In almost every room of the house, we use both general lighting and task lighting. One room where many of us particularly want to provide both types of lighting is the kitchen.
General lighting is the illumination we use to light up the whole area, to help us walk around and find our way to specific areas and additional light sources.Task lighting is the lighting we use to clearly see something we are doing. Reading lamps and desk lamps are two examples.
Most often, these days, general lighting is provided by overhead electrical fixtures. In the kitchen, these can be one of three types — recessed fixtures, surface fixtures and pendant fixtures. Each has its pros and cons, and many kitchens have more than one of the types.
Recessed lights disappear into the ceiling and help preserve a sense of openness and space. Many people also prefer them because they seem to need less cleaning. They might be a good choice for those reasons, particularly if your kitchen is under a finished room.
Recessed lights, however, require enough open space above the ceiling for the housing to be fitted in. This means that the ceiling joists limit the locations where you can install a recessed light.
Plumbing and wiring can also interfere with the installation of recessed lights, particularly if your kitchen is below an upstairs bathroom. And, because recessed lights are above the face of the ceiling, they do not illuminate broad areas. It will take several of them to provide full general illumination for the average kitchen.
If your kitchen has an unfinished, insulated attic above it, the good news is that you can use the less expensive and easier-to-install recessed lights that are made to be used in new construction. The bad news is that there are additional challenges to installing these fixtures.Recessed lighting fixtures that are both AT and IC are more expensive than similar fixtures that are not. A recessed light housing that will be in an attic needs to be both air tight (AT) and insulation compatible (IC), so that it will not serve as an exhaust vent for your home’s warm air during heating season, and will not become hot enough, on its outer surface, to damage any insulation that comes in contact with it.
Starting in the 1980s, recessed light fixtures became the norm for general kitchen lighting. But within the last ten years this has started to change as people realized that the combination of the ceiling penetrations and the greater number of fixtures needed make this type of lighting potentially less efficient than either surface or pendant fixtures.
Two trends have emerged since then. One is that the manufacturers have been redesigning recessed fixtures to be much more efficient The other is electricians and homeowners have been leaving the kitchen ceiling closed, and mounting the light fixtures either on or under it.