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LED recessed cans guide for kitchen ...

January 30, 2012

A collection of tips/ answers

Since kitchens have higher lighting requirements, I like to use 35 lumen per sq ft as a rule to compute the number of lights. If there are additional sources of light that will be used, the output (lumens not watts) from those sources can be deducted from the total.

Placement/ layout

1. Cans should be > 24 to 30 inches from the wall (on center). Most countertop spaces have upper cabinets (typically ~ 12" deep) + crown molding. The edge of the can may be spaced ~ 12" away from the edge of the crown molding (if present or cabinet if there is no crown molding) making the average distance between 26 to 30 inches.

2. Assuming the need for a fairly uniformly lit space @ 35 lumens per sq ft, the cans may have to be spaced closer together - between 3 - 4 ft apart (if all general lighting is provided by recessed lights). A fairly regular pattern is preferable to a random layout.

3. The actual layout of cans will be impacted by the location of ceiling joists, HVAC ducting, electrical wiring, plumbing, ceiling height, fire suppression sprinklers and other obstructions above the ceiling.


The Cree LR6 series lamps do not dim as well as the later models (CR6, ...). ELV dimmers probably work better with LR6 than incandescent dimmers since the total load of the lights may not meet the minimum load requirement for the incandescent dimmer.

Dimmers such as the Lutron Diva CL dimmers work well. The max output is 95%.

Some Choices (in order of preference) and notes

Cree CR6 or ECO-575 (Home Depot branded CR6)

ECO4-575 (Home Depot branded Cree CR4 4" recessed light)

The above are only available in 2700k light color.

Cree LR6 series - including the LE6.

The Cree CR6 and LR6 lamps will not fit into 5" housings.

The standard LR6 behaves more like a surface mount than a recessed light as the LED emitters are close to the surface and the recess is shallow. Some may not like the amount of light spillage (standard LR6).

There is a higher output version of the LR6 that has a much deeper recess.

To prevent the Cree lamps from falling out, the 3 prongs have to be fully extended and a slight clockwise twist made when push installing. The slight clockwise twist will ensure that the prongs are fully extended.

The Cree lamps are currently the best available today (2012).

Sylvania RT-6, RT-4. The lights could be easier to install than Cree lamps as they utilize the torsion spring mechanism. However, the lights do not look as pleasant as the Cree lamps.

The Cree and Sylvania lamps do outperform 26W CFLs (and incandescents) in a standard recessed can in terms of light spread and output as the standard bulb in a can solution traps a significant amount of light. The Cree and Sylvania recessed lamp solutions referenced above have all the LED elements facing outwards so that the effective light output is higher.

The CRI (Color Rendition Index) of Cree and Sylvania recessed lamps > 80.

There is no warm up time required for Cree recessed lamps, unlike CFL light bulbs.

Most recessed lighting is used with flat ceilings. Sloped ceilings would require special solutions such as the LE6 or some other form of lighting (i.e. -non recessed lighting).

Some common objections to recessed can lights stem from

1. looks and performance of traditional can lights (standard bulb in a can)

2. swiss cheese effect from too many holes.

Comments (150)

  • Rev7

    Thanks for all the great information in this thread.

    I went with the Sylvania RT6 for the kitchen. The light is amazing. I have an issue with all 7 kits - they will not mount flush to the ceiling. The cans are on the approved list and there is nothing blocking the RT6 kits from going flush. I can hold them flush to the ceiling but every time I let go they fall a good inch down.

    It was suppose to be as easy as putting in a light bulb...i'm guessing the torsion spring isn't working out correctly. Any suggestions to fix this issue would be greatly appreciated as the wife does not like the look of the floating light kits.

    Again thanks in advance.

  • David

    Check what the torsion springs have been attached to. They should go into the same small oval stubs/ slots that are used to hold up trim (using torsion springs).
    For example

    The tension will automatically pull the lamps tight against the ceiling board.

  • Rev7

    Thanks for the reply.

    I'm using the same small oval slots that are for the trim. It should just pull the lamp up tight - but it doesn't. I ran over to the big box store and asked the lighting worker and they said to try to loosen or tighten the screws on both sides of the lamp. Just got done trying both options and the lamp still falls an inch from the ceiling.

    The cans are Capri Lighting model CR1NB which are on the approved housing list for the Sylvania RT6 lamps. Any other suggestions or do I need to start looking for my receipt and return all 7 of these?

  • Danny_W

    I recently installed 7 RT4's in our newly renovated kitchen. Not sure who manufactured the cans but I have a few that sag a few millimeter's. I spoke with the sales rep and he suggested expanding the torsion springs thus increasing their strength.

