Chandeliers, under-cabinet lighting, and ceiling fans all have their place in lighting a home. But to add additional illumination discreetly, consider recessed lighting.
Recessed lighting fixtures have a bulb contained inside an inverted cylindrical recessed fixture that’s mounted virtually flush with the ceiling. This means they don’t take up physical space or compete with the room’s decor.
The best recessed lighting will depend on the preference for allover or directional lighting as well as the room’s purpose. Ahead, learn the ins and outs of recessed lighting, and find out why the following products are considered tops in their respective categories.
- BEST OVERALL: Amico 6-Inch 5CCT Ultra-Thin LED Recessed Lighting
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Torchstar Basic Series 12-Pack LED Recessed Lights
- BEST SMART: Lumary LED Ultra-Thin Recessed Lighting With Wi-Fi
- BEST DIMMABLE: Feit Electric RGBW Smart Recessed Downlight
- BEST ADJUSTABLE: Maxxima 11-Watt 6-Inch Rotatable LED Downlight
- BEST MINI: YGS-Tech 2-Inch LED Recessed Dimmable Downlight
- BEST FOR SHOWER/BATHROOM: Halo Recessed 70PS Wet Location Air-Tite Light
- BEST FOR OUTDOORS: Globe Electric Rustproof Indoor/Outdoor Lighting Kit
How We Chose the Best Recessed Lighting
The right recessed lighting can provide ample light coverage and create the perfect ambience. Selections for the best recessed lighting depended on the wattage, color temperature, quantity, adjustability, and ease of installation.
We chose various types of recessed lighting to cater to different needs, from allover illumination to accent lighting. The above picks offer 6 to 60 watts for light or heavy illumination. Also with these brightness options are the varying color temperatures to correspond with the Kelvin (K) lighting scale, from warm white (2700K) to cool white (5000K). Select options also allow users to change the color via smartphone or voice activation with smart-home compatibility.
Many of the above picks are easy to install with spring clips and wide rims that can cover existing holes in the ceiling. Varying quantities of 1 to 12 units per pack also allow shoppers to replace single or multiple recessed lights already in the home.
Our Top Picks
To qualify as a top pick, a recessed ceiling light must be durable, attractive, and offer adequate illumination to meet everyday needs. The following recessed lights (many of which are sold in sets) are suitable for various uses, and one or more are likely to be a bright addition to any home.
Get the equivalent of 110 watts of halogen brightness with the Amico recessed ceiling lights. Each light uses only 12 watts of electricity, and six lights will illuminate a 120- to 140-square-foot room efficiently.
These thin 6-inch lights (less than 0.5 inches thick) will fit in ceilings with clearances as shallow as 2 inches above the drywall. Users can adjust the color warmth on each light, from warm white (2700K) to cool white (5000K), to create just the right atmosphere in the room.
Each light comes with an easy-to-wire junction box, requiring users simply to match the color of the Romex wire to the corresponding slot and push the wire into the box to lock it into place. The lights are secured in the ceiling via spring clamps. Although these recessed lights are considered DIY-friendly, those not familiar with wiring principles should hire an electrician to install them.
- Color temperature: 2700K, 3000K, 3500K, 4000K, and 5000K
- Wattage: 12 watts
- Units per pack: 6
- Thin construction; stays hidden under cabinets
- Creates 110 watts of light for ample brightness and visibility
- Suitable for large spaces; compatible with 120- to 140-square-foot rooms
- Spring clamps included for easy installation
- Adjustable color temperature for added personalization
- May require professional installation
Get the Amico recessed lighting on Amazon.
To reap the benefits of LED can lighting and stay on budget, consider Torchstar’s dimmable recessed lighting. Each 4-inch light uses only 10 watts of electricity but provides brightness equivalent to an 80-watt incandescent bulb for ample illumination. The thin housing installs to ceiling drywall using spring clips, and each light features an easy-to-wire junction box that doesn’t require attachment to ceiling joists.
Similar to other LED light bulbs, the Torchstar recessed lights remain cool to the touch, so they won’t get hot in the ceiling. The lights are compatible with most wall-mounted dimmer switches, allowing users to decrease brightness to suit the mood and conserve even more energy.
