"Normal" spacing from wall for recessed lighting?

Discussion in 'Remodel Forum & Blog' started by Artie, Nov 21, 2009.

  1. Artie

    Artie New Member

    Messages:
    46
    Location:
    Jacksonville, Fl
    This is for lighting above kitchen counters. Since the cabinets will be 12" and the counter top 24", I was thinking that the light fixture should be 18" away from the wall. This will give direct lighting down to the exposed counter top. But most pictures I've seen of model kitchens show the lights farther from the wall.

    What is considered "normal"? Is there a code for this spacing?

    Thanks all.
  2. FloridaOrange

    FloridaOrange Plumbing Designer

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    1,317
    Location:
    SW Florida
    Recessed lighting in the kitchen is good for general lighting. You could of course put cans 18" off but I would personally use under cabinet lighting for task lighting.
  3. Artie

    Artie New Member

    Messages:
    46
    Location:
    Jacksonville, Fl
    Yes, I'm going to have under-cab lighting. So, are you saying that should space the cans farther out? How far would be conventional. (11.5' x 21' kitchen)
  4. frenchie

    frenchie Jack of all trades

    Spaced evenly.

    Attached Files:

  5. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

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    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    lights

    I would prefer them out far enough so that they do NOT cast a shadow line, or at least a very narrow one, on the counter top when the undercabinet lights are off. For a 9' ceiling height that would be about 3' from the face of the upper cabinets. A bit further for an 8' one.
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2009
  6. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

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    I also like to place the lights over "work centers"

    centered over the kitchen sink
    centered over the frig.
    centered over the pantry

    Pretty much anytime you have a double door opening, I place one in the center.
    I don't install cans unless I can see the cabinet layout first.
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2009
  7. Artie

    Artie New Member

    Messages:
    46
    Location:
    Jacksonville, Fl
    Here's the basic layout. I'm most interested in the lighting over the counters, (light gray areas), and the sink.

    kitchen layout (Right-click to open in new window.)

    The "brown" area is my poor attempt at a banquette artistry.

    (Blue line is a window. Green lines are pocket doors. Cyan area is a pantry.)

    Attached Files:

    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 22, 2009
  8. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    27,230
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    cans

    One major consideration is the ceiling height since recessed cans project a "cone" of light, and even that is variable depending on the design of the can, rather than a general flood.
  9. Artie

    Artie New Member

    Messages:
    46
    Location:
    Jacksonville, Fl
    I probably should have included that this is only a 7 1/2' ceiling.

    Thanks for all the info guys.
  10. Scuba_Dave

    Scuba_Dave Extreme DIY Homeowner

    Messages:
    885
    Location:
    South of Boston, MA
    One simple way to tell if the light will hit the back of the counter is with a straight edge
    Put a straight edge (4' level) at the back of the counter & bring it up until it hits the bottom of the cabinets
    The extended line towards the ceiling will mark the spot where the recessed cans should be in order to light the back of the counter top

    My 4" cans are between 10-14" from the upper cabinets
    I have LED under cabinet lights, so not critical to light under the cabinets for me
  11. Artie

    Artie New Member

    Messages:
    46
    Location:
    Jacksonville, Fl
    Thanks Dave. Thats an interesting, yet simple technique. I'm going to have under-counter lighting also, so I'm not so concerned with that as I am casting a shadow while working at the counter. But, then again, I want the whole install to look "pro". That is, not out-of-place.
  12. I'd put them 24" from the wall. Or 25". Since you have a ceiling and not a header; otherwise they have to be in the header, which can be smaller. So, directly overhead. Your head is not closer to the wall than the edge of the counter 26" from the wall, since you are standing upright, not leaning forward. So you don't need to worry about lighting the back of your head and causing shadows. They have to be the kind that can be directed to turn an itsy bit. If you put them a couple inches farther from the wall, it's still good!

    Spotlights. Even a narrow one, like an MR 16 with 12.5 degree spot light, still produces a big light spot on a counter, when the ceiling is 7 1/2' and the counter is 3' high. About 24" - 27" apart, more or less, perhaps depending on your wall cabinets or another factor not yet shown.
  13. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,313
    Location:
    New England
    Recessed cans come in many sizes and have multitudes of choices in both lamps and trims, so there is no general rule that makes a lot of sense. A 3" mini-can with a narrow spot won't do the same thing as a 6" can with a flood in it. Even a foot or so if difference in height to the working surface can make a big difference depending on the exact configuration you have. How important is very even lighting to you verses someone else can vary your choices. The type of fixture you use and the bulb can make a big difference if you choose to run them on dimmers (suggested), so you can go from mood lighting to task lighting. Dimmers for low-voltage systems can be quite expensive compared to normal line-voltage incandescents. If you want to go green, most CFL bulbs aren't dimmable, and the color temp can change as you dim (and many aren't that pleasing in a kitchen - food can look nasty). LED's are still quite expensive to purchase (but they can last a very long time), and the typical color temp is not great. There are some that are good, but they are very expensive.

