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Glare makes me Grumpy. Best trim for recessed lights?

Mittens Cat
August 27, 2019
last modified: August 27, 2019

I've tried to educate myself on lumens, kelvin, etc., and we are set up for dimmer switches on 35 or so recessed lights (everywhere except master bedroom and living room). It's time to shop for the trimmings (I guess the proper word is "trim," but trimmings sound more fun and I could use more fun in this category).

I read through the recessed lighting guide below and my brain is agog with baffles, reflectors, diffusers, eyeballs and wall washers. Can anyone simplify the strategy a bit for my overloaded brain? And should I prepare myself (again!) for a shocking price tag in order to keep glare at bay? Or is there an easy on the budget method to guard from the glare (beyond dimmer switch).

Recessed Lighting Guide (by Del Mar Fans)

Current photo of cans floating in the R-30 insulation cloud (not sure why photo uploaded sideways but that seems apropos at the moment!).



Thanks!

Comments (68)

  • Mittens Cat

    Yes, thanks @RES 3d Sketches for all that info! I tip my hat to you....the hat I have long been wearing to all homes with glarey lighting! I hope I can hang it up forever when I finally move into this remodel.

  • PRO
    RES 3d Sketches

    These are the old catalogs:





    This the new catalog:



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  • Mittens Cat

    Yikes and OMG, my brain hurts! :)

  • PRO
    RES 3d Sketches

    If glare is bothersome I don't recommend installing line voltage recessed housings and then installing shallow LED retrofit kits but some people like the look of the bright LED lens even though it has a shallow cutoff angle and is quite visible from across a room.

    If that is accptable, you might as well install surface mounted LED fixtures that look very similar. They cost about $40 and mount to a j-box.





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  • Mittens Cat

    We had to install fire sprinklers inside and out (nice surprise there), so we'll have a galaxy of little white circles all over the ceiling. I'm guessing some artsy type has figured out a way to turn these into something fun and whimsical, though. Maybe a bunch of happy faces smiling down on me will be just the thing to cheer me up when I really start feeling the financial impact of this project! :-D

  • PRO
    RES 3d Sketches

    You can't cover or paint the cover of a recessed sprinkler head without voiding its warranty and possibly interfering with its ability to sense a rapid rise in temperature in the room.

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  • PRO
    Virgil Carter Fine Art

    A significant design consideration is whether or not one likes and desires to see the light sources in a home, or not.


    If having a large number of visible light sources, and the issues that creates, is not a problem, then the fixtures might as well be surface mounted.


    Recessed fixtures owe their existence to the concept of illuminating areas and objects, while keeping the light source from view.


    As RES has summarized, over time many recessed fixtures have come on the market with a very shallow cut -off angle (the lamp is located at the lower edge of the housing opening) making them visible throughout the space. There is very little difference in these "recessed" fixtures and surface mounted fixtures.


    Thus, it has become important to match preferred lighting concept with fixture type.

  • Mittens Cat

    @RES 3d Sketches I was just joshing about painting them.

    I visited the remodel today and was surprised to see most of the cans are 4" not 6". Hoping that will help a bit in the glare aspect (at least from across the room)?

  • PRO
    RES 3d Sketches

    4" is good. But to get specific design advice you must give us specific information. Until you post the manufacturer and model number of the housings, the ceiling heights and where they are located no one can tell you what the available trims will look like.

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  • Mittens Cat

    @RES 3d Sketches, alas, I tried to get that info yesterday but my GC could not remember off hand and didn't have the paperwork handy (and the ceiling's now closed). I have a foggy memory it started with an "N" and Nora is local to us, so there are my leading clues thus far, LOL. I just emailed Nora's tech dept. with these pics to see if they can figure it out. I appreciate the continued insights!

    As for location of lights, I'll post an overview a little later. Thanks!




  • PRO
    RES 3d Sketches

    if you turn the original photo you can see "NORA" stamped on the bottom of the housing.



    The only 4" Nora "Insulation Contact" housing I can find is this one:



    It uses a small line voltage GU10 high intensity lamp.