- Color temperature: 2700K to 5000K
- Wattage: 10 watts
- Units per pack: 12
- Affordable compared to similar options
- Dimming feature for setting mood and ambience
- 80-watt illumination for ample brightness and visibility
- Cool to the touch; prevents injury in case of accidental touching
- Spring clips included for easy installation
- Heavyweight construction; may be tricky when installing
Get the Torchstar recessed lighting on Amazon.
To control recessed lights from a smartphone or with verbal commands, check out Lumary smart lights. These lights sync with either Alexa or Google Home Assistant, so users can turn them on or off via voice commands.
These smart lights also are remote enabled, so users can control them from a smartphone or other digital device through the free downloadable app. For those with some wiring experience, installing the lights in a ceilingis DIY-friendly. They don’t require attachment to ceiling joists, as they remain firmly in place through the use of spring clips.
Select from a range of16 million light colorsfor a custom glow to set the mood. In white mode, each light is equivalent to a 75-watt incandescent bulb; however, in colored modes, the brightness will be dimmer. These Lumary recessed lights require an installed home Wi-Fi network.
- Color temperature: 2700K to 6500K
- Wattage: 13 watts
- Units per pack: 2
- Smart-home compatible; can be adjusted via smartphone or voice command
- 16 million light options to suit the kitchen space and preferred ambience
- Comes with a free downloadable app
- Requires Wi-Fi connection
- Some color options provide less brightness
- May require professional installation
Get the Lumary recessed lighting on Amazon or Lumary.
Dimmable, color-changing, and smart, the Feit Electric RGBW Smart Recessed Downlight is the perfect light to set the mood. This LED light uses only 11.1 watts to produce a bright 75-watt-equivalent light. Users can control brightness and color, and they can set schedules from a smartphone app—the light connects directly to Wi-Fi, so there’s no need for a hub.
For those with a smart-home system, this light can connect to Alexa or Google Home Assistant to enable voice controls. Each pack includes one Energy Star–certified light that fits most 5- to 6-inch recessed can housings. A standard base adapter and premounted trim are also included for ease of installation.
- Color temperature: RGBW
- Wattage: 11.1 watts
- Units per pack: 1
- Users can set brightness, color temperature, and color for added personalization
- Remote- and voice-controlled for ease of use
- Fits most 5- or 6-inch can housings
Get the Feit Electric recessed lighting on Amazon or at Ace Hardware.
Direct light right where it’s wanted with the Maxxima downlight. This 6-inch recessed light features an adjustable head, so users can shine a light on any area of the room.It’s also readjustable to make it easy to highlight different parts of the room.
The Maxxima adjustable recessed lights are designed to retrofit existing can lights, and no wiring is necessary. All users need to do is screw the new light into the can’s existing socket. The Maxxima light is held in place via spring clamps that securely attach it to the ceiling drywall.
The light comes with a standard orange LED plug for connection to an existing LED can light. If swapping out an old bulb, check to see if the current bulb has an orange plug—if so, the Maxxima will fit right in. This recessed light uses only 11 watts of electricity and yet emits almost as much light as a 75-watt incandescent bulb.
- Color temperature: 5CCT, 2700K, and 5000K
- Wattage: 11 watts
- Units per pack: 1
- Affordable lighting compared to similar products on the market
- Adjustable head for visibility where it’s needed
- No wiring necessary; easier to install than other recessed lighting options
- Spring clamps included for added ease of installation
- Comes with only 1 unit
- Limited color-temperature options
Get the Maxxima recessed lighting at Amazon, The Home Depot, or Maxxima.
Install a ceiling full of these mini lights, or place one strategically where needed as a task or accent light. The YGS-Tech recessed lights come with easy-to-wire junction boxes, and they don’t require attachment to ceiling joists.
They come in a four-pack and use only 3 watts of electricity per light, yet each produces as much illumination as a 35-watt halogen bulb. The lights are dimmable for further savings, and, as they use LED bulbs, they don’t generate heat, so there’s no need to worry about the housing making contact with ceiling insulation.
- Color temperature: 2700K to 5000K
- Wattage: 3 watts
- Units per pack: 4
- Dimming feature for setting ambience in a kitchen space
- No heat generated; prevents injury if touched accidentally
- Lightweight compared to similar options
- Easy to install; spring clips are built in
- Narrow illumination range
Get the YGS-Tech recessed lighting on Amazon or YGS-Tech.
