Can Lights Reign in High Ceilings

Can Lights Reign in High Ceilings
Article by: John Watkins, Nashville Home Inspection, eblast distribution October 2012

Today, lighting options abound. One lighting accessory that has shown staying power is the recessed can light, and they are incorporated into most new home construction.

Using a multi-layered lighting approach ensures each area of a room is lit appropriately, with fixtures placed in spots to compliment the design scheme. Lighting plans generally include fixtures that will provide task, accent, and ambient light.

As one option in the creation of a layered, lighting design, recessed cans (also known as down lights) provide a clean, streamlined look and work with almost any interior house design. Recessed cans add a great deal of light while taking up very little space and adding almost nothing to a home’s visual footprint. Because cans often seem to disappear into a ceiling, the light they provide opens up a room so that it looks larger and more spacious. Can lighting is also useful to highlight artwork or other special architectural features in a room.

When choosing where to place recessed can lights, it is important not to place fixtures too close together, and not to place them in one solid row down the middle of the room. This can mimic a runway effect and attract the wrong kind of attention to the ceiling.

Basic sizes for recessed cans are four, five or six inches in diameter. Six-inch fixtures can be used in tall entryways or in rooms with high ceilings, while the smaller four-inch size work better in more proportioned rooms because they are unobtrusive and do not overpower a space. One rule of thumb suggests that four-inch recessed cans should be placed at least four feet apart. Six-inch cans should be installed with at least six feet between each light.

Recessed lighting trim for can lights is available in black and white. White is the most popular, due in large part to the popularity of white ceilings. White-trimmed cans almost disappear into a ceiling. The white trim is made to focus and direct the light, or to reduce glare.

There are several different types of bulbs that can be used in can lights, including the eyeball style, which protrudes from the trim, or a gimbal ring style, which adjusts inside the recess. These different lights allow for more versatility and different lighting options.

Different lighting effects will be achieved based on the type of light projected by the lamps. Directional lamps contain reflectors that direct and control the light. Diffuse lamps control light distribution through their omni-directional light.

For energy-efficiency, LED adaptor kits can be retrofitted into existing can lights for brighter light and long-lasting light bulbs. A do-it-yourselfer or a licensed professional can remove the old bulb and trim, and screw in a new adaptor that is attached to the LED trim. The LED bulb can be added and the look is similar to that of the existing recessed can. The difference is the bulb life of close to ten years, according to LED bulb manufacturers. In addition, the LED bulbs use much less power and are much brighter. The newer bulbs are more expensive to purchase, but save money in the long run in lowered energy bills and replacement costs.

When using a recessed can to highlight an object such as a painting or bookshelf, the light should be installed twelve to eighteen inches in front of the object. If the can’s main function is for reading or close handwork, it should be arranged carefully overhead. Adjustments need to be made so that head and shoulders do not block the needed light. Washing the walls of a small room with can lights can help push out the walls and make the space fee larger. Can lights pointed at objects or spots of interest can create a variety of functional areas in a larger room, or help tie a room together.

For energy efficiency, it is best to choose airtight recessed can lights that form a much tighter seal than cans without weather-stripping at the trim.

Source: John Watkins, Nashville Home Inspection, monthly eblast distribution, October 2012 | Blog distribution provided by Kenneth Bargers and Bargers Solutions, member of Pilkerton Realtors, residential real estate services located in Nashville, Tennessee

Author: Kenneth Bargers

REALTOR®, Tennis Player, Titans, Vols & Preds Fan, Nashvillian... let's connect on Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Twitter. -- contact Kenneth at

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