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ISO advice about recessed, ceiling lighting for kitchen remodel --- incandescent vs. halogen

Later this summer we're doing a complete gut of our kitchen and dining room. Tearing down walls etc. I've been planning on recessed, small halogen lights for the ceiling lighting. Our builder, who is totally cool with going along with me, nonetheless said that halogen doesn't put out as much light whereas I thought they put out more light. Also he said each fixture will run $150 or more. Any advice from those of you familiar with lighting? TIA.

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  1. I can only speculate as to the expense. Halogen burns hotter, so I'll bet those recessed fixtures have to be insulated out the wasoo to keep from burning the house down. Unless you live in the frozen northland, halogens are going to really heat up your kitchen. We were at a friends house a whle back and they had halogen under cabinet lighting. She said she left them on one night and had toast in the cabinet the next morning. They do work well as plate warmers.

    For lighting efficiency, look at the number of lumens per watt, LEDs are great, compact floressents are very good, and neither get as hot. Energy either turns into heat or light in the case of a light bulb.

    2 Replies
    1. re: mikie

      As someone who lives in the frozen northland (Minnesta) the halogens would heat our kitchens too hot as well. (We hit 103° last week). I would put in recessed cans that would fit either incandescents or CFLs.

      1. re: John E.

        Agree. We decided halogens would be too hot, even for under cabinet lighting & went with dual option of incandescent/CFLs and LEDs for under cabinets.

    2. I'm am VERY appreciative of this advice. This house is in Reno which gets very hot in the summer so I definitely don't want to add significantly to the heat.

      Are there incandescents or flourescents (?sp) that give good light and some aesthetic appeal, which the halogen gives.

      4 Replies
      1. re: c oliver

        I personally don't like halogen. They not only get very hot, but the light spectrum is hard on the eyes (at least mine). We had a knucklehead subcontractor who tried to get us to install halogens where ever possible. They're far more expensive per/unit so he may have had other motives. We had a Tech Lighting halogen system in our living room, and my eyes would be bloodshot after a half-hour of exposure, so we had to dictate to him that we were not installing halogen, and that he install recessed incandescent fixtures instead (giving us the option of either incandescent or CFL), and by LA code (2005) we were required to install CFL-dedicated primary lighting in both the kitchen and bathrooms.

        We've been happy with the CFLs in general, but accurate placement above work areas is a must, reflector shape and finish is a serious consideration for practical purposes, and ceiling height will impact the effectiveness of the lighting in general.

        Another consideration is under-cabinet lighting on the bottoms of your wall cabinets above the counters. This will also help in task lighting, and it is actually quite pleasant particularly because it keeps shadowing down when doing precision tasks, and is easy on the eyes when you're first waking up in the dark and putting on the lights. There are low-profile florescent fixtures specifically for mounting under cabinets so the won't be visible from most angles.

        I've been out of the lighting technology loop since our remodel, and LEDs have become more and more available. You might want to at least inquire about those systems as well if you haven't yet.

        Being that incandescents are being legislated out of existence in their current form, become more familiar with CFLs. The technology and choices keep getting better, so I think you'll find some that will give you the color/brightness that you want. As for aesthetic concerns, they can be unsightly, but options do exist where the actual CFL is housed in an outer housing that makes it look like an incandescent, flood or spot light. We've gotten over the look of the CFL though - after a while, we didn't even look at them anymore.

        1. re: bulavinaka

          My sister just did a kitchen remodel and incandescent lights were not on the list since they will probably be phased out and then where are you...in fact building codes might require alternates so better take a look.

          1. re: escondido123

            My CFL bulbs aren't those squiggly kind, so you wouldn't know they were CFL just by looking at them. However, they DO take a few seconds to reach full lighting, so that took getting used to.

        2. re: c oliver

          Part of the reason halogens may appear brighter is the litght spectrum they produce. It's a whiter light than incandescents. We were at a friends house where they had recently remodeled the kitchen, the same one with the halogen under cabinet lighting, and she had LEDs in the overhead can lighting. LEDs generate very little heat and from what I could tell fit in a standard can light. They also last for a very long time and you get the same number of lumens for a fraction of the wattage of incandescents and even CFLs. The down side is they are relatively new technology for house lighting and are quite expensive. $30+ for a light bulb just sends shivers up my spine. However, since they last a very long time and use as little as 3 watts to get 60 watts worth of incandescent light, they save a ton of energy. They too put out a relatively white light, but I think you can get specific spectrums of light just like you now can with CFLs.

        3. Many years ago I put in halogens because I liked the light they produced. But the bulbs were REALLY expensive to replace, and they burned out relatively quickly. I remember feeling like a good citizen as we were preparing to move by leaving a couple of extras behind; then two more burned out the day before we left! I have standard recessed cans and I use CFLs in them. Love that they last "forever".

          1. Don't even consider Icandescents. They're obsolete. Good riddance! We've replaced all of ours, including our many recessed can lights, with LEDs and were very happy.