If a standard lighting fixture comes into contact with water, it can throw a breaker, but with the Halo recessed light, there’s no cause to worry about splashes from a shower or tub. Thanks to a cover that seals tightly to the light’s base for moisture protection, the Halo light is designed to withstand an occasional water spray and high-humidity conditions without a problem.
This 6-inch recessed fixture accepts a 60-watt-equivalent LED bulb (not included) and is designed to retrofit an existing recessed can light. Its waterproof trim locks firmly against the ceiling to give the bathroom’s ceiling light a fresh, upgraded look.
- Color temperature: White
- Wattage: 60 watts
- Units per pack: 1
- Affordable lighting compared to similar options on the market
- Moisture-resistant in case of steam or accidental spills
- Waterproof trim prevents malfunction
Get the Halo recessed lighting at Amazon, The Home Depot, or Lowe’s.
Looking for can lights for an outdoor setting? Consider Globe Electric indoor/outdoor lights. Thanks to cans and trim made of aluminum, these lights won’t rust or corrode, making them suitable for installation on the ceilings of covered porches or patios. They accommodate E26 base PAR20 or R20 50-watt-equivalent LED bulbs (not included) and are designed to replace older can lights.
The light includes an easy-to-wire junction box and heavy-duty spring clips to hold it in place, so no need to attach the cans to the joists. Keep in mind that although the lights are rust-resistant, they are not watertight and shouldn’t be installed where they could come into contact with direct water spray, such as from a sprinkler.
- Color temperature: White
- Wattage: 50 watts
- Units per pack: 4
- Resists corrosion and rust
- Easy to install; push-and-click clips install in a cinch
- Lightweight construction stays in place for long-term use
- Bulbs not included
Get the Globe Electric recessed lighting at Amazon, The Home Depot, or Wayfair.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Recessed Lighting
Recessed lights, sometimes called “canister lights” or simply “cans,” are ideal in rooms with low ceilings, such as in basements, where other lighting fixtures would reduce headroom. When used with incandescent bulbs, canister lights present a risk of overheating.
Today’s new LED recessed lights, however, generate no heat, so there’s no worry about the light’s housing causing the insulation to melt or presenting a fire risk. This is essential to keep in mind when installing recessed lighting. Read on for other important factors to consider when choosing the best recessed lights.
Location and Placement
With most styles of recessed lights, only a thin bit of trim around the light extends below the ceiling, so most models are relatively flush with the surface of the ceiling. This offers a clean look, but it also provides less illumination than a traditional ceiling light; therefore, it may be necessary to choose more than one type of recessed ceiling light to light the entire room.
- Whole-room lighting: Lighting needs vary depending on the room’s purpose. For example, most users likely want more illumination in the kitchen than in the family room. A general rule for placing standard 6-inch recessed lights is to divide the ceiling height by two; this number should be the distance in feet between each light installed. For example, if the ceiling is 9 feet high, consider installing recessed lights 4.5 feet apart for whole-room illumination. This rule can vary, however, depending on the actual brightness of the lights.
- Accent lighting: To draw attention to a valuable painting, sculpture, or architectural feature, installing accent lighting that spotlights the object can do the trick. Adjustable recessed lights make it easier to position the light exactly where it’s needed.
- Task lighting: Kitchen counters and islands require bright lighting so users can see the tasks at hand. Placing a higher number of recessed lights in these areas will increase brightness.
Installing recessed LED lights in an existing ceiling is simpler than installing old-school incandescent cans, which need to be attached to ceiling joists for support. Today’s LED lights are lightweight enough to not need extra support and attach directly to the surrounding drywall through the use of spring clips.
Recessed lighting trims on a can-type light include the outer ring, which installs after the light is in place to provide a finished look, as well as the can’s interior housing, as the design inside the can contributes to the overall design effect.
- Baffle: The interior of a baffle trim light can feature circular ribbing that reduces glare and is a standard feature on many can-type recessed lights.
- Reflective: A reflector trim can’s interior comes with a mirrorlike surface that increases illumination for the brightest light possible. Reflector trim is well suited to over-counter task lighting where extra brightness is desirable.
- Open: Recessed lights with open trim are designed for use with special bulbs that widen at the bottom to offer a flush look between the rim of the can and the bulb.
