Upgrading light fixtures is one of the best ways to give your interior space a whole new look. It’s also a great opportunity to look for more energy-efficient ways to light your home. While a lot of light fixture upgrades are wrapped into a larger renovation or remodeling project, it certainly is something worth considering all on its own.

Recessed lighting has become increasingly popular in the last 10 to 20 years. This is because recessed lights are flush with the ceiling which gives the visual appearance of making the room look larger than it is. They are also a lot easier to keep clean than say a hanging light fixture, which is going to be prone to collecting dust over time. Not to mention some can be hung dangerously high for even the longest dusting wand to clean.

Understanding The Benefits Of Recessed Lighting

Enhancing The Visual Feel Of A Room

By installing the light fixtured into the ceiling or other overhead features, you give the room the appearance of being larger than it is. The cans themselves that house the lights are installed directly into the ceiling and are often flush. This also means nothing is hanging down to interrupt the view out a window or a key place where you might want to hang a piece of art.

Using Directional Reflectors For Wall Washing

This term is a little bit of a misnomer. It has nothing to do with keeping a wall clean. Instead, it’s another visual effect of recessed lighting where the light being cast from the light fixture spreads more effectively in the room. With the right kind of trim and adjustment, you can also employ a “Directional Reflector” that essentially casts like onto the wall. It can also be used on a sloped ceiling using a special type of directional reflector known as “Eyeball Trim.”

Wall washing is a somewhat sophisticated concept that relies heavily on the thoughtful spacing between the light fixtures. Ideally, you want each recessed light fixture to equidistant from each other and at the same distance, they are from the wall. In general, the higher the ceiling is, the farther apart each of the recessed light fixtures needs to be.

Let’s say you have a 9-foot ceiling in the room you want to wall wash with recessed lights. You would then space each fixture two to three feet apart, as well as two to three feet out from the wall. The way the light produced by the fixtures interacts with the directional reflector would then overlap to create a pleasant ambient light effect. It also tends to make the room feel bigger and brighter.

Thoughtful Styling And Design Cues

Most people have a piece of art or a family photo that they want to accent in their living space. Though even things like a bookcase, display case, or a framed collection can benefit from tastefully placed accent light from recessed light fixtures.

Using Accent Colors With Recessed Lighting

One of the interesting and lesser-known things about recess lighting is that it’s available in a wide range of colors. This includes the trim and reflectors. Not to mention the fact that the casing for the recessed lights can also have their own accent finish on the visible part of the cans. All of which can be used to enhance your existing or renovated interior décor.

Recessed Lights Can Be Safer Than Hanging Fixtures

Hanging light fixtures were very popular for decades. Many manufacturers and custom light fixture designers went to great lengths to be creative with them. Unfortunately, they also tended to be the sort of thing a tall person would bump their head on over the dining room table or children would accidentally hit with a ball.

Once a hanging light fixture has damaged the cost to replace it is generally high. Not to mention some of the more ornate ones can be difficult to dust and keep clean. Especially if it’s hanging over a foyer or high ceiling.

With recessed lighting, the fixtures are mounted into the ceiling and the face of the can is flush. This means no one is going to bump their head. If it’s hit straight on by a ball or some other toy it will potentially only damage the relatively inexpensive lightbulb itself.

Recessed Lights Can Be More Energy Efficient

There are typically four types of recessed lightbulbs to consider. Each has its own benefits and potential drawbacks.

Incandescent lightbulbs

These are the traditional bulbs you found in most light fixtures just a decade ago. When the electrical current passes through a thin filament wire it causes it to give off light and heat. Unfortunately, only around 10% of the current is used to produce light and the rest is simply heat energy which does nothing for the room. This inefficiency is the primary reason why incandescent lightbulbs are fading in the rearview mirror.

Halogen Lightbulbs

Are technically another form of an incandescent lightbulb. Only the internal filament is sealed inside of a small quartz capsule that holds inert halogen gas. These bulbs tend to burn brighter and hotter but can have as much as double the lifespan of a traditional incandescent bulb.

Compact Fluorescent Lamps

Also known as CFLs are much more energy-efficient than incandescent lightbulbs. This technology uses a gas-filled tube that has been folded or twisted to reduce its total external volume to roughly that of a traditional incandescent bulb. As electric current passes through the gas a phosphor coating on the inside of the tube starts to produce light.

These bulbs need a ballast to regulate the current flow which is either in the light fixture itself or engineered into a self-ballasted part of the CFL itself. It’s also worth noting that CFLs do contain a small amount of mercury.


Which stands for “Light Emitting Diode” represents the cutting edge in lighting technology. The point that their energy efficiency and impressive lifespan has them rapidly replacing fluorescent lamps as a new standard in energy-efficient lighting. An LED is essentially a semiconductor that emits light as electric current passes through it. They don’t contain any mercury and are incredibly energy efficient. If there is a drawback to LEDs though, it’s the fact that they tend to be unidirectional. A recessed lighting system with LED bulbs will need to have thoughtful placement of trim and directional reflectors to optimize the wall washing effect.