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How to Pick Recessed Lighting Housings

The beautiful illumination of proper downlighting.

Initially designed in the 1930’s, recessed lighting continues to lead as stylish and contemporary out-of-sight lighting.  Recessed lights sit flush with the ceiling and usually appear as little more than a round hole or square to permit light; the perfect design for keeping a smooth and neat ceiling.  Over the past 80 years we’ve seen many revisions and advancements to the design and application of recessed lighting.  Home lighting itself focuses on the smaller form factor of can lights (typically two to six inches in diameter) while commercial offices use larger fluorescent troffers for uniform lighting.  It can be hard to decide on a proper installation, or retrofit as the case may be, with so many variables in play.  Here are the important factors to consider the next time you’re looking at installing or improving recessed fixtures.

Before You Buy Recessed Housings

  1. Know where you plan to place the downlight.  If the housing will be in contact with any insulation you will need an Insulation Contact (IC) rated  housing.  These housings are designed to protect the insulation in your ceiling from the downlight and prevent house fires.  Don’t neglect to measure the aperture diameter and housing height to make sure you have enough space in your ceiling and have the correct size hole for your light.
  2. GU24 Socket Whip Adapter

    GU24 Socket Whip Adapter

    Check what your line voltage is (for most US homes it’s 120 volts) to make sure both your housing and light source operate at the proper voltage level.

  3. Consider the socket type for your intended lamp.  Some restrictions apply based on location.  For example, the State of California requires high-efficiency lighting (Title CA 24) in residential remodels and construction.  This typically means CFL lamps using a GU24 base. Standard Edison medium base bulbs are more common and allow for a more flexible installation.

In short, be sure to plan ahead for location, insulation and housing size, line voltage, and socket type before purchasing your new recessed light.

BulbsDifferent lamp shapes are also affected by your choice of housing.  Typical housings range between two and four inches for cabinet and niche lighting and up to six inches for ceilings. The larger diameters allow for full retrofit modules and PAR or R flood lamps while smaller sizes are designed for halogen or LED MR-shape lamps.  The MR sized lamps are great for accent or spot lighting while the larger flood lamps effectively cover a room in general lighting systems.

Be sure to follow up with Part 2: Recessed Lighting Trims. Let us know what you look for in recessed lighting or what you’re looking for next when it comes to low-profile lighting. And check out our step-by-step guide for installing recessed can lights yourself.  Feel free to share with us in a comment or to drop us a line on FacebookTwitterGoogle PlusLinkedIn, or Pinterest!

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Will Parsons

Will is a Copywriter for 1000Bulbs.com. He has a background in small-farm agricultural hydroponics and electrical engineering, with degrees in applied engineering and emerging media. Previously he has worked in renewable energy and green technology fields. His own interests are for creative writing and storytelling and he tends to be an early adopter of new technology. Enjoy new stories alternating between lighting and hydroponics each week.