- Eyeball: These adjustable recessed lights have a movable inner ring that allows the user to direct the light in a specific direction.
- Pinhole: Recessed lights with pinhole trim feature a small opening that creates a spotlight effect directly below the light. Pinholes often are used to accent artwork or other focal points. Multiple pinhole lights may be installed in the ceilings of home theaters and attached to dimmer switches to create a muted nighttime-sky effect when watching movies.
- Wall-wash: Used for accenting an area of a wall or a specific item, such as a painting, a wall-wash light comes with a shield that blocks light from most of the room, directing it to a nearby wall instead.
- Shower: This type of trim, as the name suggests, is a necessity for installation in high-moisture areas, such as over a shower stall.
Brightness and Wattage
Today’s LED light bulbs use less energy than the incandescent traditional bulbs of yesterday. However, many shoppers still associate a light’s brightness with incandescent bulb wattage, so in addition to listing the actual watts of an LED light bulb, most LED recessed lights include a comparison to an incandescent bulb’s wattage.
For example, an LED light bulb might use only 12 watts of electricity but be as bright as a 100-watt incandescent bulb, so its description might read: “Bright 12W 100W-Equivalent Recessed Light.” Most LED recessed lights are compared to their incandescent equivalents, but a few are compared to halogen-light equivalents.
The most common color temperatures for recessed lights are cool white and warm white, and both are suitable for general use throughout the home. Cool white is crisp and bright, making it welcome in kitchens, laundry rooms, and workshops, while warm white is soothing and well suited to family rooms, bedrooms, and bathrooms.
The color temperature of LED recessed lighting is rated on the Kelvin light scale ranging from 2000K to 6500K—as the number increases, the light quality becomes cooler. At the bottom of the scale, the warm color temperature contains amber and yellow tones. As the light progresses, it becomes crisp white and eventually takes on a cool bluish tone at the upper end of the scale.
In addition to traditional white light, some recessed fixtures come with the ability to adjust the color’s hue to set a specific mood in the room. These are known as color-changing LED recessed lights, and they offer multiple color choices, such as green, blue, and purple shades of light.
- Dimming the recessed lighting allows users to lower the illumination to suit their moods and needs, reducing energy consumption as well. Some recessed lighting is also compatible with smart dimmer switches.
- Smart technology for LED recessed lighting can be controlled by a wall switch or remotely from a smartphone, tablet, or PC with a Wi-Fi network. Households that don’t have access to Wi-Fi can still enjoy smart-lighting technology by choosing lights with Bluetooth connectivity for use with a smartphone.
With the many types and styles of recessed lighting available, it’s not unusual to have some questions. Check out these answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.
Q. How do you install LED recessed lighting?
The best LED recessed lights are DIY-friendly and feature prelabeled slots for inserting color-coded Romex wires. However, working with electricity always presents some risks, so if you’re not familiar with wiring, hire an electrician.
Q. How far should recessed lights be placed from kitchen cabinets?
To illuminate countertop work areas fully, recessed LED lights should be installed an average of 14 to 16 inches out from the upper cabinets’ edge. This offers the best angle of illumination.
Q. Should I use 4-inch or 6-inch recessed lights?
Recessed lights come in two common diameters: 4-inch and 6-inch sizes. When choosing between the two, it all depends on the look you’re going for and the amount of illumination you want. Standard 6-inch lights are the most common for whole-room lighting. If positioned closer together, 4-inch lights are also suitable for whole-room lighting and are well suited for accent and task lighting.
Q. Do you need an electrician to install recessed lighting?
If you have a working knowledge of wiring and you’re simply replacing an existing light with a new recessed light, you may choose to install it yourself. If you’re installing a whole ceiling full of new recessed lights and will need to fish wire through the joists, it’s a good idea to have an electrician do it. Your local building authority may also have rules that require LED installation by a licensed electrician.
Q. Do LED recessed lights need housing?
Housing is the case that holds the light bulb (or LED diodes). Most LED recessed lighting fixtures come with thin, lightweight housings compared to the more massive, older-style can lights.
Q. Does recessed lighting add value to a house?
Well-lit rooms are more attractive than dimly lit ones, and although installing recessed lighting might not add monetary value to your home, potential buyers may be more likely to make an offer if your home is well lit.
Why Trust Bob Vila
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