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  • Mittens Cat

    @RES 3d Sketches, nice detective work! Thanks! Apparently GC purchased some other brand(s) as well. Trying to get to the bottom of this mystery... I was so consumed with flooring and vanities and cabinets the past many months, I forgot to look up and notice the stuff above!

  • PRO
    RES 3d Sketches

    Here are the trims for the Nora 4" Line Voltage housings.

    I prefer the haze reflector (HZ) and am curious about the Deep Cone Reflector NL-432 HZW

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  • Mittens Cat

    Thanks @RES 3d Sketches!!! Very much appreciate the legwork!


    Also, re your comment: "It uses a small line voltage GU10 high intensity lamp." High intensity sounds a little scary-glarey, but hopefully the dimmers will save me from going bonkers!

  • PRO
    RES 3d Sketches

    These lamps have internal reflectors that direct and focus light out of the recessed fixture and on to task surfaces and walls which if the primary purpose of recessed lighting so they're great. Glare comes from seeing the lamp not the light it throws on surfaces.

    The beam spread angle can be: narrow (less than 10 deg.), spot, narrow flood, flood and wide flood (greater than 50 deg.).

    The halogen GU10 lamps are available in 20w, 35w and 50w sizes so you reduce their power. They are also available in LED.

    Lamp choice may seem challenging but you can buy a few kinds and try them until you find what you like. The lamps insert and lock with a twist. Use thin gloves to avoid fingerprints on the lamps.



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  • PRO
    Virgil Carter Fine Art

    It's important to note that the beam spread also depends on the amount to which the lamp is recessed (or not) in the fixture housing. As RES suggests, trial and error is probably your best technique for choosing lamps.


    Be sure and make notes of the chosen lamps once you have what you want. They don't burn out often, but you will need to know what to replace if/when they fail.

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  • Mittens Cat

    OK, apologies for the goose chase, but I climbed a ladder to check the fine print and here's what we've got (though most of the remodel, at least): Nora NHIC 4LMRAT I hope this is good news?

    Inside, it says: "Use only with classified LED retrofit kit trim(s) suitable for Type IC housing with overall dimensions: 4-1/32 in. (10.24 cm) dia by 5 1/2 inches (13.97 cm) deep." I hope that's not bad news!

    Fun fact: made in Korea

  • PRO
    RES 3d Sketches

    The retrofit LED lights that were designed to fit in an existing recessed housing (replacing the old incandescent trim) were so popular and profitable that manufacturers are now making new construction housings that only take retrofit trim.

    The NORA trim that fits your housing (in the order of very approximate retail prices) are:

    IOLITE $90 - 100

    PRISM $70 - 90

    COBALT $50 - 60

    ONYX $25 - 35

    Prices will be different depending on contractor discounts and markups.











    Design choices:

    1) reflector vs grooved baffle interior cone

    2) finish of reflector cone, if selected (I prefer haze but its only available on the COBALT)

    3) fixed or adjustable beam angle (IOLITE: small gimbal & nice cone regress, COBALT: elbow, ONYX (big gimbal - not for everyone)

    4) some have a deeply recessed light source: IOLITE: Cone Regress & Bullnose Regress

    The least deep are in the ONYX series.

    5) Strength of light output: the low end models are about 650 Lm and the high end models are as much as 1000 Lm.

    6) color of light (in degrees Kelvin) The PRISM light color can be adjusted from your cell phone or wall switch and can even be red blue or yellow and can apparently change with the music. You must choose a color temperature for the others. Most people like 2700K but some like 3000k. You can see a demonstration at any lighting store.

    7) LED source: The more expensive LED lights have more sophisticated drivers made by CREE and have COB (chips on board) LEDs instead of SMD (surface mounted diodes) LEDs. That's the case for COBALT and I think for IOLITE too. The COB LEDs produce a broader, softer, more diffuse light than the SMD LEDs. The ONYX uses Samsung SMD's.

    You pretty much get what you pay for.

    If you don't need them to be adjustable (angled light beam), I recommend the COBALT with a Haze reflector (HZW) but the white Baffle is OK too; it depends entirely on they look to you.

    For an adjustable light at kitchen counters and to light walls (if they are close enough to the counters and walls) I would take a look at the IOLITE Cone Regress in haze (HW) or a COBALT Adjustable Elbow.

