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Community and Q&A

LED Disk Lights / Alternatives to Recessed Cans

jdchess | Posted in General Questions on

I’m wondering if anyone has any experience with the thin LED disk lights that are meant to be an alternative to normal recessed can lights and are installed in a typical junction box. Something like these…

Has anyone tried these or others like them? I’m currently deciding on lighting for a new construction and looking for downlights for living room and kitchen. These look like the might be a good solution.

Any thoughts or input on these or a similar alternative to recessed cans would be much appreciated.

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  1. user-5946022 | | #1

    I used the Nicor Surefit lights. You can buy a round or a square trim for them, in white or other colors.

    They are super thin and the light quality is awesome. I bought the [correction] 2700k.

    I tested two different Halos and the Nicor; Nicor won hands down.

    1. jdchess | | #7


      Which Halos did you try out?

      1. user-5946022 | | #12

        Halo SLD4xWH (SLD405930WHR) which is a round, surface mount light about + 3/4" thick with a beveled edge. Test fixture was 3000k, CRI 92, R3 unrated, 625 Lumen output/12 watts, 52% efficacy, wet & damp rated. Cost about $35. It was not easy to install, I had trouble getting it to sit flush, and aesthetically I don't appreciate it.

        Halo SMD4S6930WH which is a square surface mount light about 1/2" thick. It installed easier than the round one, and gives good light. Test fixture was 3000k, CRI 92, R3 unrated, 790 lumen output/9.9 watts, 79.8 efficacy, wet & damp rated, dimmable to 5%. Cost about $25. If you are going with a Halo, definitely recommend this series over the SLD series.

        But it was not as nice as the ultra slim Nicor...
        Nicor DLF 10 120 2k, which is about 1/4" or less thick. 2700k, CRI >90, R3 > 50, 653 Lumen output/10.2 watts, 64% efficacy (I wish this were more), wet & damp rated, dimmable to 5%, cost about $22.

        1. user-5946022 | | #13

          Just learned the Nicor has a v2 version that is thinner (1/8"), 93 CRI, higher lumen, lower wattage better efficacy. I ordered extra of the original because I wanted to be sure I had matching replacements if any of the originals fail within the first few years; now I wish I had the v2's...

  2. exeric | | #2

    I think the junction box installation is ideal. Can fixtures are just about impossible to make leak proof and they obtrude into any ceiling insulation. And the recessed LEDs that don't use any kind of metal or plastic box can be a nightmare to seal if you aren't meticulous and don't have perfect ceiling (sealing) surfaces. With junction boxes you can caulk or foam it to make it airtight and removal and installation of the LED does not affect that sealing. Brilliant.

  3. ERIC WHETZEL | | #3

    We used Eaton's Halo surface LED downlights throughout our new house build --- including bedrooms, living areas, kitchen, and even two showers. They've worked great so far without any issues. We had traditional recessed lights in our last house and we like these much better.

    We utilized a service chase (or core) in our ceilings, so traditional recessed or can lights weren't going to work. They fit nicely into a standard junction box.

    We would definitely use them again.

    1. jdchess | | #6


      Did you by any chance try any others out before deciding on the Halos?

      1. ERIC WHETZEL | | #8

        At the time, back in early 2017, when I was making this decision, the only other option I can remember finding in my area was a Cree unit. I think the diameter of the Cree light was smaller, so I went with the Halo units.

        I haven't looked since, but hopefully the number of options has improved.

        You may have better luck visiting a local electrical supply house (where your electrician is likely to purchase components), or researching online rather than counting on just the big box stores for available options.

        If you've decided on who will be your electrician, you can always reach out to them and see if they have experience with any of these products and if they have a preference.

  4. creativedestruction | | #4

    Make sure to get a color temperature you like, matching other lights in the room. 2700K is common. The downside of these is you can't change bulbs, you have to change out the whole fixture.

    1. woobagoobaa | | #9

      IIRC many of the LED disk lights available today offer selectable color temperature.

    2. charlie_sullivan | | #11

      If you are picky about color, consider also color rendering index (CRI). Even better, try them out in person. But if you get CRI >90 and the color temperature you prefer, you'll almost surely like the color.

  5. jdchess | | #5

    Thank you guys for the input. I'm checking out the Nicor and the Eaton Halo's.

  6. CMObuilds | | #10

    Quit using recessed cans and switched to these on the last 5 houses Ive built, much better option.

  7. Dustin_7022224 | | #14

    Personally I haven't found a LED disk that I like. They are all fairy flat, or even bubble down like the one the OP linked to. I prefer the true recessed look, where it looks like it has a true trim piece and the "bulb" is up an inch or so above the drywall. We have used the Sylvania retrofits before and were really happy with them - they look great in my opinion, both the light output as well as the trim/finish. I see that Feit is making a similar looking one now, but I don't know about the light output.

    While we are shying away from recessed lighting where we can afford other fixtures, IMHO you can avoid some of the disadvantages that keep Martin and others in the camp of can light "haters" :) That is if you go with a conditioned attic and insulate the roof deck - then the air sealing issue and impact on potential space for insulation in the ceiling joist cavities become non-issues (unless I'm missing something). Many other more important reasons to consider an "unvented roof/condition attic" - this is just a bonus as far as I'm concerned.

  8. AJ__ | | #15

    Does anyone have experience of side by side differences between some of the more premium products mentioned in this thread compared with products at the cheaper end of the market? There are a number of sellers at the lower end who all sell similar looking products at less than half the cost of those mentioned in this thread and I'm curious if the differences are really worth it.

