I’ll address each point as it came up in the article, and see if there is some discussion to be had.
1. Down lighting makes people look bad. Go stand under a can light and have someone take a photo of you. Looks like you have not slept in a week. Yuck.Down lighting is awful, true. But this only applies when you’re dealing with proximity lighting, like at a vanity mirror. The idea behind using pot lights is to spread the light out over the entire room to provide a wash of generic or ambient light. Unless you’re using pin spots (the wrong bulb for the situation) the light beam will be wide enough to avoid the “ghoul” effect. The sun’s light comes from above, and last I checked I look pretty good at the beach.
If lighting can’t come from above, it needs to come from the side or be some sort of indirect lighting; those are the only options remaining. In most kitchens, the walls are covered in cabinetry for the most part, so wall sconces are out. Using pendant lighting is a also possibility, but pendants are typically used for feature lighting. A kitchen illuminated exclusively with pendant would look something like the kitchen on the left, and nobody wants that!
2. Recessed lighting is inefficient. At 8’ your recessed light will give you a paltry 4-5 square feet of light. Moreover, the light will be relatively low; ‘navigation light’ not ‘task light’. What will take you 6-8 can lights to achieve could have been accomplished with two 14-watt bulbs in a semi-flush fixture.
3. It is expensive. How many recessed lights does it take to light a room? If you design the wiring for efficiency, you will be placing each 25% segment of the lights on a single switch. (Clustered or spread)
Based on the last couple bills I’ve received from my electrician I can tell you I’m paying about $80 of a small, 75m roll of Lumex (110 house wire) and the basic pot light I use costs around $50 for a recessed can (IC rated – more on that later) and trim. My point is that based on the entire project, how expensive is too expensive? And if the lighting provided by the less expensive option is poor, will the customer still be happy about the savings?
4. There are so many better ways to illuminate a space (naturally and artificially) that it seems like a crime to resort to something with such poor function (and aesthetic).I’m still waiting to see the better options.
5. Recessing anything into an exterior plane is just a bad idea.Provided the pot-light is installed properly (IC rated where required, vapour barrier applied, etc.) It’s no different than installing a bathroom ventilator or sky-light into a ceiling.
6. It is very difficult and expensive to insulate properly around a can light (IC rated or otherwise)
Each can-light results in at least .35 SF of space that is not insulated as well as the other areas. As we have pointed out in other articles, that loss of insulation quickly adds up and can cut down the whole attics overall insulative qualities by 25% or more. In the case of a non-IC rated fixture, you lose 1.5 SF worth of insulation (boxing in the light per codes and insulating around it) & to top it off you have to basically cover it with nothing thicker than a piece of thin cardboard, so it ends up acting like a big chimney dumping all that heat into an attic.In an insulated space you simply do not use any fixture that is not IC rated. Insulating around them is no different than insulating around any other obstacle. I agree with the amount of space not being directly insulated. I just don’t see the difference if insulation is installed around the IC rated fixture.
7. I have seen far too many basements that are loaded up with 30, 40, 50, 60 recessed lights, all incandescent bulbs, on three or four switches. Consider the wisdom behind installing a series of metal boxes with a heating element inside in a joist-bay, especially in old houses…
Sean states later in his article, recessed lights are okay, provided they’re used “where appropriate.” I couldn’t agree more. I’m not at all opposed to addressing the energy and heat-loss issues. I just feel the pot-light is not the culprit and that these issues can be better handled using correct installation practices and better bulbs.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments section.