            1. Lighting is very important to me-not only the functional aspects but the aethetic aspects as well. I have mostly incandescent lighting and have bought a lifetime supply. We have overhead lights placed over task areas. I have a few CFLs in closets and a bathroom and hate the color of the light. We have mostly antique lighting and prefer the warm color of the incandescent lighting. I have halogen task lighting under my cabinets but it is warm and melted some chocolate in the cabinet. I am not sure if I would use something different there next time or not as we don't use it for long periods of time usually. I do more of my work on the island with overhead lights.

              4 Replies
              1. re: wekick

                The primary reason we switched to LCDs was because I hated changing burnt out incandescent lightbulbs all the time, moving furniture and moving it back, getting ladders out and putting them away, standing precariously on furniture. For that and that alone, I'm glad I did it.

                The cost savings over time are real, but a bonus.

                1. re: DPGood

                  We have a recessed can over the stairs going downstairs. There is no way to reach it safely with even a ladder. We bought a telescoping lightbulb changer. It has a suction cup on the end. We bought it before the invention of CFLs. I'm not sure how we would do it. (I have not yet stocked up on various incandescents, but will soon just to have the option available). We will have to try out some LCDs because so far, the idea that CFLs put out just as much light as ibcandescents has not been the case at our house.

                  1. re: John E.

                    How much light...

                    I'm no expert, but my understanding is that there are/were restrictions on how much heat the receptical could take. Therefore, since LCDs put out a lot less heat, you can increase the amount of lumens (light) you install considerably.

                    Someone correct me if I'm wrong.

                  2. re: DPGood

                    Now there is a choice so you can have what you prefer, unfortunately not for long though.

                2. I like the idea of having "layers" of light that you can add/subtract as needed. That said, you don't want 5 switches on the wall for all the different sets of lights.

                  If your house is single floor, you definitely want airtight, insulation-contact rated (ICAT) cans if you use them. Minimizes air leaks (huge energy loss in older homes) and you can insulate up to and over them.

                  We remodeled several years ago and did general lighting with standard cans that we put screw-in CFLs into. It was a good compromise at the time b/c dedicated (4-pin plug-in) CFL cans were still pretty expensive. And LEDs weren't even an option, though I think they're still pretty darn expensive for less light output. Have replaced only a few CFL bulbs out of 30 or so installed since then.

                  We have halogen pendants over our island. My only complaint is that I've had to replace power supplies, but they were an inexpensive Home Depot product to start with (low expectations).

                  Our wall cabinets have fluorescent undercabinet lights that are switched at the same location as the other kitchen lights. If they're still around, I highly recommend them. They're a GE product from HD that's labeled as "thinnest" and "linkable." Tremendous value (over Kichler, Juno et al) and great light color/output.

                  And we have halogens in the hood that are low-high and switched there. Makes for lots of different combinations depending on what you want. Mostly use the undercab lights and the pendants at the same time.

                  1. If this link works for you, it's an interesting read:


                    I'm thinking we might go LED despite the expense, in our recessed cans where the ceilings are 12 feet. Worth it to limit the danger in replacing bulbs.

                    Halogen is very unflattering, i can see cellulite I didn't know I had in dressing rooms lit with those things. They'll never be in my house. I have two flourescent "clouds" on either side of my hanging pot rack to avoid shadows and light the place UP! 5 incandescent recessed cans over sink and stove,flourescent under-counter. Can't have enough light in the kitchen.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: danna

                      Despite the expense? LEDs are less expensive than Halogens, plus you can simply replace your Icandescents with LEDs right now. Just unscrew the incandescents and screw in the LEDs. No need to replace the recepticals. Plus, you will save money on your electric bills and, best of all, you won't have to change bulbs so often.

                      1. re: danna

                        I'm very appreciative for everyone's advice. I didn't know that LED is available in that type fixture. I found one at Home Depot this morning for $50. They were too busy for me to talk to the staff about it. I sure found that price attractive.

                        I agree with those of you who recommend several different types of lighting. And I'm a fiend for dimmers - even my kitchen and bathrooms have them :) Flourescent can't be dimmed, can it? Deal breaker for me.

                        1. re: c oliver

                          $50?! I bought a six pack at Costco for $8. Not much more at Loews or HD, maybe less. Unscrew one of the incandescents you want to replace. Take it with you. Ask someone to help you. Ones that dim may be more expensive.

                          1. re: DPGood

                            $50 is for the light fixture not the bulb!!! :) And the fixture is dimmable.

                          2. re: c oliver

                            >>Flourescent can't be dimmed, can it? Deal breaker for me.<<

                            Dimmable CFLs do exist - I've yet to try them as I rarely replace our CFLs and have enough in our home inventory to last a while. Dimmable florescents were thought impossible not too long ago. Many folks seem to have an issue with florescent lighting, but given the ranges of colors, light spectrums, applications, etc., they are a very viable candidate. With that said, LED is probably going to be the new CFL. I'd consider lighting systems that can accommodate forms of both if I were remodeling again, but that's a nightmare I don't want to relive if at all possible...

                        2. Our old kitchen had the ugly flourescents with the frosted plastic thingies over them. When we removed that, the remodel guy just wanted to box it all in for the new recessed. I said no way, used the recessed area (looks like a tray light feature) for a great chandelier (with CFLs), added crown moulding around the rectangular area, then did regular recessed canned lighting and under cabinet lighting. I get all kinds of compliments on the looks of it all.