively light task areas. (No endorsement of the vendor intended, btw.)

Maybe some other GW folk who've recently upgraded will share their photos of their kitchens which use pendant and surface mount direct/indirect fixtures to good effect.

I hope this provides some ideas.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2010 at 3:11AM
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davidr thanks for putting this list together. I will check out the links.

I have read about the advantages of T8 bulbs with electronic ballasts. If it was not for LED's these would be the choice for under cabinet lights.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2010 at 10:30AM
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I have read about the advantages of T8 bulbs with electronic ballasts. If it was not for LED's these would be the choice for under cabinet lights.

If efficiency is important to you, T8 fluorescents with electronic ballasts are still more efficient than LEDs. I've read claims that T5s are more efficient still, but I haven't investigated those yet.

You might be surprised - some of the cheap LEDs are barely any more efficient than incandescents!

LEDs will eventually catch up, but it will no doubt take a few more years.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2010 at 2:47PM
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