    Good Luck

  • David

    The other possible cause is the torsion spring is hitting the adjustable base plate.

    See if you can test fit a RT6 at the store.

  • jlirot

    What a great thread. Can you suggest a good place to purchase 6" Cree's? I've already got the cans installed. Now I need 75 LED's to go into them. They're 40 bucks apiece at home depot!!! I need the plug in ones.

    You can contact me off line if you like.

  • attofarad

    jlirot, by "the plug in ones" do you mean that you have GU24 sockets?

    I finally gave up on waiting for HD to drop the price, and bought my GU24 ones for $40. Never found them anywhere else cheaper. I did get a slightly lower price on my screw-in ones.

    BTW, the latest HD/Ecosmart version of the screw in ones is something like 625 lumens, up from the 575 previous.

    If you need some of them to be a bit brighter, get the 800L version from polar-ray.com or other place, for $55 each. I did that over my island and kitchen sink.

  • Karen.1288

    We are building a house and want to get LED recessed lights. Our builder has given us an allowence of 20 recessed lights. He has told us not to get LED lights initially because they tend to get knocked around during the build process and would not last, an that we should put something less expensive in initially. Does this sound correct? Also is most of the expense in the bulb or in all else (the housing) that we would need to cover to add more lights over our 20 allowence? In other words is the bulb the bulk of the expense or is it the housing?


  • David

    The led modules are extremely robust and be able to withstand quite a bit of mechanical abuse.

    The Cree and sylvania led modules come with the trim piece attached. The conventional recessed light setup will require 3 items - the bulb, can and trim piece.

  • David

    Labour is the main cost component when installing a large number of recessed lights. To stretch the dollar, you could try negotiating having just the cans installed - no trim or bulb.

  • socalss


    How did you know that the cans have changed from 575 to 625 lumens? Did the part number change (since the '575' was embedded in the part number). I just bought a few more of these and am wondering if I should change them. I don't know if I'll notice a difference in brightness between the 575/625 if they are next to each other.


  • attofarad


    I just saw the new boxes in HD. Different color box, and spec says 625. The "CR6" stock and pricing seems to be changing at HD -- even though they jacked the price from ~$27 to ~$35, they are advertising it in store as a price reduction -- and this in on the older 575L stock. Makes me wonder whether they will stop carrying them, or the CREE agreement changed, or what is going on.

    I have 800L in the 9 ft tray part of my ceiling, and 575L in the surrounding 8 ft -- brightness difference is not very obvious, so I don't think you will notice 575/625 much if any.

  • socalss


    Thanks. I'll check them out the next time I'm there.

    BTW, in my area, the 6" 575Ls were $34.97 and the 4" 575Ls were 42.97. I've never seen them at $27, but I do know that in some parts, they were subsidized by the local utility. San Luis Obispo for instance had the 6" for $24.97. Perhaps the subsidy for your area expired?

  • Gooster

    I'm posting here, as this is the most relevant existing thread for this, and I've searched for answers elsewhere. I think as products get introduced, new solutions get introduced.

    My problem: looking for CA Title 24 compliant kitchen lighting that won't result in a swiss cheese ceiling. I also don't want to get stuck into a custom connector, as I find them to be expensive and very risky (from a supply of replacements 10 years down the road).

    I'm looking at the Nora 5"
    This seems to be CA Title 24 compliant (newly certified) when used with the paired modules.

    I like the 900 lumen+ specs of the Sylvania Osram 17W Wide Flood GU24 R30 bulb. It seems like it will fit.

    Anyone think any differently? Will it still be CA Title 24 compliant or will I run the risk of not being compliant?

  • David

    Proper planning and lamp selection will go a long way to prevent a swiss cheese look.

    So long as you use T24 qualified components and procedures (eg - proper insulation, caulking), you'll be compliant. Your electrician should be well versed with T24 by now.

    As for connectors, you'd have to use lamps with the GU24 base (eg - CR6, RT6) if you want to avoid connectors like the proprietary bi-pin Halo LED connector.

    Self-ballasted CFL bulbs will not last long in cans (especially the cheap E26 base bulbs). See the thermal images posted earlier in this thread.

    The total package price for a GU24 base CFL + can + trim may not be competitive with a CR6 with GU24 base + can (depending on your city).

  • bklyn001

    I'm making a decision about whether to go with LED or Halogen in my new kitchen remodel. I don't like the large cans though which sounds like I would need in order to retrofit Halogen to LED.

    What do you think about the 3" LED recessed by Element (Tech Lighting)? They are expensive, but put out 1074 lumens, and come in a flangeless square trim that looks nice.

