In this article, we will cover different types of recessed lighting fixtures and discuss where they can be used. While there are hundreds of different styles of recessed lights, there are only two basic types. They are IC rated and Non-IC rated recessed lights. IC stands for Insulation Contact.
If the light is IC rated then it may come into direct contact with the insulation in the ceiling. If the recessed light is Non-IC rated than it must have four inches of clearance from any insulation. Here is an overview:
2 Types of Recessed Lighting Fixtures
1. IC rated: May come into direct contact with insulation. Usually have maximum light bulb wattage of 75 watts.
2. Non-IC rated: Must have at least a four inch or ten centimeter clearance from insulation and has a maximum wattage of about 150 watts.
IC rated and Non-IC rated standards refer mainly to the housing of the light. The main purpose of the housing is to keep flammable material from coming into contact with the light. Newer lights also come with a thermal reset switch for added safety.
Recessed Lighting Lamp Types
There are also two basic types of lamps used in recessed lighting fixtures, they are:
1. Directional: Directional lamps use reflectors which direct the light in a specific direction.
2. Diffuse: Diffuse lamps are Omni-directional, meaning that they control light by directing it in all directions at once.
Recessed Fixture Components
The two main parts of a recessed lighting fixture are the housing and the trim. The housing is what was discussed above where we described the two main types of recessed lighting fixtures. It is the part that goes into the ceiling. The trim is the second main part to recessed lights. The trim is the insert that can be seen when looking up at the light and also includes the decorative ring that goes around the edge of the light.
Recessed lighting is generally used to add specific accents to a room. Directional lights can be used to highlight or bring attention to paintings hung on a nearby wall or other artwork.
They are also great for highlighting your homes beautiful architecture. You may have a fireplace mantle that deserves some extra attention or even some elaborate doorway trim that could use some directional recessed lighting accents.
Then there is Diffuse recessed lighting that is commonly used to light up dim areas of a room. They can also make a room appear larger than it really is if they are placed strategically. To make a room seem larger, recessed light fixtures are pointed at the walls, washing them with light coming from the center of the room making the walls bright and the center of the room darker. This very effectively makes the room appear to be larger as the light sort of pushes the walls out.
One concern you should be aware of when installing new recessed lights in your home is air leakage. Air leakage occurs when you are installing recessed lights in a room that has an unheated or unconditioned space above it such as an unconditioned attic. In the case of an unconditioned space above the lighting, your conditioned air can escape or the unconditioned air from the above space may leak into the conditioned room.
Although not as common, air leakage can also occur if you were installing recessed lights in an unheated basement. In this case, the unconditioned air from the basement will leak into the conditioned air of your first floor. If you were installing recessed lights in a room like the first floor of a two story home, then air leakage would not be a factor as both rooms are heated or cooled.
To stop air leakage, make sure you select a newer model recessed lighting fixture that has an airtight canister and a seal. Also use IC rated fixtures because they can come in contact with the insulation allowing you to better stop air from leaking around the fixture. Check to be sure that the fixture comes with a safety shut off switch to prevent any possibility of a fire.
If you are attempting to highlight artwork that is three dimensional, like a statue, it is a good idea to use three or more lights directed at the statue from different angels surrounding the object. For example you might have one directional light pointed at the head of the statue, one pointed to the abdomen and one at the feet, all from different positions around the statue.
If you are using diffuse lighting to make your room appear larger you may want to position the lighting fixtures in the ceiling about 4 or 5 feet from the wall pointing down so that the light washes mostly over the center of the wall allowing the corners to be darker. One light on each wall will create this effect nicely. Sometimes you can do this on only three walls for a similar effect.
If you shop around in your local home building supply store, you will see that there are thousands of different styles of recessed lighting fixtures available. Only your imagination can limit the number of possible uses. We covered just a few ideas here, but be sure to use your creative side and you can come up with all sorts of neat ideas for lighting your home.
photos by pdz_house and Lauren -CreativeCommons Attribution