  9. ar_lilly | | #16

    Hi Jason,
    We recently installed these Led cans:
    on a new build with good Air sealing and a service cavity above the hard lid. We have a 3:12 pitch cathedral ceiling so having a gimbal directional light was important so the lights didn’t all shine down into the space at that angle. Also we chose regressed so the light sits up inside the cavity of the housing a bit. Gives it much more depth than the flat illuminated disk types and reduces the glare bomb effect. I’d stick with no cooler than 2700 kelvin. Even at that temperature, with white walls, it can have an art gallery effect. Which would be great for a super modern feel but not as homey. These cans are dimmable (with universal dimmer), air sealed, wet location rated, 2700K, regressed and directional. That hit all the points for us. You can find something similar made by a company called maximara. I ordered samples of both. The maximara ones are only $18 a piece and seemed very nice for the price which was why they were my original choice. But the Lotus brand won out in the end. Just a personal fit and finish choice. They seamed sturdier and a bit better built to me.
    Also the bulbs on these have the feel of an incandescent mr16. More twinkly, Not the flat muted light source of the wafer disk types. Which always reminds me of lighting you’d see in a spaceship cafeteria or something. Hope this helps.

    1. user-5946022 | | #18

      Please clarify how you connect these lights to the power source. Does the light and driver fit into the J box? The link makes it seem like the driver is separate from the light - that is an issue if you don't have a service cavity...

      1. ar_lilly | | #24

        No it wouldn’t fit in a jbox. You can order cable extensions for the drivers in order to extend the length so that they can be grouped together somewhere where there is room for them. But this might not be the best light if you don’t have any space above the lid...

  10. thrifttrust | | #17

    I just purchased a number of Sylvania 6" microdisc lamps. I like their minimalistic design. Their 5" light emitting area is flush with the ceiling surrounded by a 1" wide 1/16" thick white ring. 90 CRI, 16W, 1200 Lumens with a slide switch that selects between 5 color temperatures. They were about $20 each at Menards. Apparently the switch temp is a new thing so the fixed temp versions are being closed out on-line for less than $10.

    1. user-5946022 | | #19

      Did they allow a J-box install or is the driver separate?

      1. thrifttrust | | #22

        They have a separate driver. The instructions tell you to attach the driver to a framing member but my electrician tells me that in practice they are usually just connected and tossed on top of the drywall. For the rough inspection the house wire simply dangles through the 6" hole. However, I'm not sure about the air tightness of the lamp/gasket/spring. I'm making 10" x 10" x 4" wood boxes glued to the drywall. The driver will mount above the lamp. This will keep the cellulose insulation out and make the color temperature switch accessible.

  11. Dustin_7022224 | | #20

    This may not help in terms of the size of lights you are looking for, but I am exploring low voltage DIY light fixtures for several places in our new home.

    Here is an example of a low voltage 3" recessed light. I purchased the trim on Amazon - it's white painted metal with a snap in ring that holds the bulb up and allows it to be changed while leaving the trim in place and it does have a gimbal 'hinge'.

    I will use it together with a 12v MR16 GU 5.3 bulb, a GU 5.3 pin base/socket, low voltage wire, and a low voltage lighting LED driver/transformer. The drivers will be mounted in my mechanical room with adjacent 'smart' Lutron dimmer switches - most of the low voltage lighting will be controlled wirelessly +/- timer/automatically. Takes up very little room above the ceiling and since it's low voltage, no J box necessary.

    Of course this doesn't address the issue of air sealing at the drywall, but we are using a conditioned attic/insulated roof so it's not an issue.

    1. Expert Member
      BILL WICHERS | | #21

      Be careful if you buy wire online. A lot of the wire out there that looks like a "good deal" is now CCA (Copper Clad Aluminum). You DON'T want this. You want real copper wire.

      Note also that ANY network cable "cat5E, cat6, etc." that is CCA is NOT category-rated network cable. The IEEE, the people who write the Ethernet specs, specifically state that network cable has to be solid copper. ANY CCA cable does NOT meet ANY network specification.


      1. andy_ | | #23

        I'd also add a warning about buying any electrical components online. I was chatting with my electrical inspector and he mentioned that he just had a house where the builder had to pull all the light fixtures out because they turned out to be unrated.

  12. KristianBouwka | | #25

    It's good that you asked about it. I have experience in using it. Luminous plastic is ideal. In an extreme case, the luminous tape will do. Lights are good when there is a lot of ambient light; not dark enough for glow disks, but too dark to trust to find regular disks. If you want the best of all worlds, buy yellow translucent discs(you can find them ), replace the LED lights with UV LEDs, attach the glow tape, and use what works best for the conditions.

  13. ricopenthouse | | #26

    Last year I was renovating and bought Nicor Surefit. I chose the round trim in white. You can buy a round or square trim for them, white or other colors. They are super thin, and the light quality is amazing. Typically, spotlights for stretch ceilings are available with replaceable lamps. But increasingly popular are LED panels, where the lighting element is built-in. They are also called tablets. When the LEDs burn out, we have to change the entire panel, but these models are convenient because they have the smallest thickness, so there is no need to indent from the base ceiling. In addition, their power consumption is dozens of times less than that of incandescent bulbs.
    You can also use fixed designs, in which the light propagates only in one direction. Rotary lamps (spots) have a more complex device, but in them, the direction of the light can be changed. Therefore, they are often installed in a large hall. Spotlights can consist of several lamps combined in one body.

  14. Nola_Sweats | | #27

    I've got a house full of Felt brand LED's that are designed to fit into old cans that used to hold incandescent bulbs. I installed about 20 of them, with no problems at all. One or two have burned out in a room where they're on 18-20 hours per day. They're not hard-wired, but screw into a standard incandescent bulb receptacle. It's not exactly what you'd spec in new construction, but with supply shortages it could be a work-around.

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