Recessed downlights or "can lights" as they are called in America, are a type of light fixture commonly found in kitchens and bathrooms. Unlike traditional fixtures, which protrude some distance from the ceiling, downlights are designed to sit up inside the ceiling so that only their front face can be seen. A typical downlight consists of a pressed steel or cast aluminium lamp holder with a decorative fascia.
During installation, the downlight is inserted into a suitably sized hole where it is held in place with either spring or compression clips, depending on the type of downlight purchased. The physical size and brightness of downlights varies considerably, ranging from small decorative models measuring about 50mm in diameter to large commercial units of about 160mm or so. Downlights offer a number of aesthetic and practical advantages over traditional fixtures.
Firstly, they look good, providing plenty of illumination while preserving the neat, streamlined appearance of a modern kitchen, living room or bathroom. Secondly, they are versatile, and can be installed anywhere as long as there is enough room for the housing. Finally, in terms of practicality, downlights can be used individually to create strong task lighting or in combination to create general ambience.
In the latter case, many people prefer the option of a dimmer switch, with which to vary the level of light if necessary. When choosing downlights over traditional fixtures, it is important to determine how many and what brightness you need. Downlights should be evenly spaced for complete coverage and to avoid areas of the room being left in darkness.
There are a number of "rules of thumb" that can hep you decide the type and number you need. There are a number of different types of downlight available, all with their own merits. Fixed downlights are non-adjustable and direct all their light downwards.
Glimbal downlights have a moveable centre, which can be tilted in order to adjust the direction of the beam and create points of focus throughout the room. Eyeball downlights are similar to gimbals, but offer a greater degree of control over the beam angle. Finally, wall washers have a hinged housing that can be rotated 90 degrees for a "wall washing" effect.
LED Downlights are some of the latest developments in recessed lighting technology, offering greater longevity, affordability and safety. While most traditional downlights can be retrofitted with LED Bulbs, it is often better to buy a fully integrated LED Downlight. In this case the LEDs are incorporated into the unit and cannot be removed, but offer greater performance and reliability.
One of the chief issues surrounding downlights is heat. Due to their design, most of the heat produced by a downlight is directed towards the rear of the unit, which can potentially cause a fire risk, particularly in attic bedrooms where they are in close proximity to flammable insulation. As LED Downlights produce significantly less heat, they are much safer to use in these locations.
Remember , check that all your downlights are fire rated and that they have a suitable IP rating when installating in the bathroom.