    Should I be worried that I can't upgrade them later (as CRI is currently only 86+)?

    Here is a link that might be useful: Element 3

  • David

    I won't be worried about the upgrade as LEDs will last quite a while.

    If you're concerned with changing the look and upfront costs, steer away from recessed lighting that is smaller than 4".

    The smaller the aperture, the more intense the light may seem, especially when reflectors are used.

  • rsmagnetic

    Our contractor keeps pushing halogens for the recessed cans in our southern California kitchen addition (1899 house). We are nearing the rough electrical stage and I would like him to install warm white LEDs if the cost is not prohibitive. Now our contractor's lighting guy writes that the Cree CR4-575L-GU24s--at least the EcoSmart ones from HD--use plastic colored filters (instead of glass) to warm the color temperature and that although this may keep the cost lower it affects long-term service as the coating tends to crack and break long before the LED gives out. (That's almost a perfect quote.) I want to know if this is right, if non-HD Cree lights (such as those from polar-ray.com) also use plastic, and what you all think of the lighting guy's claim that "equivalents" are "Satco, Viribright or TCP." I am dubious. Should I be?

  • TMJ24

    I just had 9 of the HD 4" CREEs installed in my kitchen and I love them. I have only had them for 2 months but I can't imagine that the plastic would crack or peel because they do not get hot like halogens or incandescent bulbs. Do not install halogen cans in your kitchen...they will make the kitchen unbearably hot!

  • David

    The Cree lamps - LR and CR series do not rely on plastic colored filters. The lamps have an array of different light color LEDs. There are documented tear downs which show the layout and individual components.

    Here is a link that might be useful: More details

  • David

    Here is a better link.

    Halogens in recessed lighting in California? How on earth would one comply with title 24?

    Here is a link that might be useful: Cr6 tear down

  • kitmu

    My electrician just installed the RC-6 housing for the Cree lights in my kitchen, but we're unsure about which bulb/trim to use. The undercab lights are 4000K light bars; I experimented w/ several different types and chose these because the neutral white was better for close work and I didn't find them to be overly harsh. The electrician is concerned that the 2700K of the CR6 will not work well the UCLs. I'm less inclined to want to go with the 3500K LR6 because of what I have read above and elsewhere about both the shallow housing and the lack of good dimmability. And there is also the 625L vs 800L options on the CR6, so I really have three choices.

    My fab electrician is trying to see if he can get all three for me to try, but if that fails, does anyone have any suggestions on how to choose?

  • jacob-md

    You also have the 5000K CR6 available from Home Depot. They're not being discounted/rebated, but I have them in my kitchen and I think they're a good match for the 4000K UCL.

  • kitmu

    Yikes, even more options!!! You were supposed to help me pick, not make it harder! No, seriously, thanks jacob-md for the info. Does anyone know the CRI on the EcoSmarts?? HD is claiming they incorporate the Cree TruWhite technology, so would that put the CRI at 90?

  • TMJ24

    My CR4 EcoSmarts have a CRI of 90.

  • lee676

    The 625-lumen CR6 2700K just showed up at my local HD - same price, same SKU, still called ECO-575L. Not obviously brighter than the old ones. Prices here are $35 for the 2700K 6", $37 for the 5000K 6" (also 625L) and $43 for the 4" 2700K. All are the lowest prices they've ever been. The energystar.gov site does show that Cree did indeed submit some new updated CR6 2700K lamps that actually tested as 623 to 625 lumens and 92 or 93 CRI (higher than the advertisied 90 CRI). Also shows that a 5000K version of the Ecosmart 4" CR4 has been approved.

  • Alvin21

    I found the directions and comments very important. I am planning on installing recessed lighting in my kitchen tomorrow. My kitchen is 12 feet long and 6 feet wide. The recessed lighting is going to replace two sections of fluorescent tube lights.

    Here’s a pic http://i50.tinypic.com/30axi4h.png

    Here is a link that might be useful:

  • David

    Cree CR lights are now available in 2700, 3000, 3500 and 4000k light color.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Updated Cree CR light specifications

  • Jason

    Thanks for all of this info. I'm undergoing light choices in new construction in CA (SF proper) and looking at the Ecosmart 4" (ECO4-575L-GU24), and looking for appropriate Title 24 cans online, or can @davidtay or @attofarad or anyone else suggest someone local to SF Bay? Thanks in advance.

  • calumin

    jasoncjung -- it's probably easiest for you to get the lights at Home Depot. (The Ecosmart is the Home Depot version of the Cree CR4-575L-GU24).