    Most manufacturer websites have tables that show various configurations and the spread. They also have suggestions for different light levels for specific tasks. Go the the source, read up on it, then ask your questions. Generic questions help give you an idea, but you need specific information. Your choice of can and the trim you use will make radical differences in your outcome, so without knowing the exact configuration of what was used, your results may differ considerably.
  14. Scuba_Dave

    Scuba_Dave Extreme DIY Homeowner

    Messages:
    885
    Location:
    South of Boston, MA
    I just put (4) 6" cans in the new great room as a test
    Spaced 4' off the wall, 6' apart along an 18' wall
    So basically 2 rows of 2, rows are 4' apart, cans 6' apart
    Plenty of light with 13w CFL floods

    3 or 4 more 4" cans will go over where the bar will be
    That will be the next test - also using 13w bulbs w/reflector
  15. Artie

    Artie New Member

    Messages:
    46
    Location:
    Jacksonville, Fl
    Thanks again guys for the great info and thoughts. At this point, I'll just have to decide which direction to go. I'd love to do "more" small halogens, rather than fewer, larger CFL's/incandesents, but my understanding is that they tend to be more expensive, (by virtue of their life-span), than any other type bulb. If we were going to stay in this house for 10+ years, I wouldn't care so much. But my wife is chomping at the bit to move closer to our grandchildren, so, my guess is, 2-to-3 years max in this house. I don't want to buy LED bulbs for strangers. ;)
  16. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

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    22,313
    Location:
    New England
    Install a dimmer switch that does a soft start, and run them at less than full output most of the time, and any incandescent will last much longer than turning it on and off at full voltage. I've got some low-voltage halogen bulbs that are nearly 10-years old that typically run all evening on low (the counter ones in the kitchen...haven't lost one yet). Soft start (they ramp up and down when turning off) and less than full voltage can easily double the life. Going to full brightness isn't as damaging, either.
  17. Dana

    Dana In the trades

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    Recessed cans are a lousy way to light up counter tops, but they can be OK way for lighting what's in the cabinets when the door is open.

    The issue with using them for countertops is that where ever YOU are, you're casting a shadow on your work.

    Under-cabinet thin T4 or T5 linear fluorescents tend to work better on countertops than point-sources like halogens & LEDs since they don't cast multiple & sharp-edged hand shadows on the work. Mounted under the front edge of the cabinet, but facing the wall (not pointed toward the room) puts a line of diffuse light over the work for soft edged shadows and a large amount of backscatter off the wall to fill in those shadows:

    _______cabinet_________|
    |--<--<--<--<--| T5 light|
    |
    |
    |
    |
    |
    wall
    |
    |
    |
    |
    |
    |_______________counter top__________


    With the light facing the wall, not the room it introduces no glare to the room, but still offers a pleasant background glow when the downlighting is off.

    If you have 12" or more above the cabinets, T5 or T8 linear UP-lighting counteracts the glare factor of recessed downlights by lowering the contrast between the downlight and the ceiling. With lighter-brighter ceiling paint it offers better overall (shadow & glare free!) ambient lighting than recessed cans ever could. (They're 1.5-2x the efficiency of the best compact fluorescents or self-ballasted LEDs too, if you care about that stuff.) Dimmable ballasts are nice too, to be able to set the ambient light level where you want it (lower for kitchen-dining, higher for cleaning & food prep).

    Recessed lights and downlighting in general are WAY overdone. It's better to do a 60/40 or 70/30 of UPLIGHTING/downlighting for setting ambient light levels. Done right, you get better visual efficacy at lower ambient lighting, since your pupils aren't constricting in the glare, forcing your brain to work overtime to discern the objects in the inevitable shadows cast by downlighting.

    Keep your recessed cans & halogen spots as accent lighting (up, down, or sideways directed). They're sub-optimal for ambient lighting at normal residential ceiling heights due to the glare & shadow factor (at 15-20' ceilings or higher it's a different story.)
  18. Artie

    Artie New Member

    Messages:
    46
    Location:
    Jacksonville, Fl
    Good info Dana. Thanks. This will all help me to make an informed decision.

    I do prefer the concept of the low-voltage halogens.
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