Recessed lighting in the foyer or entrance hall is an effective way to showcase a curving staircase or entry floor. Recessed adjustable lighting can also add light to the areas and objects that you want to stand out. One fixture can light several areas, simply by changing the bulb from a spot to a flood or you can highlight details in a space by using spot fixtures in strategically placed areas.
In a living room, place fixtures approximately 8'- 0" apart to provide general unobtrusive light that won't clash with room furnishings. A dimmer gives adjustable light levels for any activity or occasion. Be sure to distribute the light evenly. The fixtures should be about 18" to 24" from the wall, spaced one to one-and-a-half times the distance from the wall. To highlight a textured wall or reveal wall patterns (such as a brick wall) use the grazing technique by placing fixtures 12" from the wall and 12" to 24" apart.
When adding recessed lighting to a bath, the size of the room will decide the lighting requirements. Bathrooms over 100 square feet require general light, while smaller baths can use mirror fixtures. Recessed incandescent fixtures work well and can provide general illumination for bathrooms up to 100 square feet. Place them no more than 36" apart and centered over the counter. Add fixtures for each additional 50 square feet of space. Note that wall sconces should be used in order to properly light a mirror or vanity, as using only recessed lighting in the space will shadow the face.
In shower or bath areas, recessed lighting must be approved for a damp location. Local electrical and building codes should be consulted when selecting the lighting for these areas, as specific requirements vary from state to state.
For the kitchen, recessed incandescent downlights should be placed approximately 6' to 8' apart. Fluorescent recessed fixtures are a good alternative choice, as they last ten times longer and deliver three to four times more light per watt than incandescent lighting. Plus, recessed fixtures can be hidden in niches or placed to shine through glass shelves for a unique, backlight display.
How to buy recessed lighting
Recessed lighting fixtures have three parts - the housing, the trim and a bulb. Each part is needed to complete the fixture. When you first select products, you can shop either by the housing style or by the trim. After choosing a product, such as a specific housing, you will need to scan further down the product detail page to see the compatible trims that will work with the housing you selected. Remember to make sure the housing and trim are compatible and from the same manufacturer. Then, select the type of lighting you need, such as line voltage, low voltage (with a transformer) or fluorescent. Make sure you are purchasing both a housing and a trim piece as you will need both to have a complete fixture.
Recessed lighting glossary
It always helps to know the proper terms to describe a fixture you're using. Here are definitions of some of the more common words and phrases used with recessed lighting:
Housings: Housings are recessed fixtures which can "house" a variety of line and low voltage lamp styles and wattages. These housings allow for connection to the electrical system and in conjunction with trims and bulbs create the finished product of a recessed fixture.
Trim: Housing Trims finish off the hole in the ceiling and can play an integral part of light effectiveness or effects based on the wide range of finishes and types available. Note that a black baffle can cut light output by 50% since the color black absorbs light.
Baffle: The baffle is the interior of the trim that is recessed into the ceiling. Most baffles are stepped up with milligrooves.
Line Voltage: Fixtures that operate at 120 volts are considered line voltage lamps. They do not require a transformer and can be directly connected to the electrical wiring.
Low Voltage: Fixtures that operate at a lower voltage than line voltage are termed low voltage. These fixtures require a transformer to reduce line voltage, usually to 12 or 24 volts. Many fixtures using the smaller MR16 bulbs are low voltage fixtures.
Airtight: Meets airtight requirements to a certain CFM or less air leakage.
Wet Area: Means the fixture is U.L. listed for use in damp locations, such as a shower or certain outdoor environments.
Energy Star: The fixture uses less energy than incandescent fixtures and is Energy Star Rated.
Shower Trim: Trim suitable for a shower light. Shower trim must also use a housing that is approved for damp locations.
Eyeball: This trim is a versatile lamp for art lighting. It can be swiveled left to right as well as aimed up from vertical on a wall. It does protrude below the ceiling line, and so would be more visible.
New Construction Fixture: The fixture is suitable for installation in an open wall construction (no sheet rock or plaster) where full access to ceilings, walls, and floors make no hindrance to installation. Fixture typically includes bar hangers to attach to floor joists, and the housing is bulkier than a remodel fixture.
Remodel Fixture: The fixture is suitable for installation in a remodel or renovation of an existing structure. The fixture is less bulky than new-construction fixtures in order to be fitted into an existing ceiling. Note there still may need to be removal of sheetrock or large holes in the ceiling made in order to accommodate a new lighting plan. An expert electrician should be consulted on how much demo work is needed in order to add a remodel fixture to an existing space.
IC Rated (Insulation Contact Rated): This means the fixture is U.L. listed for use in direct contact with thermal insulation.
Non IC Rated (Non Insulation Contact Rated): The fixture does not meet standards for use in direct contact with thermal insulation. Insulation must be kept at least 3" away from the housing.