Who makes good airtight recessed can fixtures?
I am planning to have some recessed light fixtures in my new house but understand that they can be quite leaky. Is there is certain make / model that will air-seal better than others? Are most of these fixtures still setup to use leds / lights with Edison bases or are they mostly using proprietary LEDs?
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As far as I know, they ALL leak. I like to call the "AT" rated fixtures "Leak Less" fixtures. They still leak, just not as bad as the old school fixtures with all the random holes in them. I usually use some foil tape to help seal the fixtures a little better too over the seam and the few fastener holes they usually have. No matter what you do though, you're always going to have some amout of air leakage through recessed can lights, which is why it's still recommended to box over the cans on the attic side.
The surface mount "puck" lights are better about air sealing. Many have successfully used the style that mounts directly to octagonal electrical boxes. With these style fixtures, you can air seal the electrical box (which is usually relatively easy to do well with canned foam and/or caulk). You can replace these fixtures in the future if needed too, which is an advantage they have over the kind of fixture that doesn't use a backbox.
+1 to Bill's suggestion for LED "puck" (aka "drum") lights. We will have 70-ish of these in our new home. One big thing to keep in mind is that many (not all) of these fixtures have a driver module that extends from the rear of the fixture and recesses into the electrical box when the fixture is mounted. BE VERY SURE ANY FIXTURE WITH AN ATTACHED DRIVER WILL ACTUALLY FIT IN THE ELECTRICAL BOXES YOU PLAN TO USE!
For example, Juno's "SlimForm" (JSF series) appears to expect it will be installed on a metal box with a circular mud ring; the fixture wouldn't fit into AirFoil, Carlon, or Allied Moulded ceiling boxes due to driver interference with the fixture mounting bosses inside the boxes.
FWIW, we eventually decided on Maxim's "chip" (no driver) for non-dimmed locations and Maxim's "wafer" (rear-mounted driver) for dimmed locations mounted on Carlon FN-426-C-V "Draft Tight" boxes. (The "chip" has a fairly visible "star" pattern when dimmed to 50%, while the "wafer" has much less of a visible pattern when dimmed.)
Looks like maxim is only offering 3000k unless I missed something. Does that seem too “white” vs the warm 2700k?
3000K is still warm; there isn't a big difference between 2700K and 3000K. When in doubt, get one to try out and wire up a temporary plug on it.
I have both now and the 3000k seems to stimulate my brain more. Fine for kitchen, laundry, etc but I preferred 2700 for bedrooms / bath / living etc
I doubt you'll see much difference between 2700K and 3000K. Where you start to really see a difference is when you get up to 4100K and 5000K, which are more in the "daylight" range, and have more blue content to the light, so that "bright white" look. 2700-3000K is more around incandescent color temperature, with 2700K maybe closer to a regular light bulb and 3000K a little closer to a halogen bulb.
Another thing that comes up with lighting like this is that you generally won't notice a lot of difference unless you have something to compare things to. If you have, for example, 3000K lights in one room, and 5000K lights in an adjacent room, the 3000K room will look yellow compared to the 5000K room. If everything is one or the other, you won't notice as much.
Personally, I like to use lower color temperature lights in room with a lot of stone or wood. My dining room, for example, has a stone fireblace and rough wood floors and walls. I use 2700K lights in the chandeliers in there, which lets me dim things to a sort of castle-like fire-lit look, which is nice. A full brightness, it's more modern-looking, but the lower color temperature lights are nice with the stained wood. In the kitchen, I use 3500K lights, mostly picked for very high CRI so that food stuff looks right when being prepped. Even though those two rooms are connected, if the dining room lights are dimmed, you don't really notice the difference in color temperature between the 2700K and 3500K lights, although part of that is because the decor of each room is different.
I use 5000K lights outdoors, but I don't have any inside. Some people perceive the higher color temperature lights as "harsh", but even at 3000K, you're well below the range where people are really going to notice.
I put my 3000k Edison base LEDs and my halogens in the same room but on different switches so that I can toggle between the two. Maybe I have crappy LEDs but there is a significant difference between the two; the LEDs are not warm enough for evening use.
Are there any other quality makers of the puck / drum / wafer LEDs that I should look at?
Many LED bulbs are of questionable quality, often significantly underperforming in terms of operational lifetime in hours. I don’t always trust the color temperature values, either, although I haven’t found any obvious problems — at least from what I’ve used myself.
Keep in mind that color temperature isn’t the only metric that matters in terms of how you perceive the quality of the light produced. CRI, color rendering index, is another important one, with higher numbers being better in terms of showing colors correctly, and 100 being a perfect score. I have always found Cree to make quality LEDs, but their edison base bulbs are not particularly easy to find these days, unfortunately.