    PS: Since the Cone Regress so so expensive, I guess I could simply recommend any the COBALT fixtures.

    Below is the IOLITE Cone Regress in a metal finish instead of haze and white (HW)



    Below is the COBALT Deep Reflector with the CREE COB light engine. (lens is higher and smaller). Use this where you don't want glare. Its available with a Haze reflector finish (HZW).



    Below is the ONYX version with the Samsung SMD LEDs (lens is lower and larger) no haze finish so the white grooved Baffle is probably better but this is a light fixture for those who are not afraid of a concentrated bright light source (glare) so the white reflector would be a little cleaner and more modern.



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  • Mittens Cat

    @RES 3d Sketches, you are amazing!

  • PRO
    Virgil Carter Fine Art

    Yep, this is a ton of valuable information from RES.

  • myrica4

    The alzak reflectors have been amazing. There is a big difference in glare from where we used black baffle vs black alzak.


    For a basement entry hall we have 4 recessed lights - 3 are black alzak and 1 has a black baffle that was added later (we didn’t put alzak on it thinking it would not be that noticeable, it was still black). The alzak ones are almost invisible, the one without alzak really stands out as a bright glaring hole.

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  • Mittens Cat

    @myrica4, thanks for chiming in. ALZAK? sounds like a character from Mork & Mindy. :) You got my attention! I don't see it listed as an option for our cans, though, alas.

  • Mittens Cat

    @RES 3d Sketches, just occurred to me. Will it be weird/unsightly if we were to splurge on some (main living area) but go cheaper on others (closets)? No shock, we're way over budget so looking for cost cutters. But lighting is important to me and bad lighting (at least as my eyes see it) makes me nuts, so...I guess I can justify higher costs. Obvously glad this is something we can always adjust after move in (and return kits and bulbs, hopefully).

  • PRO
    Virgil Carter Fine Art

    I would be consistent throughout all of the house's primary or public spaces.


    Garages, closets, pantry, even laundry are another thing, and if you need to economize, these are the places.

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  • PRO
    RES 3d Sketches

    These LED fixtures don’t use bulbs; there all one piece with the trim. Whether or not you can exchange them may depend on who buys them and where. Buy a few of each and try them out; they’re easy to install and remove.
    But first find out what they actually cost. You’re getting ahead of yourself.
    Without seeing your lighting layout I can’t recommend where the cheaper ones can go. I wouldn’t use a recessed light in a closet. For the more expensive ones try an elbow at walls and counters. Use the deep recessed ones in large living spaces or where you spend time.
    In my experience, good integral LED fixtures start at $140 so the Cobalt CREE COB fixtures are an incredible bargain.
    How tall are the ceilings?

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  • PRO
    RES 3d Sketches

    The $140 fixtures would cost about the same as the Cobalt except the LED integral light engine costs an additional $90. It’s all about the quality of the light and not everyone can tell the difference. But you shouldn’t buy any of these fixtures until you’ve seen them in a showroom. You’re the only one who needs to like them.
    Next time I’m at my supplier I’ll take a look.

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  • PRO
    RES 3d Sketches

    Alzak is Alcoa's tradename for a method of anodizing aluminum with a mirror-like finish. In casual speech it is sometimes used as a generic term for brightened, anodized aluminum. When another brand is used, manufacturers usually call it "specular". Some common colors are clear, black, gold and white.

    Highly reflective cones are normally used with lamps (bulbs) that do not have an internal reflector. There wold be little purpose for them with PAR, R and MR lamps or for LED fixtures so the Nora retrofit LED fixtures that fit your housings don't have any polished aluminum reflectors but they do have some reflectors that are black, bronze, copper, diffused clear, and haze (matte). The diffused clear and haze cones are strikingly beautiful.

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  • myrica4

    We use the alzak reflectors with LED bulbs, set as deep as possible into the housing. With @ 20 fixtures the glare was uncomfortable and distracting. It is sometimes hard to tell if the lights are on at all by looking at the ceiling yet the area below is well lit. I prefer to minimize recessed lighting in a drywall ceiling, but had no choice for a large basement that needed considerable general lighting. I don’t notice a difference in the amount of light hitting the floor from the regular baffles vs alzak, the effect is on the ceiling plane, cutting back on a grid of glaring fixtures.


