Electrical Wiring in the Home/recessed lighting


QUESTION: I'm renovating a bedroom (walls are open) and I want to put recessed lighting in the room as the only source of lighting.  The room is approx. 13" X 12" with 8' ceilings.  Do you have any idea of how many recessed lights I should place in the room and whether you recommend I go with 4" or 5" cans? The house was built in the late 20's and I was thinking of putting a ceiling fan without any lights in the center.  What are your thoughts, would this affect placement of cans and if so, would I get better lighting without fan fixture in center of ceiling?  Also, I was reading something about flush trim on recessed lights, isn't all the trim on recessed lighting flush with the ceiling?  I do plan on having a new ceiling put up.  Last question, I am going to put a dimmer switch for the recessed lighting.  Do you recommend going with a baffle or just a reflective cone since I am going to use a dimmer switch?  Any other recommendations would be greatly appreciated as I didn't realize how much there is to recessed lighting.  Thank you.


A room that size you could conservatively do with 2 recessed lights going down the center of the room which will give you decent general coverage from the center of the room as the light begins to trail off around the perimeter. Not much light on the walls this way.

4 lights in each corner of the room will give you the best coverage and very good light levels every where along the floor right up to the walls while also giving you a splash of light on the wall that looks great at night.

I think smaller recessed lights look a little better in an 8' ceiling considering the height but you can certainly do 5 or 6" as well its fine.

A ceiling fan on an 8' ceiling you want to use a "hugger" if possible which simply means a fan that does not hang from a "stem". The entire body of the fan housing mounts directly to the ceiling. This keeps the fan a little further off the floor. Not having a light fixture on a fan is almost a must at 8' unless the fan is over the foot of a bed where no one will be walking directly under it. You won't find as many "hugger" fans to choose from as stem mounts. For this reason you may end up getting a stem mount. Its not the end of the world if you put a stem mount fan on an 8' ceiling but do consider it will be lower than a hugger and what they may or may not mean to you looks wise or other wise.

Make sure the fan blades are not directly in the path of the cone of light that will come out of each recessed light so you don't get "strobe effect" on the floor. As long as the lights are at least 2' away from the tips of the fan blades you'll be OK.

Some trims like "Lightoliers" are very thin and considered "flush" (even) with the surface of the ceiling as opposed to "Halo's" which can have slightly more thickness that is noticeable but generally speaking I don't think matters a heck of a lot but it may be a detail you prefer. Likewise you may also like having a smaller footprint in the ceiling as opposed to 5 or 6". HD and Lowes do not sell Lightolier so you will see the wider thicker white step baffle trims for instance the Halo 310 which is reasonably priced and what you see in a lot of  homes. If you want something special or different you can do a reflective cone which give's even better light distribution than the white step baffle. Doesn't matter either way as far as a dimmer is concerned.

You want to be able to use at least a 50 watt wide flood halogen lamp in the recessed light you choose, preferably a 75 watt PAR 30. The lightolier 1005wh 5" trim for instance will do the 75 watt PAR30. The bigger 6" white step baffle trims will also accept this lamp size and give excellent light levels. Not crazy about LEDS. They don't look as good and don't dim well either. Compact florescents look better but they don't dim well either.

Good luck with your project and enjoy the process


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QUESTION: Bob - Thank you so much for your thorough and informative answer.  Personally, I do like the way the smaller 4" cans look but I was concerned (going to use 4 cans) that 50 watts would not be bright enough.  Since I am using it for general or ambient light, will it be bright enough with 4 cans with 50 watt bulbs.  In your answer, you mention that 75 watt par 30 is preferable.  Can you use a 75 watt in a 4" can?  I thought the electrician said you can only use up to 50.  By the way what does the par 30 stand for?  Thanks so much for your time.  I'm sure others will find this answer very helpful.


The 50 watt PAR20 most likely will not give you as wide a coverage as the 75watt PAR30 and of course it won't be as bright. Some times its better to pick function over form but of course you have to decide which is more important.

Only a 50 watt PAR20 in a 4" can so yes he is correct.

PAR20, PAR30 and PAR36 refers to the physical size of the lamp. Generally speaking the PAR36 will go into a 6" can. The PAR30 into a 5 or 6 inch can and the PAR20 into a 4" can.

No problem


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------


Not to belabor the point, but I'm really stuck between the 4" and 5 inch cans and without actually seeing a room with the difference between 50 and 75 watt bulbs its difficult to tell.  Currently I have a typical middle of the ceiling light with 2 60 watt bulbs.  Would 4, 4" cans using the 50 Watt bulb in a 12 X 12 room not provide as much light as 2 60 watt bulbs centered in the middle of the ceiling?  The room faces south and has two windows if that helps.  Hopefully last question!


No problem, the room will be far better illuminated with four 50 watt halogens VS two 60's in the middle. The light distribution is far better and the halogen pure white light VS the yellower incandescent. The difference is huge and entirely different looks. The light from the two 60's goes all over the place VS the 50's that are much more focused on where you really want the light.

Your only talking about a 1" difference between the physical size of the 4 and the 5 but a much bigger difference in wattage and beam spread capability. Again do you put form over function or vice versa, only you can make that call but if it helps I would choose function over form here because the look of the recessed light is secondary to what your really interested in and thats how well will the lights illuminate the room. You can play with the wattage in the 5's but not the 4 your stuck.

Happy decisions !

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Licensed Master Electrician (32 years) 6165B Contractor in Closter New Jersey with 40 years total experience in Residential - Commercial - Industrial work. Emergency Service - General trouble shooting and repair work - ONAN & GENERAC generator installation - Paddle fans - Kitchen & Bath exhaust fans - AC lines - Smoke detectors - Telephone lines - Cable TV lines - Computer network cabling - Exterior lighting - Recessed lighting - Security lighting - (200 - 150 - 100 amp service up grades) - Electric Heat - New circuits - New appliance hook ups - and more ! FREE ESTIMATES 201-358-1552 Fully Insured


Licensed contractor in Closter New Jersey.

"The Frank Williams School of Electrical Construction". My dear old boss is 100 ! and still going God Bless him. I started working for "Tenafly Electric" right out of high school at 19. He was tough but I learned more working for him in 8 and half years than most guys. We did mostly industrial work while doing some commercial and residential so I was fortunate to be exposed to all 3 areas of electrical construction. The guys I worked with were all good guys and I stay in touch with some of them still. Most of us went into our own buisness's which says something about the caliber of the guys I worked with. We had some interesting clients : Wella Corp. of shampoo fame, Farah Fawcett etc, I didn't buy shampoo for 10 years. It was a great place to work. Pan Am the former airline just before they went under, another great place to work, nice clean environment. C&C Metals, the largest button manufacturer in the US at that time, a not so clean environment but a very interesting place to work, lots of machine's cranking out buttons of all kinds but you had to be on your toes, it was a potentially dangerous place to be . All kinds of action going on around you.

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