Q&A / 

Recessed Lighting Design

kitchen with 3 levels of lights

There are three levels of light in this kitchen, four if you count the bright lights under the stove hood! Photo credit: Tim Carter

Wide Selection/Uses

What happens if you want to add recessed light in a finished ceiling? No problem! They make special housings that will slide in a hole you cut. What about low voltage recessed lights? They have those as well. What about sloped ceilings? Ever been in a room and have those lights aiming at your eyes? Well, that is not a problem anymore. You can purchase special housing that aims the bulb directly to the floor!

Want a super energy efficient recessed light that doesn't leak air? You can get those as well. A regular recessed light that is covered with insulation can leak up to 2.6 million cubic feet of air per year! That can equate to nearly 1 million BTU's of energy loss. Check out the air tight fixtures.

Recessed Light Suggested Uses and Installation Tips

I have used recessed lighting in just about every imaginable place you can think of in a residential house. My customers and myself have come up with some very imaginative uses. Many of them you might be familiar with.

Exterior Uses

Any covered porch is an excellent candidate for recessed lighting. It doesn't matter if the style of the house is contemporary or traditional. Of course, contemporary styling makes the choice a natural. But let's say you are building a period Victorian house. How would recessed lighting look? Well, consider using it on a covered front porch to wash the front porch walls with light to highlight the front door or ornate paint detailing for people who pass by your house when it is dark. Just like you might use landscape lighting to light trees to show them off, use recessed lights to wash your house with light.

Place recessed lights in soffits, cantilevered floors, etc. to illuminate or highlight features of your house. You will be surprised how striking the effect really is!

Interior Uses

I really like using recessed lighting in conjunction with other forms of light in rooms. I have already told you about my kitchen. Think of using recessed lighting in a study or den to create general mood lighting around the perimeter of the ceiling. If you plan your furniture layout and choices, you can place lights centered on these items to illuminate them fully. By using soft, low wattage bulbs you create a very soft low lighting mood. High intensity lights can be used at workstations or reading chairs.

Modernistic dining rooms offer a great place for recessed lighting. You can tray (layer) a ceiling and include recessed lights in the lower tray. The center of the ceiling can contain a chandelier as well. The recessed lights can be strategically placed to highlight furniture, paintings or decorative items. They can be turned on independently of the chandelier to create a glow in the room. Dimmer controls work great for this effect.

Recessed lights work great above tubs, showers, whirlpools, etc. I always installed recessed lights over the mirrors in my customers bathrooms. They could control these lights from a different switch that controlled the wall mounted decorative fixtures above or along side the mirrors.

Recessed lighting is often the safest choice for the interior of closets. Many house fires have been caused by objects (falling from shelves) coming into contact with unshielded bulbs from surface mounted fixtures.

Installation Tips

Have you ever installed a recessed light? If so you probably did it this way: open box, determine location, nail up fixture, begin wiring process, take muscle relaxant for strained neck muscles!

My electrician taught me the trick to avoid the muscle relaxants! It's simple. All you need to do is wire the fixture on the ground or floor level before you nail it in place. No more strained neck muscles. No more dropped wire nuts. You will be surprised how much easier this is.

If you are a DIY'r, please take the time to read the specific installation guidelines. If you didn't get any with the light, call the company and ask for some! If wired improperly, recessed lights can be hazardous. Do not underestimate the amount of heat a 150 watt bulb can produce!

Above all, please get your job inspected by a certified electrical inspector. People die every day in this country from electrical-related house fires. Don't you be one of them.

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