    Here is a basement hall pic, the lights do not show at the ceiling when on:


    ...Vs this pic where one light has a regular black baffle & shows up as a bright spot., the light over the stair landing has alzak and is hard to see the light source.




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  • scottie mom

    Following. Amazing summary by @RES 3d Sketches thank you!!

  • PRO
    RES 3d Sketches

    For LED fixtures the primary benefit of a highly reflective Alzac reflector cone, and the reason they can be dark colors, is the optical effect of the ellipsoidal cone. The most common Alzak colors are black and clear but the same reflector shape is commonly available in white, haze and diffuse which look better in a white ceiling.

    The ultimate in reduced ceiling brightness is Juno's new LED hyperbolic cone in all the above finishes.

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  • myrica4

    Definitely would use one of the other colors on a white ceiling. I believe the black alzak ones used in the basement to cut glare were from Juno a few years ago. We used their traditional 6” housing to be able to switch out led bulbs and reflectors for effect down there, instead of the one-piece units we are using elsewhere.

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  • PRO
    RES 3d Sketches

    A replaceable medium base LED lamp is designed to screw into an existing recessed fixture that was designed for halogen or fluorescent lamps. These retrofit lamps have a miniature driver in their base. It’s the combination of the least effective design ideas and has none of the advantages of a fixture designed for a full sized integral LED driver.
    Hopefully the CREE COB designs will drop enough in price that they will become the new standard.

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  • PRO
    RES 3d Sketches

    My concern is that Ideal, the new owner of Cree, will not maintain the original company’s standards.

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  • Mittens Cat

    Wow, soooo much to learn! Who knew! (Well, you people do--thank you for sharing your expertise! Hoping my brain can keep it all straight.)

    @myrica4, that is an amazing photo comparison. I would love not to see any light coming out of my ceiling, that's just how light-irritable I've become! :) FWIW, nearly all our ceilings will be drywalled. I notice your hall ceiling here is black, which makes sense that you'd want black trim, yes?

    (Now starting to think about paint color and wondering if there are special glare-reducing paints as well??)

    So, Labor Day Weekend sales...wondering if I should set Google sale alerts on diffused, haze or CREE COB--or is that wishful thinking? (And confused thinking, no doubt!)

  • PRO
    RES 3d Sketches

    Are you buying the trims yourself?
    Obviously dark colors absorb light but that’s not your goal I hope.

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  • Mittens Cat

    @RES 3d Sketches our GC does not charge us a percentage on materials, so we somewhat share the shopping duties. He'd be happy doing it himself, I'm sure, but I try to keep my hand in the things that are most important to me. The learning curve is steep but hopefully I'm making some decent choices--inspired to a large extent by input from Houzz Pros like yourself. :)


    I'm such a newb, I didn't really realize the light absorption issue of dark vs light colors until a few months ago. Which is one of the reasons I just decided to give in to white quartz in the kitchen (to balance walnut cabinets) and white tile in most of the bathrooms. Thanks for the reminder!


  • PRO
    RES 3d Sketches

    You need to see these fixture first. And your electrician should agree they are compatible for the housings and the combination can be in contact with insulation.

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  • Mittens Cat

    Thanks, will do! My brother in law is a retired electrician. Bouncing things off of him, too (though I doubt he's kept up on all the specifics!).

  • PRO
    RES 3d Sketches

    Will your electrician not be involved in the purchase of the trims? Are you the project GC ?

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  • Mittens Cat

    Electrician bro in law happy to jump in with advice if/when necessary, but he doesn't keep up on all the tech (and doesn't seem to care much about glare!),

    GC is leading the project (our architect is onto bigger projects). I'm just the homeowner trying to keep up while writing the checks.

  • Mittens Cat

    Sorry, we don't have a set strategy on that. But I'll probably tell him what I'd prefer and then he'll do the purchasing (especially if there's a contractor discount).

