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What to Look For in a Downlight Fixture


Recessed downlights, or can lights, are integral to most lighting designs. Available in numerous sizes and styles to meet various needs, these lights bring many benefits to any design scheme. The best guide on what is a downlight?

Selecting the appropriate downlight fixture is crucial to the success of any design project. Here are five considerations when purchasing downlight fixtures.


Downlight fixtures come in various diameters to fit most ceilings. They can be used for general lighting or accentuating specific objects in a room. They come with warm white (similar to incandescent) and neutral white light options, identical to fluorescent.

Before LED models became more widely adopted, most downlights were halogen. However, LED models are becoming increasingly popular due to their greater energy efficiency and longer lifespan; additionally, they use significantly less electricity, thus helping reduce electricity bills significantly.

Size matters when selecting a downlight fixture to install in a room. A larger diameter downlight provides more overall illumination, while smaller lights work best for task and accent lighting.

Standard recessed downlights typically require cutting a housing into the ceiling during installation, while wafer-style LED downlights now come with no housing requirement and can be directly installed into an existing recessed can – ideal for new construction and remodeling projects as no access is required to reach above the ceiling for their installation.

When selecting a downlight, opt for one with insulation contact (IC) certification. Non-IC-rated downlights may overheat when they come into contact with insulation in an insulated ceiling and cause fire hazards; on the other hand, IC-rated lights use minimal heat while having an integrated thermal protection system to avoid overheating.


Downlight fixtures come in various materials. Metal fixtures are durable and come in multiple finishes, while glass and plastic options provide flexibility to suit any style or decor. Porcelain can add elegance to any space; your selection should depend on its function and aesthetic considerations.

The size of the downlight opening should also be carefully considered; smaller spaces allow less light to “push” down, while larger ones provide a more diffused light wash. As ceiling height increases, so should the opening size increase accordingly.

Consider whether or not your downlight needs to be insulated (IC-rated). IC-rated fixtures allow the insulation to go directly against metal without leaving an uncomfortable three-inch gap between the institution and insulation; they are typically used in new construction, while non-IC-rated downlights tend to be preferred for remodel applications.

Your ceiling may also dictate a choice between trim and housing options. Flange-less trim achieves a clean, designer aesthetic, making it the preferred option in new construction installations, while canister housing (also known as a canister) protects light sources by creating an airtight seal against moisture penetration and mold growth.


Downlights are designed to produce a narrow beam of illumination radiating downward. This type of lighting can either illuminate the entire ceiling space or draw attention to a specific spot.

Downlights are commonly selected to improve energy efficiency, using less electricity and producing less heat than traditional lights, thus helping homeowners or commercial customers make the best of their money.

Downlights are also ideal for their versatility and can fit seamlessly into many spaces, from small areas that lack enough hanging light fixtures to making rooms appear more prominent. Downlights can also highlight the room’s art, furniture, or features – they are convenient in kitchens where recessed cabinets provide lighting beneath countertops or add accentuating details on backsplashes.

Homeowners and commercial customers can select downlight trims, lenses, and reflectors to meet their lighting needs. Popular choices for recessed lighting are eyeballs and gimbals because they allow directional control; other choices include multiple color temperatures that can be changed with just a switch – such as warm light (2700K) for traditional designs while cool white (3500K or 4000K) may look better in modern or contemporary homes.


Dimmable downlight fixtures should provide the ideal lighting mood in any room. Choose from various dimmer options compatible with your fixtures – such as 0-10V control – that allow you to adjust brightness from 100% down to 10% quickly and freely.

Recess downlights (also referred to as can lights) are the cornerstone of many excellent residential and commercial lighting designs. When appropriately installed, recessed downlights (or downlighting) become part of the ceiling itself and provide just the right amount of illumination in any given space. When selected incorrectly, however, they can become noticeable fixtures, potentially turning your ceiling into Swiss cheese and creating distracting glare.

The best-recessed downlights are tailored to work seamlessly with all ceilings and interior design styles, including vaulted or sloped ones. To minimize visual distraction, choose one with a 30o sloped trim that reduces visual flange.

If you’re installing downlights in a bathroom or other moist location, seek out ones equipped with waterproof shower lenses. When installing floor-to-ceiling built-ins, look for ones featuring wall wash trim that masks part of its aperture for direct lighting down and up the walls, perfect for highlighting artwork or features. In addition, specialty trim options like round flangeless trims with no visible screws and angled or gimbal trims may help.

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