Installing Recessed Lighting in New Construction
Installing recessed lighting when there is no ceiling drywall in place has to be one of the easiest ways to do it. You can see all of the ceiling joists, existing electrical wiring, and you will know immediately if there are any spaces in the ceiling where a recessed downlight cannot go because of heating and air ducts, pipes, etc.
Create a Lighting Plan
As with any lighting project, make sure to create your lighting plan before buying your new construction can lights. Your plan will dictate how many downlights you will need, the diameter, light source, any whether you require air-tight, low-profile, or IC-rated housings.
Number Of Housings
First, pick a starting point for that first new construction housing. If you want a little extra light in one space in your room, then start there and space all of the other cans around it. For even light throughout the room, place the first new construction can light in the center of the room and go from there.
What is your ceiling height? Take that number and divide it by two. This is the general spacing you would want between your new construction downlights. For example, if you have an 8-foot ceiling then space the housings 4 feet apart. For a 12-foot ceiling they should be 6 feet apart. Now, of course, there are exceptions. If you want more light in a room then put the housings closer together. We usually recommend to "overlight" a room and then control the light output, or brightness, with a dimmer.
Perhaps the most popular new construction housing diameter is the 6-inch size. This size is ubiquitous in a lot of new home construction today. This diameter housing is line voltage, usually inexpensive to purchase, and accommodates a number of standard lamp sizes. However, a lot of them in a room can consume a lot of ceiling space. The diameter decision is probably a very personal choice depending upon the design aesthetic you are going for, your budget, and whether you want line voltage or low voltage housings. Line voltage new construction recessed lights usually range in diameter from 4 to 6 inches.
A low voltage housing can be 4 inches or smaller in diameter and has an integral transformer to step down the 120 or 277 volts in the ceiling electrical wiring to 12 or 24 volts. If you want a smaller diameter housing then you could select a halogen low voltage recessed light or, even, a smaller diameter new construction LED recessed lighting housing.
You can choose between standard incandescent or compact fluorescent reflector light bulbs (usually in the larger diameter sizes only), halogen (both low and line voltage) as well as new construction LED recessed lights. Each light source has pros and cons and there are no wrong decisions. When choosing your light source here a few things to keep in mind.
- Dimmability - incandescent, halogen and many LED new construction can lights are dimmable while compact fluorescent are not.
- Cost - while incandescent light bulbs are probably the cheapest purchase initially, they will require more frequent replacements compared to your other choices, increasing your costs to operate over time. An LED recessed light is the least expensive to power. Moreover, since LEDs can last tens of thousands of hours, or many years, you will not need to worry about replacing that light source for a very long time, thus reducing your costs to operate. In the middle are halogen and compact fluorescent. Both of these light sources are more expensive than a standard incandescent reflector but much cheaper than LED. Plus, halogen and compact fluorescent have higher rated lives over incandescent (thousands of hours) but less than LED. Between the two, a compact fluorescent reflector lamp is more energy efficient than halogen however probably not as bright.
- Heat Output - halogen and incandescent light sources generate much more heat when they are turned compared to LED and compact fluorescent.
- Color Temperature - incandescent and halogen new construction recessed cans have a warm color temperature whereas compact fluorescent and LED recessed cans can range between warm and cool in color temperature. The warmer the color temperature the more yellow the light.
Type of New Construction Recessed Housing
Beyond the standard new construction can light there three different types to choose.
- Air-Tight - the entire housing is sealed preventing the conditioned air from the room below entering the non-conditioned space above.
- Low-Profile - each of these new construction recessed cans are less than 6 inches in height.
- IC-Rated - this housing has an exterior wall to ensure that the heat generated from the light source in the new construction housing does not touch any insulation in the ceiling and cause a fire.