    You will need to buy the housing online because Home Depot doesn't sell it. The only Title 24 compliant, GU24 housing I found that fits this light is the Liton LH99RICA-LLF-GU24 (for remodel, there is another one to use for new construction), and the place I bought it online is alconlighting.

    Liton GU24 Remodel Housing for ECO4-575L-GU24

    This post was edited by calumin on Fri, May 31, 13 at 10:38

  • David

    Yes, you need to purchase the housing online @ HD and have them shipped to the nearest HD for pickup.

    Or you could get the housing from other online vendors.

    If you decide to get stuff from universal electric supply company, make sure you know the exact items first. Check yelp.

  • attofarad

    I ended up using mostly 6", but the 4" Elco EL99ICA-G24 cans were maybe about $!4 or so (cannot remember, been a while) at American Ace supply in San Jose. They had to order them. They are a "new construction" style.

    I suggest that you have one in hand, along with the LED you plan to use, before ordering all of them.

  • Jason

    Thanks @calumin, @davidtay, @attofarad for your help. I will order the bulbs from Home Depot, and try the Liton housing from Alcon ($14,99) to see if it fits.

    @davidtay, which housing were you referring to on Homedepot.com?

    I'm fine with any brand of new construction housing, the easier for my electrician to install the better.

  • lee676

    Interesting that the updated Cree CR6 page linked to above now claims compatibility with some 5" housings - wonder if that's part of the reason behind the subtle design changes that lamp has gone through over the last year. Doesn't say which ones though.

  • skidkid

    I just exchanged email with Cree and they say that the CR4 in the 30K and 35K colors are scheduled for shipment in early July.

    I have been wanting 4" lights but I didn't want 2700 so nothing was jumping out at me as a winner. Now it looks like we will have a good option.

  • homebuyer23

    I'm looking at a 4 pack of the 4" EcoSmart Cree lights on Home depots website...Are these the best quality cost effective LED lights I can get right now and the ones you're referring to for most of this thread? Our electric is being wired this week for our kitchen/fam rm dr remodel....is this what I should tell my contractor I want all throughout?

    I read above someone doesn't want 2700...why is that, should I not get these??

    In addition to this kit, (which comes to about $40 per light), what else needs to be purchased to install these...just a can & a dimmer? about how much more does that cost?

    MY GC was charging us about $100 per recessed light (includes $50/labor & $50 for materials, and he was basing it on fluorescent not LED). He said LED would be much more expensive. But, I'm wondering... if these kits are only $40 each, how will the materials will cost that much more than the $50 standard lighting he was planning on...?

    Here is a link that might be useful: 4 pack eco4

  • calumin

    @homebuyer23 - yes those are the right ones. These lights come both with traditional Edison connectors (like regular light bulbs) and GU24 connectors (which are newer and mostly used if they are required by your city codes) -- make sure you get the right ones.

    Home Depot doesn't sell a can that works with this light. You have to buy that separately, probably online. There are two kinds of cans -- "retrofit" and "new construction" -- and refer to the way they are installed in your ceiling. Your contractor will know which ones you need. There are threads that say what cans are compatible with this light but Cree doesn't make one (they do for 6"). The Cree spec says a compatible can needs to be at least 3.5" tall and between 3.9" and 4.1" in inner diameter. Generally you want a can that is ICAT(insulation contact airtight). The can should cost $10-15 each.

    You should get a special LED or low-voltage dimmer. The link below shows a list of dimmers tested to be compatible with this light.

    Cree CR4 Dimmer Compatibility List

    Your contractor probably thinks LED is more expensive because the Home Depot Cree lights brought down the cost of LED substantially, and he's probably not aware of it.

  • homebuyer23

    thanks that is really helpful.

    Do you mean HD doesn't sell a can that works in the store but I can get it at HDonline? Or HD doesn't sell it anywhere and I'll have to find it online somewhere else?

    how do I know which connector type my twp requires? I guess I have to call them...

  • calumin

    @homebuyer23 -- you should ask at the store. When I bought mine, I needed a GU24 4" can which they didn't sell (either at the store or online), and the salespeople kept trying to sell me a full kit (light, trim, and can) from a different company instead.

    Most people use standard Edison connectors, but in some places (like where I live in CA) your city code might have more stringent energy compliance requirements, including using a GU24 connector.

  • susanlynn2012

    Homebuyer23, I am the one that likes 2,950K light that Halogens produce. I feel 2,700K light is too yellow.

