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Recessed can light alternatives

joenorm | Posted in General Questions on

Are recessed can lights in a vaulted assembly always frowned upon? No mater what?

If so, what is the next best thing? Track lights?

I don’t think recessed cans are the end-all-be-all but they undoubtedly provide nice flooded lighting in areas that need it without looking bad.

So what are you using instead?

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  1. josh_in_mn | | #1

    I'm using these:

    There's others as well. Philips makes some very nice ones, which I also have, but they cost 4x as much as the ones I linked to, and aren't either by spec or in my opinion, any better than the ones.

    These disk lights install in a deep junction box just fine. They do use some space in the box, so make sure you use a deep enough one, or it could be difficult to install. There are now also some on the market that do not protrude into the box, but most of those are lower efficiency and low CRI.

  2. Aedi | | #2

    Vaulted ceilings with recessed lights are almost always frowned upon. It is *possible* to design a vaulted ceiling in new construction that integrates recessed lights without major issue, but nobody does -- hell, most people can't even design a cathedral ceiling that works without recessed lights. If you want it to work, you basically need to install the recessed lights below the rest of the roof assembly, and include an air barrier between the recessed lights and the insulation. This usually results in a ceiling several inches thicker than it would otherwise be, so it is rarely done.

    One example would be to integrate enough foam (either exterior rigid or interior spray) to meet all the insulation requirements for the roof while leaving enough empty bay area to include recessed lights. You could then include recessed lights in the empty bay. If you wanted, you could fill the rest of the bay with fluffy insulation.

    In a retrofit situation, you could build a second ceiling below your first and put recessed lights in it, minimizing and sealing any penetrations in the original ceiling.

    There are several alternatives to recessed lights as well, including sconces, any sort of hanging light fixture or chandelier, track lighting, and good ol' lamps. There are also the pseudo-recessed lights Joshua pointed out.

    While recessed lights are the default, I don't find them to be a very suitable light source for most situations. Modern homes integrate too much ambient light, and basically no task lights. This results in rooms that feel too bright even when utilizing the minimum levels needed to eat or read, causing eye strain. It also makes the room feel colder and less personal.

    Having more task lighting in a room with a vaulted ceiling usually means hanging light fixtures low over tables, and including a lamp or two. For ambient lighting, wall sconces work great, as the angled ceiling reflects light into the room.

  3. Expert Member
    Akos | | #3

    I'll 2nd the disk light installed in an air tight ceiling junction box. I've used them in a vented flat roof (you still don't want to go overboard with how many you put). Don't know if these are available in your area, they work pretty well:

  4. Expert Member
    BILL WICHERS | | #4

    Depending on the design, it may be possible to include hidden valences for reflective/indirect lightning bounces off the ceiling. This makes for very diffuse, even lighting, but often requires wall fixtures which some people don’t like.


  5. jameshowison | | #5

    The relatively new wafer thin LEDs seem like a no-brainer to me in this: Globe Electric or Lithonia. Even seeing these at Home Depot now.

    I haven't seen anything about their air-tightness, but the clips are strong and they have a good gasket, they seem pretty damn good to me, way better a standard box mounted light. If there are air leakages, it'd be through the actual housing not the gasket (I'd love to see some testing here).

    If I were doing it and had the option I'd use a wiring chase below your airtight barrier (smart membrane, taped OSB), such as crossed 3/4 furring (so you can run wire any direction and move things later), or penetrate your airtight barrier and tape airtight recesses to it e.g., You don't need a traditional installed box (although don't try to do anything in the little boxes that come with the LEDs other than one 14 gauge wire in and one 14 gauge wire out.

    1. JesseTrinque | | #6

      I used these on my Tongue and groove cathedral ceiling over a timber frame. They are thin enough that I was able to put my vapor barrier membrane over the top of them with the SIPS panels above that, with a small space between, Can't remember if it was 1/2" or 3/4". seemed to work very well. I also used them in an area with a exterior open porch above. That area had CC SPF between joists with Duradeck over the top. In that area I just poked the wire down through the rock and after everything was done I cut in the puck lights just removing enough foam to fit things in there. There is also a version that has a wire box built in and didn't require use of the whip like the ones you linked too. Just be cautious on the cut as they are not very forgiving with the small flange. Also Home depot was expensive. Cheaper alternatives can be found at that's where my wife found them. We like them alot.

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