What to Know About Residential Recessed Lighting
Whether you're planning to illuminate your basement or brighten your front porch, recessed lighting provides a stylish and practical lighting solution for the home. However, before you dash out to pick up a set of lights, there are a few things you'll have to take into consideration to make the best choice for your lighting needs -- and to avoid burning down the house.
Insulated or Non-Insulated
If a recessed light begins to overheat, you face a serious risk of fire. Standard recessed lights, labelled Non-IC rated, require a space that is free from any form of insulation. You'll also need at least 8 inches of height in the joists above the ceiling to accommodate a standard size light enclosure. While these requirements are fine in some situations, such as when you're adding recessed lighting to a non-insulated basement ceiling, a problem arises when the ceiling requires insulation, such as in the attic directly above. To tackle this safety issue, recessed lighting is available for these situations. Enclosed in a special box to stay a minimum distance from insulation, the insulation-rated recessed lighting provides a safer solution. However, you can expect to pay more for these lights.
Size and Voltage
The size of the recessed lighting makes a big impact on the look, so take the time to plan ahead and consider which size best suits your home's needs. Larger lights take up more room in the joists -- a big problem when you're installing recessed lighting in soffits because the slope of the roof might limit your space. Smaller lights will take up less space in the joists, but you'll likely require more of them to completely illuminate the space. Recessed lights come in low voltage and line voltage options, and the differences in these are most apparent in installation cost and lifetime cost of the lighting. Line voltage, which is standard 120-volt lighting, costs less to purchase. And while low voltage lighting costs more initially, it uses less power and the bulbs last longer. Keep in mind that other costs, such as dimmers, also differ in price depending on the voltage selection.
Bathroom and Outdoors
Recessed lighting in the bathroom or outdoors faces additional obstacles, such as moisture. Recessed lighting in the bathroom must be airtight and rated for damp conditions. The main difference is these units have a seal inside to keep air and moisture out. Be prepared to pay more for this type of recessed lighting, and remember to still take into account whether you'll require insulated or non-insulated lighting. Outdoor recessed lighting, such as the lights commonly found in soffits, need to be rated for damp locations. While it's easy to think that the roof and gutters keep rain away, high winds can easily blow small amounts of water to the soffits. Standard damp location-rated recessed lighting should do the job just fine because soffits are not usually insulated.
An important factor often overlooked when choosing recessed lighting is the type of bulb. Fluorescent lights require less power and have a lower heat output than standard incandescent bulbs. In fact, in less than nine months, compact fluorescent lamps, or CFLs, can actually pay for themselves, explains the U.S. Department of Energy. Flood lights provide a greater measure of security because they cast a broad, bright beam of light on the surroundings. This is where LED flood lights connected to a motion detector can help deter trespassers from getting too close to that sensor. If you want to create a romantic atmosphere, you might want to be able to dim the lights. While incandescent and halogen lights can be used with dimmers, keep in mind that not all LED lights are compatible with dimmers.