Bulb Selection for Recessed Lighting

Image of recessed light buld

Choose the Right Bulbs for Your Recessed Lights

Which bulbs are right for your recessed cans? In this guide, we’ll look at choosing the right size, type, and style to get the best illumination from your can lighting.

Which Shape Is Best?

Recessed light bulbs come in various shapes. Here are the most common choices.

R (reflector) bulbs are the most common. They have a reflective coating that helps direct all the light downward. This prevents wasted light and gives you full control over the direction of the light’s angle.
BR (bulged reflector) lamps get their name from the slight bulge at their base. These lights produce more focused light and are good for task lighting.
PAR (parabolic aluminized reflector) lamps use a parabolic-shaped, reflective surface. They produce a tight, highly focused beam. PAR bulbs are commonly used in theatrical lighting, and some galleries use them for art lighting.
MR (multifaceted reflector) lamps have a reflective inner surface comprised of many facets.
T (tube or twist) shapes are used with compact fluorescent lamps.

How To Choose the Right Size

Which size bulb do you need? These bulbs are not interchangeable, so you must know what type fits in your particular fixture.

First, find out what size your recessed light is. Most residential cans are 4-inch, 5-inch, or 6-inch. That measurement refers to the inside diameter of the can. You can check the box your cans came in to determine their size. If it’s too late for that, or you inherited the recessed lights when you bought the house, you will have to remove the light’s trim before measuring the inside of the housing at its widest point.’

How To Read the Label

When you buy lights, you’ll see that they show a series of letters and numbers to indicate their size. The letters refer to the shape of the bulb, and the numbers refer to the size of the bulb’s diameter.

The number tells you the diameter of the light bulb in eighths of an inch. So, a bulb classed as BR30 is 30/8 inches or 3 3/4 inches. You can swap out a PAR30 for an R30 or a BR30. They are all the same size. PAR, BR, and R all refer to the bulb’s shape. You can use any shape as long as it’s the right size for your fixture.

What Type of Bulb Should You Choose?

You can use fluorescent, halogen, or LED bulbs in your recessed lights. We recommend LED bulbs because changing bulbs in recessed lights can be a tedious, difficult task.

LED recessed retrofits are a good option for existing cans. They use fit easily into existing recessed housing, and they combine the trim and light source in one fixture to blend better into the ceiling. They last longer than regular LED bulbs and produce less heat.

Other Features To Look For

What else should you look for in a recessed light bulb?

• Dimmability: Will the bulb work with your dimmer switch?
• Color accuracy: A coloring rendering index (CRI) of 90 or higher is excellent.
• Coolness/warmth: The color temperature is shown in Kelvins (K). Higher numbers produce cooler light. If you prefer warm lighting, choose lower K levels.
• Life: How long will it last? The years given are based on three hours of daily use.

Get the Right Lights

The right bulbs will make your home bright and attractive. If you need help installing or maintaining your recessed lights, contact SESCOS.

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