    I held off doing my recessed lighting in the office hoping that CREE would come out with a 1,000 Lumen's 3,000K color temperature recessed light that is a retrofit but I see it has not. Reading all of the above and other posts from the prior year, I see that having a retrofit housing gives better light than a bulb as the spread is better and the heat in back of the lamp is not so trapped. Maybe I can live with the 2,700K and it is not as yellow and more of a whiter light than an incandescent bulb?

    I like the Phillips bulbs higher lumen's over 1,000 but their CRI is 82 and I fear the light would be trapped so maybe I am better with the CREE LR6 retrofit in the 2,700K for my home office despite only 800 lumen's?

    I can not take these torchiere lamps anymore as all of the CFL light is lighting up the ceiling and it is too dark on my desk.

    I am doing my floors over due to water damage from the pipe on my water heater bursting (have now a new water heater and all new water lines and a new pressure regulator that had failed) so the furniture will be moved out of the room and I thought it was a good time to call the electrician I chose who I like except he is pushing me to go with halogen.

    I LOVE the bright pretty light halogen bulbs give but it is hot in my kitchen from the hot lights if I am in there for any length of time so that would not be good for my home office. I need lights that will not get hot.

  • David

    Cree lights @ 3000k, 3500k and 4000k light color are available today from retailers other than Home Depot. 800lumens is quite a bit of light from a CR6. The retrofit housing is just a can. The important components are in the lamp.

  • susanlynn2012

    Davidtay, I did look at the link and try hard to find stores that have these bulbs but I could not. I will call Cree today and the phone number they give for Cree Sales Residential.

    I just measured the room that needs recessed lights and without the two foyer areas and not counting the connecting dining room that has a half a wall high and a half a wall long separating the home office (which is the living room) my room is 17' 8" long X 12' 2" wide. My kitchen has 6 recessed light in there that are supposed to be 900 Lumen's and it is not bright enough for me unless I put the 7th light on the sink on and that room is 14' long X 10' wide. I think I may need more than 6 recessed lights? My kitchen lights have very pretty color (Halogen Reveal but I should have went with the GE Halogen bulbs as the radius of light is not that wide on my bulbs creating areas with no light. The ceilings are 8 feet in these rooms that I am putting the recessed lights in.

    Maybe 800 Lumen's from a CR6 is better use of lumen's than the 900 lumen's from the Halogen bulb in my kitchen?

    Maybe 2,700K LED is a whiter cleaner light than Incandescent bulbs that are too yellow to me?

    I like the 90 CRI of the CREE. Philip's has LED bulbs with higher lumen's and more of the 3,000L I want but the CRI is 82 and they are bulbs they go in a can while I seem to like the one piece look of the CREE.

    Thank you Davidtay again for always helping us.

  • susanlynn2012

    Duplicated Post so I erased the duplicate as it was a long post and I can't seem to delete it. I installed Firefox and my problems of duplication I think have gone away.

    This post was edited by lynn2006 on Wed, Aug 7, 13 at 23:12

  • susanlynn2012

    Duplicated Post.....

    This post was edited by lynn2006 on Wed, Aug 7, 13 at 23:15

  • susanlynn2012

    My post would not post and it kept saying it was saved so I tried three times and then it said it could not post as I already replied. I now see that my post is showing up three times! I hope two get deleted as I can't figure out how to do this. If they are not deleted. I will edit the prior two repeated posts to say less.

  • susanlynn2012

    Duplicated Post.....

    This post was edited by lynn2006 on Wed, Aug 7, 13 at 23:19

  • susanlynn2012

    Gardenweb is having a problem. I only posted once and it said it would save it so I escaped and went to the home forum and clicked the lighting forum and saw that my post came up twice!

  • David

    Look at polar-ray.com for the lights.
    Led lamps like the cr6 have the led emitters facing the opening. Yes, more light will be available than from a conventional bulb placed inside a can.

  • susanlynn2012

    Thank you Davidtay for your advice and knowledge. I will go to the polar-ray.com site now to see what they have available. I really would like to get a cr6 and hope they have a 3,000K temperature available.

  • susanlynn2012

    TCP PRO LED PAR38 - 17 Watt - 3,000K - 40 Degree : TCP LED17E26P3830KFL seems to have the temperature I want and is 1,050 Lumens and is on sale at $30.99. I prefer the CREE but the ones with the temperature not being 2,700K are over $100 and I still have to install the cans so I think if I go with this bulb, prices of the CREE will eventually go down and I can then replace my kitchen lights with the CREE. The Cree is more energy efficient and has a wider spread of light.

    Is the TCP a decent bulb? If I put 6 - 9 of these in my office (not sure what I need yet), would this be good?

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