The Best Recessed Lighting for Coverage and Ambience

Add accent illumination or increase overall brightness without changing a room’s decor via recessed lighting that suits any setting, style, and budget.

By Glenda Taylor | Updated Feb 14, 2024 2:18 AM

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The best recessed lighting option in a bright and spacious bathroom

Photo: amazon.com

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 your room’s decor.

The best recessed lighting will depend on your 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.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Amico 6-Inch Ultra-Thin LED Recessed Lighting 
  2. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Torchstar 4-Inch Basic Series LED Recessed Lights
  3. BEST SMART: Lumary 6-Inch Smart LED Recessed Lights
  4. BEST DIMMABLE: Feit Electric 6-Inch Smart Recessed Downlight
  5. BEST ADJUSTABLE: Maxxima 6-Inch Rotatable LED Downlight
  6. BEST MINI: YGS-Tech 2-Inch LED Recessed Dimmable Downlight 
  7. BEST FOR SHOWER/BATHROOM: Halo 6-Inch Recessed Light
  8. BEST FOR OUTDOORS: Globe Electric Rustproof Indoor/Outdoor Lighting Kit 
The best recessed lighting option in a bright and clean kitchen

Photo: amazon.com

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 recessed fixtures also allow you 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.

Best Overall

Amico 6-Inch Ultra-Thin LED Recessed Lighting on a white background
Photo: amazon.com

Product Specs 

  • Color temperature: 2700K, 3000K, 3500K, 4000K, and 5000K
  • Wattage: 12 watts
  • Units per pack: 6

Pros

  • Creates 110 watts of light for ample brightness and visibility; adjustable color temperature for added personalization
  • Thin construction remains flush with the ceiling and stays hidden if installed under cabinets
  • Spring clamps included for quick and easy installation

Cons

  • May require professional help for proper installation

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 small to large rooms 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 of the LED recessed lights 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. These 6-inch 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.

Get the Amico recessed lighting at Amazon.

Best Bang for the Buck

Torchstar Basic Series 12-Pack LED Recessed Lights on a white background
Photo: amazon.com

Product Specs 

  • Color temperature: 2700K, 3000K, 4000K, or 5000K
  • Wattage: 10 watts
  • Units per pack: 12

Pros

  • Creates an 80-watt illumination for ample brightness and visibility; suitable for living rooms, kitchens, offices, and more
  • Comes with a dimming feature for setting mood and ambience; can also be energy-efficient and power-saving
  • Aluminum shell keeps the unit cool to the touch; prevents injury in case of accidental touching
  • Spring clips included for easy mounting during installation
  • Affordable compared to similar options on the market

Cons

  • Heavyweight construction; may be tricky when installing

To reap the benefits of LED can lighting and stay on budget, consider Torchstar’s dimmable recessed lighting. Each of the 4-inch lights 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 due to the built-in aluminum shell, 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 their mood and conserve even more energy.

Get the Torchstar recessed lighting at Amazon.

Best Smart

2 Lumary LED Ultra-Thin Recessed lights next to a smartphone on a white background
Photo: amazon.com

Product Specs 

  • Color temperature:  2700K to 6500K plus RGB (16 million colors)
  • Wattage: 13 watts
  • Units per pack: 1, 4, 6, 8, or 12

Pros

  • Smart-home compatible; can be adjusted via smartphone or voice command with Alexa or Google Home Assistant
  • 16 million light options to suit the kitchen space and preferred ambience
  • Comes with a free downloadable app to control the lights remotely

Cons

  • Requires Wi-Fi connection to operate; makes installation slightly more involved
  • Some color options provide less brightness
  • May require professional help for proper installation

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 LED recessed 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 of the 6-inch lights 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.

Get the Lumary recessed lighting at Amazon or Lumary.

Best Dimmable

Feit Electric RGBW Smart Recessed Downlight on a white background
Photo: amazon.com

Product Specs 

  • Color temperature: 2700K to 6500K, plus RBGW
  • Wattage: 11.1 watts
  • Units per pack: 1

Pros

  • Users can set brightness, color temperature, and color; perfect light for entertaining
  • Compatible with Alexa and Google Home Assistant; can be remote- and voice-controlled for ease of use
  • Fits most 5- or 6-inch can housings and has a standard base adapter
  • Energy Star–certified model saves on energy and provides peace of mind

Cons

  • Multiple units may need to be purchased for larger spaces; only comes with 1 unit

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.

Get the Feit Electric recessed lighting at Amazon or Ace Hardware.

Best Adjustable

Maxxima 6-Inch Rotatable LED Downlight on a white background
Photo: amazon.com

Product Specs 

  • Color temperature: 2700K, 3000K, 3500K, 4000K, and 5000K
  • Wattage: 11 watts
  • Units per pack: 1

Pros

  • Affordable overhead lighting compared to similar products on the market
  • Versatile construction comes with an 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

Cons

  • Comes with only 1 unit; lighting larger rooms can get pricey

Direct light right where it’s wanted with the Maxxima downlight. This 6-inch recessed ceiling 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 LED 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.

Get the Maxxima recessed lights at Amazon, The Home Depot, or Maxxima.

Best Mini

4 YGS-Tech 2-Inch LED Recessed Dimmable Downlights on a white background
Photo: amazon.com

Product Specs 

  • Color temperature: 2700K, 3000K, 4000K, or 5000K
  • Wattage: 3 watts
  • Units per pack: 4

Pros

  • Dimming feature for setting ambience in kitchen spaces or for saving energy
  • No heat is generated from long-term use times; prevents injury if touched accidentally
  • Lightweight construction and spring clips built-in for ease of installation

Cons

  • Narrow illumination range; may not suit all users’ preferences

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.

Get the YGS-Tech recessed lighting at Amazon or YGS-Tech.

Best for Shower/Bathroom

Halo Recessed 70PS Wet Location Air-Tite Light on a white background
Photo: amazon.com

Product Specs 

  • Color temperature: Depends on the A19 bulb you purchase (sold separately)
  • Wattage: 60 watts
  • Units per pack: 1

Pros

  • Affordable lighting compared to similar options on the market
  • Moisture-resistant construction and trim will not malfunction if exposed to steam
  • Comes in multiple quantities for lighting small to large spaces

Cons

  • A19 bulb not included; needs to be bought separately

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 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.Finally, this model comes in either a two-pack or four-pack for both small and large spaces.

Get the Halo recessed lighting at Amazon, Lowe’s, or The Home Depot.

Best for Outdoors

4 Globe Electric Rust Proof lights on a white background
Photo: amazon.com

Product Specs 

  • Color temperature: Depends on the bulb you purchase (sold separately)
  • Wattage: 50 watts
  • Units per pack: 4

Pros

  • Resists corrosion and rust; great for humidity-prone areas like bathrooms and laundry rooms
  • Easy tool-free installation; push-and-click clips install in a cinch
  • Lightweight construction stays in place for long-term use

Cons

  • Bulbs not included; must be bought separately

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 electrical 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.

Get the Globe Electric recessed lighting at Amazon, The Home Depot, or Wayfair

Jump to Our Top Picks



What to Consider When Choosing 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.

Most 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 accent lighting to be 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 adjustable recessed lights in these areas will increase brightness.

Installing LED recessed 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.

Trim Type

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. Baffle trim is also 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.

Color Temperature

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.

Special Features

  • 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.

FAQs 

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.

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