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Nice recessed LEDs for a reasonable budget?

jonny_h | Posted in Green Products and Materials on

I’m finally getting to the point of electrical wiring in my project, and I’m running into an issue with lighting.  I have some areas that I want to use recessed lights, but I’m trying to avoid the “traditional” huge 6″ canlight look, and wand something relatively low-profile in some of the areas.  I have a few requirements, but they seem hard to meet:
– Something like a 3-4″ trim
– Dimmable
– Warm dim (or controllable color temperature *drool*)
– High CRI (>90) / high R9
– No flicker
– Reasonably priced (<$100?)

It seems pretty hard to hit all of these.  There have been a few articles here that have mentioned a few brands, like Lucifer and DMF, that seem to hit all the points except for the last — when I was even able to find pricing, it was like $500+ per fixture!  Sorry, my lighting budget isn’t $10k!  Another brand I saw mentioned was Ovid, which on paper looks good and is ~$50 per fixture, but is apparently only sold in Canada (and hasn’t replied to my inquiries about a US distributor).

Drop the LED requirement and, well, you have incandescent bulbs that hit everything…  Doesn’t seem super green but maybe that’s the best bet after all??

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  1. user-5946022 | | #1

    The Nicor SureFit almost meet all of your requirements.
    1. LED
    2. Trim is 5", but they are VERY slim, and light itself is smaller. Visually they appear MUCH smaller than a 6" can (I wish the 6" cans I have were SureFits instead)
    3. Dimmable
    4. Does not meet your warm dim requirement, but dimmable to 5%, and with the 2700 version, that is not really that noticeable.
    5. CRI >92; R9 >50
    6. No flicker - I have a house full of the 2700k version
    7. $18 on special order via the orange big box.

    1. jonny_h | | #8

      Well, the price is certainly right, and the rest sounds reasonable, definitely ordering one of these to try out. Thanks!

  2. mgensler | | #2

    These are around $200 but are fantastic lights. Do it once and be happy with it for life. WAC Lighting R3BRA-FWD-WT Oculux 3.5" LED Round Adjustable Trim with Dim to Warm Light Engine Trim & LED, Flood Beam 50°, White

    1. jonny_h | | #9

      Thanks -- I did run across WAC in some of my searching but I couldn't tell if they were legit / didn't see many people actually using them. Do you have them in your house?

      1. mgensler | | #13

        Yes. We had a lighting company come out and test a few lights. They held the lights up to the ceiling and plugged in with a cord before deciding for our kitchen/ dining remodel. We liked them so well we ended up using them in several other rooms. We have around 45 in total and haven't had any issues since in 1 1/2 years they've been installed.

      2. mjhil | | #15

        I have some WAC outdoor sconces and they are very good quality construction. The light quality is nice, but indoor is a whole different ballgame, of course.

  3. hughw | | #3

    Check out Tech Lighting Element series, available in 2", 3", 4", round or square....approx $200 for roughing and trim in 3"

    1. Expert Member
      Akos | | #6

      Those mud-in units look neat, I like the clean look!

    2. jonny_h | | #12

      Huh, this company has a lot of neat looking stuff, will check out further. Thanks!

  4. walta100 | | #4

    Do you have a lumens per watt goal?

    I have not been shopping for over 5 years my goal was 100 but I would buy the right look at 70 and rejecting all at 55.

    I only consider fixtures that mounted on the standard round box rejecting any requiring a ruff in kit or were spring mounted for retrofit as part of my air sealing plan.

    Consider getting 10% extra as spares.


    1. user-5946022 | | #14

      Or better, install the spares in very seldom used locations, such as attic, closet etc.
      That way, if there is a problem with the fixture, you will immediately know instead of finding out 7 years in the spare does not work. You can always find another fixture for the attic / closet if/when you need it.

  5. Expert Member
    Akos | | #5

    I would check your local electrical supply houses and see what they stock. Most will have some budget slim LEDs and some higher end models.

    Unfortunately none of them have a flicker spec. By flicker I don't mean the visible dimmer compatibility issues but 120Hz strobing. The only way to check this is to set up the light and record the output with cell phone on high frame rate. From the stock items at the box store, stuff from Halo and Illume seems to be the best. Some of the budget ones are quite terrible, full on disco strobe.

    My box store also has some Globe dim to warm units with decent specs, I haven't tried those yet.

    Doing a bit of searching and testing is well worth the effort. Until I tried out the better units, I did not realize how bad LED light quality can be. The high R9 units do produce a much more flattering light.

    1. jonny_h | | #10

      Yeah, you absolutely got what I meant by flicker -- my quick test is to move my eyes around or wave my hand rapidly and see if I see a strobe effect, it drives me crazy! Things like LED "filament" bulbs and christmas light strings tend to be the worst, no room for a smoothing capacitor in there.

  6. Trevor_Lambert | | #7

    I'm confused regarding Ovid. From what I can tell, they are a California company and you can order direct from their website.

    1. jonny_h | | #11 I switched the currency to USD in the upper left corner, and tried to order a couple to try, but the checkout page only allows shipping to Canada, I can't change the country to anywhere else.

  7. Andy2022 | | #16

    Halo HLB4?

    4", dimmable, 5 colour settings (preselect), CRI 94, R9 71 and $30 a piece for the non smart ones.

    Smart ones are available for around $50, which may allow you to set up warm dimming.

  8. CarsonZone5B | | #17

    I'll second nicor, and they have smaller trim options I believe down to 2-3". Very reasonable and the units look a lot more expensive with very high CRI ratings. They also have thin gimbals that were perfect for my application in a very thin ceiling. If you want extremely small LED recessed lights, look at low voltage armacost lights. They have pucks that go under an inch.

  9. Expert Member
    Akos | | #18

    Looks like there are a number of brands already talked about, would be good to get a bit more data on some of them especially 120hz flicker. This is easy with any phone that can shoot at 240FPS for slomo.

    Form me:
    Ovid 4", no strobing
    Liteline 4" dim to warm, mild strobing at full, no flicker any dim level bellow ~50%.

    1. jonny_h | | #19

      Yeah, I'm ordering one each of a few different ones to do side-by-side comparisons and test flicker on them. Will report back anything interesting!

      Are you in Canada, or did you find a US source for Ovid?

      1. Deleted | | #20


  10. hertzr | | #21

    Does anyone have experience with the Halo QuickLink Low Voltage Phase Cut Canless Downlights? These are fairly new and are wired via low voltage wire vs 120 volt line.

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