  • PRO
    RES 3d Sketches

    Its best if your electrician buys the trims or lets you use his discount at his supplier. Just because your GC won't markup the prices doesn't mean the electrician won't.

    In any case, you need accurate prices for the trims and that's very hard to do online. If the wrong trims were delivered or were defective then or later, you would be the one taking the hit. [The only building materials I ever ordered online were PVC downspouts and its been over 2 months and I haven't seen them yet. It turns out they were made in Denmark and had to be shipped through Canada to SC and then to MA]

    The next thing to do is to find the best local supplier, go see the fixtures in the showroom and get real prices. Maybe that will involve more than one supplier. Until that happens you are spinning your wheels.

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  • Mittens Cat

    OK thanks! GC does his own electrical and has a favorite local little guy supplier, but not sure how many options they carry in regard to lighting.


    I started by visiting three local lighting stores and asking questions, but it seemed they all started with the phrase, "And you'll be purchasing from us, right?" I get kind of flustered by sales pressure, which is why I ended up Houzzing once again. I hadn't even thought about shopping for lighting online until I went to some of the links you posted! :)

  • PRO
    RES 3d Sketches

    I can’t believe anyone would ask if you would be buying from them. Tell them only if their price is better. Make them earn you business

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  • PRO
    RES 3d Sketches

    Go to a lighting supplier and tell them you are interested in the Nora Cobalt and Onyx series.
    If they have them in their showroom, turn them on and off and dim them. It helps to bring a 3’x3’ white foamcore board to see how the adjustable ones look when tilted toward a wall. Take notes.
    Then get written prices for the ones you like.
    Then go to another supplier.
    Then ask your GC’s supplier for prices.

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  • Mittens Cat

    Great strategy. Will do, thanks!

    [my reply to message earlier]

    @RES 3d Sketches, thank you! I was kind of stunned the first time I heard this, and I quickly left. But then I heard the same at other stores (tile stores as well). I can see where they're coming from if they're a little indie store trying to stay alive, but still. I am not giving my business to jerks. (Well, I probably am somewhere along the supply line, but not knowingly!)

    Back to lighting: we visited a friend's recent remodel last night and the lighting was a horror show. Bare bulb compact fluorescents all over the house! Yikes! My brain still hurts.

    p.s. still trying to find our lighting plan!

  • PRO
    RES 3d Sketches

    There's no place for fluorescent lamps in a house. If you already have some find where your city requires them to be safely disposed.

    Often a lighting store will suspect that your electrician is going to buy from another supplier and that you are coming to them to see the fixtures in their showroom and get their advice. If you intend to buy the fixtures yourself and already know the brand and have narrowed it down to a few models, they should treat you well even if you are shopping at other stores. They just want a fair chance to sell to you.

    The same goes for tile.

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  • Mittens Cat

    I finally got my eyeballs to a local lighting store that has a recessed light installation. Was very sad to see the two most glaring lights in their display were Nora---Colbalt and Onyx. :( The saleswoman wasn't all that sure which was which or whether there were any other options. (At the time, I couldn't remember the other names RES 3d Sketches suggested: IOLITE and PRISM.) This morning, I called Nora and spoke with a very patient and helpful techie there who gave me some other suggestions.

    I am gulping at the price of the IOLITEs but I guess a glare-hater has to do what a glare-hater has to do!

  • Mittens Cat

    Update: I stopped in a specialty lighting store and was helped by someone who seemed to really know his stuff (not that I am a great judge of that), so I'll probably have him do an in-home consultation--$160. With our kitchen cabinets now installed (and the walnut veneer coming out more yellow than I hoped), I'm suddenly considering lighting above 2700K in the kitchen as I hear that might help lower the yellow somewhat?

  • Mittens Cat

    I'm guessing this might make lighting experts cringe, but someone on another thread suggested these $20 trims (link below) that supposedly offer a range of light options so one can experiment before deciding on which kind of light works best in each room. Wondering what you experts think? Is it worth a try, @RES 3d Sketches, @myrica4, et al?

    (This suggestion came up when I asked how best to tone down the yellow in my new walnut kitchen cabinets.)

    4 in 1 Selectable LED trim for $20

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