Create pools of light with a decorative edge by using a well-executed recessed lighting design. Down lighting is found widely in most interior lighting applications but in many cases is misused and is not as effective as it could be. Here are some techniques that will help you make the most out of this powerful application of light.
Select the right trim Choosing the trim color and reflector type is a decision that the specifier has to make. It is preferred to choose a trim color as close as possible to the ceiling color. Recessed lights reflectors are selected based on a few considerations. White reflectors produce usually the most amount of glare, while black and clear reflectors minimize glare. Clear reflectors help make the fixture "disappear" into the ceiling. Some people prefer the black reflector since it seems to reduce the amount of visible light reflected from the trim and therefor reduces glare but black reflectors may contrast with a white ceiling emphasizing the presence of the recessed lighting which is not always desirable.
Open Down lights have an open reflector. They are used for general ambient lighting. All popular lamp types can be used, and a number of different finishes are available. They usually range in a trim diameter from a 3” to 6” aperture. Some low voltage open down lights have built-in 35-degree adjust-ability.
Adjustable Down lights have a mechanism that adjusts typically from 35 to 45 degrees vertically and rotates 360 degrees horizontally. They are used with art lighting and accent lighting or whenever flexibility in angling or directing is needed. Adjustable down lights are normally equipped with reflector lamp types.
Multi-head Down lights generally have two to four fixture heads housed in a rectangular box and trim. This configuration provides for a more flexible application of the lights when multiple objects need to be illuminated. Recessed lighting had advanced with the use of LEDs and ceramic metal halide lamps which are the newest lamp types used in recessed lighting.
Recessed Wall Wash lights have a trim with spread lens that provides an even wall illumination from just below the ceiling plane, minimizing the scallop effect while creating a soft wash of the wall. They are used whenever uniform lighting is needed across a vertical surface and are not usually adjustable. Any lamp type can be used.
Decorative Effects are achieved when the trim of the can projects below the ceiling plane. They are used when there is a desire to “jazz up” the ceiling while still utilizing recessed down lighting as the main source of light, thus serving a double purpose. There are a variety of different glass trims and effects that can be created. For example, trims can create a star like pattern of light on the ceiling and colored glass trims extending below the ceiling add a unique touch.
Applications of recessed lights
Regular recessed down lighting creates pools of light, thus illuminating large areas evenly and creating a uniform overall level of illumination in a space. Recessed down lights can also create scallops of light when positioned close to a wall. A main concern is creating the proper spacing ratios. If fixtures are placed too far apart, dark spaces are created.
Task lighting can be achieved effectively with recessed lights because light can be directed exactly where needed. Reflective glare, which is a very big concern in the workplace, can also be controlled by correct placement of the recessed cans. If the light is not properly located, both shadows and reflective glare can occur.
Accent down lighting is achieved easily and with a minimal light source revealed. It can also be used for lighting furniture, bookcases, sculptures and plants. It is important to specify enough recessed light cans to gain balance in the space. If down lights are concentrated in the center of the room, the effect will be gloomy because the walls will be dark. Recessed down lights can be placed around the periphery of a room so light will reflect of the walls and make the room appear well lit and larger.
Final thoughts about recessed lighting
It is key to remember that in almost all cases a combination of lighting techniques is needed to create the desired effect. Layering with light; using wall washers, task lighting, and accent lights on dimmers, will create a plethora of possible effects, from spacious to intimate. Using accent lighting, wall lighting and surface lighting in harmony with well-implemented ambient down lighting will blend differing light patterns to create a dramatic, well-textured visual environment.