How Recessed Lights Work

Recessed lighting mysteries are simple to understand with this article

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Table of Contents

Recessed lighting is perfect for task lighting, like a desk, or general lighting, like a living room.  Recessed lighting is housed within the ceiling, providing a sleek design perfect for making lighting seem natural.  There are 3 major elements to a recessed light: the can, the trim, and the bulb.

1st 17

The Can

Recessed lighting can

The can is a metal housing up inside the ceiling that provides a spot for the wiring to connect and for the bulb housing.  It is important to choose a can that will fit into the ceiling space you have, what trim you want, and the bulb you want to use.

The Trim

Recessed lighting trim ring

The trim is a decorative ring connected to the can to cover between the bulb and the drywall to finish off the fixture.  Each can will have a specific list of trims that it will fit.  Since the trim is the part that you see, I sometimes suggest people choose the trim first.

The Bulb

Flood style light bulb

The bulb chosen should match the trim for size.  You can select any type of bulb but since it is difficult to change bulbs in a recessed light, I suggest LED.  LEDs used in recessed light fixtures should be rated for enclosed spaces in order to have long lives.


As long as you make sure all three components are compatible, recessed lights are easy to install and look beautiful.  There are even fixtures now that combine all three components in a single ready-made fixture.  I love them!

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Head Homeowner

Hey everybody! I'm Sydney, the head homeowner here. Let me know if you have any questions you didn't find the answer to. Tell me what projects you're working on. I love to hear from all my readers.