All About Recessed Lights
Recessed Lighting has come a long way since it was first introduced in the 1930s by lighting pioneer Ivan Kirlin of The Kirlin Company, in Detroit Michigan. Initially they were used in factories over work stations as superior task lighting. Not until Cooper Lighting’s Halo Light division included recessed lights in their mid-1970s catalogues did recessed lights gain popularity as residential lighting. Back then all recessed lights were based upon a 6″ canister which used a PAR 38 Flood lamp.
Until the late 1980’s only black baffles were sold with a white goof ring. Then white baffles with white goof rings were offered and quickly became the most popular trim. Even though recessed lights were becoming the lighting of choice in residential new construction, high end interior designers and homeowners just had to ignore the way they made ceilings look. The manufacturers of recessed lights made no attempt to offer the consumer any type of decorative trim. Later gold and silver reflectors were sold in addition to black and white baffles.
Then in 2001 a small company named Beaux-Artes was started to make decorative trim pieces to replace the homely goof ring. In collaboration with Decorator Supply in Chicago they manufactured and marketed eight different styles of miniature medallions available in 30 different faux finishes. These little medallions were made to the same specifications as the goof rings they replaced. So that homeowners with existing recessed lights could give their existing hardware a complete makeover just by adding a decorative medallion or trim.
Good ideas are usually copied, and soon other companies started offering decorative trims to fit the standard 6″ light canister. Some of these new decorative trims were made to glue up to the ceiling around the existing goof ring. Others featured metal rims with glass inserts with detailed installation instructions using screws. Even a European company started making modern looking glass trims. Some of these new decorative trims were quality pieces others cheap knockoffs. In 2005 Residential Lighting Magazine reviewed the upstart decorative recessed light trim industry, and awarded only Beaux-Artes with the prestigious Top 100 Products Award.
There are three primary components to a recessed lighting installation, the lighting canister, the trim and the light bulb. You can sometimes buy the three in a complete kit, but typicaly they’re sold in mix and match individual pieces, which makes it easier to set up your installation to fit exactly what you want. However, you have to be sure you’re getting components that work together with one another, since not all trim rings will work with every can, especially if they come from different manufacturers. In the same way, some cans will only accept certain sizes and types of bulbs.
The first thing to select is the recessed canister itself, and there are several things to take into consideration. The canister or housing is the fixture that is installed inside the ceiling and contains the lamp holder.l The canister can be installed during the construction phase, before the drywall is attached or added later as a remodeling fixture. Canisters come in a variety of sizes, generally ranging from 8″ for commercial buildings, and 6″, 5″ and 4″ for residential housing. The canister houses the light bulb socket and the electrical wiring connections. The canister is usually made of either galvanized steel or white powder coated steel, and rather industrial looking. Therefore the canister is not made to be seen and is covered up by the trim pieces.
The trim is the visible portion of recessed lights. The trim generally consists of two pieces; the baffle (or reflector) that can be described as the cone that surrounds the light bulb and the thin rim on the ceiling around the edge of the recessed light, which is actually called a “goof ring”, because it hides the hand-cut hole in the drywall. Baffles are usually white or black and have ribs that “baffle” or subdue any excess light. Reflectors surround the light bulb just like baffles, but are made of polished brass (gold) or aluminum (silver) and reflect the excess light. Airtight baffles combine the baffle and goof ring into one piece. Other trim kits for recessed lights include eyeballs and gimbal trims that can direct the light to shine on a near by painting or other items. Also available are wall wash trims that flood a nearby wall with light for an ambient effect.
The Light Bulb
The light bulb is the third and most important part of a recessed light. In most cases flood lamps are the preferred kind of light. The exception is when eyeball or gimbal type trims are used and spot lights are the preferred kind of bulb. There are four distinct type of lighting used in recessed lights, incandescent, quartz halogen, compact florescent and LEDs.
Until recently incandescent and quartz halogen flood lamps have been most popular in recessed lights. However, they are currently being phased out due to US Government regulation because they consume excess electricity.
The first energy efficient bulbs on the market were the compact florescent lights (CFLs). They use one-fifth to one-third the electric power, and last eight to fifteen times longer than incandescent bulbs. Unfortunately CFLs aren’t good flood lamps for task lighting as used in recessed lights. However like all florescent lamps, they contain toxic mercury which complicates their disposal. Another problem is that the light is not quite the same color or spectrum as other types of light produced, as a result they are rumored to produce headaches. Also CFLs come in two types; the exceedingly ugly uncovered screw and a covered version.
The newest energy efficient light is the LED, which stands for light emitting diode. Light is actually a by-product of a diode in contrast to other type of light bulbs which produce heat as a by product. Since LEDs produce almost noheat they are used in flat screen TVs, car headlights and countless consumer products. The LED industry also has designed a combination of the LED bulb and trim which means you have to purchase trim kits. They are also available in flood lamps and spot lights. LEDs are the most efficient of all light bulbs on the market today. The life expectancy of an LED bulb used 3 hours per day exceeds 20 years and has an estimated annual energy cost of less than $3 per year. No wonder that the LED lamp market is projected to grow by more than twelve-fold over the next decade, from $2 billion in the beginning of 2014 to $25 billion in 2023. That is a compounded growth rate of 25%. LED’s are superior to the other types of lighting and seem to be the bulb of the future.
In addition to LED Lamps their are combination LED Retrofits combining the lamp and trim.
Commercial Electric has a retrofit that comes with a trim in a stainless, bronze or white trim.
Beaux-Arts Rubbed Bronze finish looks great with their bronze trim.
Beaux-Arts decorative trims with LED retrofits.
Victorian Trim #LR-601 for Lightolier 6-3/4″ recessed lights with Quartz Halogen Par 38 Bulb
Victorian #LR-501 for Lightolier 5″ with a Quartz Halogen Par 38 Bulb
Victorian #LR-301 for Lightolier 3-3/4″ canisters
Victorian #LR-156 for 5″ and 6″ Halo type canisters. Shown with Halo LED retrofit. This is a light and trim kit combination.
Florentine #LR-142 fits most 4″ products including Halo, Juno, Nora, Commercial Electric, Contrast and many more.
Victorian #LR-141 fits most 4″ products. Same as above.
Victorian #LR-141 shown with a miniature quartz halogen bulb called an MR-16 with a gimbel.
Victorian #LR-101. This is what started it all, the traditional 6″ recessed light with a baffle. Most older homes have this size.
Coming soon Part II