Guide to Recessed Lighting Trim, Housings & Bulbs

On this page you'll find information to help you take the guesswork out of buying recessed lighting. If you need specific product recommendations or help designing a lighting system, give us a call, we're here to help!

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General Planning Tips

  • Place lights approximately 7 ft. apart on ceiling. Follow this guideline if you have a standard 8 ft. high ceiling and are using 6-inch size housings
    or "cans".

  • When accenting artwork, paintings or sculptures, use one 4-inch low voltage recessed light per object or picture. Larger objects such as sculptures or oversized paintings may require more than one can.

  • For highlighting statuary or indoor plants, we recommend using two lights aimed from different angles to help add depth and drama to the object. Special recessed lighting trim can be used to focus the light throw and highlight details of each object.

  • For wet location installations, make sure you use a can and recessed shower trim that is waterproof and specifically rated for shower use.

  • For reading or task lighting applications, low voltage recessed lighting should be placed slightly behind and off to one side of a reading chair or work space to minimize glare from books or task objects.

  • Use a wall washer in smaller rooms to give the appearance of a larger space. These types of cans are also great for groups of smaller pictures or family photos.
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Recessed Trim

Your choice of recessed lighting trim should be based both on the performance requirements of the recessed light housing and your own personal taste. Listed below are some of the many options available.

Specular clear or black alzac trims give an upscale look while providing optimum performance. Clear alzac reflectors control glare from the fixture opening and blend well with contemporary design settings.

White or black baffle trims are the most common and economical. Black trim helps reduce glare at the ceiling surface, while white blends into the ceiling better when the light is off.

Sloped ceiling trims orient the light source so it is perpendicular to the floor. Standard sloped ceiling lights adjust for ceilings pitched from 2/12 to 6/12. Super slope trims adjust from 6/12 to 12/12. These are available in black or white finish.

Recessed shower trim is used bathroom showers, outdoor showers and wet locations. This type of trim is usually rated for a maximum of 60 watts. New low voltage wet location trim is now available that provides increased brightness and sparkle.

An economical way to illuminate artwork is with low voltage eyeballs. These adjust vertically up to 35 degrees and can rotate 350 degrees for optimum flexibility. They are usually rated up to a 75 watt halogen or standard flood bulb.

Wall wash trims have a reflector inside that forces the light high up onto a wall for an even "wash" effect. Use these trims to give a feeling of space to smaller rooms, or to illuminate groupings of art or photographs. Wall wash trims are typically spaced 20" to 30" from the wall and 20" to 30" apart.

Low voltage directional trims are usually adjustable up to 40 degrees vertically, though some can adjust up to 75 degrees. These trims can fill both accent and task lighting functions and low voltage halogen bulbs are available in a variety of beam spreads so the light can be targeted for a specific task. Low voltage directional trims are also available as eyeballs or fully recessed adjustable trims.

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Recessed Housings

Lamps Plus has a full line of recessed light housing designs that meet the needs of both the professional installer and the do-it-yourselfer.

IC rated new construction housings are attached to the ceiling supports before the ceiling surface is installed. IC housings must be installed wherever insulation will be in direct contact with the housing. Most IC housings are rated to a 75 watt maximum. A full line of 4", 5" and 6" housings are available for both line and low voltage systems.

Non-IC rated new construction housings are used in the same situations as the IC rated new construction housings, only where there will be no insulation present. These housings are typically rated up to 150 watts. A full line of 4", 5" and 6" housings are available for both line and low voltage systems.

IC rated remodel housings are used in existing ceilings where insulation will be present. A full line of 4", 5" and 6" housings are available for 120 volt line voltage systems.

Non-IC rated remodel housings are used for existing ceilings where no insulation is present. A full line of 4", 5" and 6" housings are available for both line and low voltage systems.

Low voltage systems are available for both insulated and non-insulated ceilings. Choose from housings designed for ceiling pitches up to 6/12 or 12/12.

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Low Voltage Systems

Low voltage systems operate at reduced voltage, most often at 12 volts. A transformer is required to change the normal household 120 volt current to the lower 12 volts. Special dimmers are also required.

These systems are a great choice for when you want high contrast, bright lighting on objects such as architectural detailing, sculptures, wall art work, furniture or collectables. Accent lighting of this type should be three times brighter than the surrounding area.

Low voltage halogens are best suited for reading due to the high contrast between print and page, and can help reduce eye strain. Low voltage recessed lighting is also ideal for task or hobby activities that require brighter, whiter light with high color rendering properties.

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Line Voltage Systems

Recessed light housing types that operate directly off of the household current are called line voltage. One advantage is that you can dim line voltage systems with ordinary dimmers.

Choose line voltage recessed lights for general room lighting applications or secondary room lighting. Incandescent "A" lamps or standard reflectors will distribute an even warm light, while PAR halogen flood lamps will provide white pools of general lighting. These lamps can also be used in eyeball trims for secondary accent lighting or general task lighting.

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Recessed Bulbs

Your choice of recessed bulbs will be determined by how you will be using your room space and how bright you want it to be. Here are a few of the choices.

Standard A Bulbs These common household bulbs are the least expensive choice for recessed lighting. This type provides a warm incandescent light that is good for general lighting and wall washing effects. Standard bulbs require a reflector to boost the light and are best used with a clear alzac "A" lamp multiplier.

"R" Lamps feature a built-in reflector that helps cast a warm, incandescent light in either flood or spot patterns. Slightly more expensive than a standard lamp, it is the most commonly found type in residential recessed fixtures. It can be used with most trim types for general, task or accent lighting. Available for 4" line voltage recessed with an R20 lamp, 5" and 6" line voltage recessed with an R30 lamp or 6" recessed with a R40 lamp.

Halogen PAR Bulbs provide a whiter, brighter light than a regular "R" bulb along with a more controlled beam spread. These are available in a PAR 20 size for 4" recessed, a PAR 30 size for 5" and 6" recessed, and a PAR 38 size for 6" recessed fixtures. They can be used with most trim types for general, task or accent effects.

Low Voltage MR16 Halogen These offer the best features of the bulbs listed above. They have the best color spectrum for accenting room objects or walls, produce more lumens per watt that a standard bulb, offer a variety of beam spreads and have a longer life than incandescent types. A transformer is required, so make sure you select from our low voltage housings to ensure a correct match.


Need Help?

Our American Lighting Association trained specialists can help you buy the right recessed lighting for your space. Call 1-800-782-1967 for personal assistance,
or contact us for more information.

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