How do you finish a basement if you’re not sure what type of recessed lighting to buy?
In this post I will tell you exactly what to buy to install recessed lights in your basement. Plus, how you can save $24.19 per light. For my basement, with 30 recessed light fixtures, that’s $725.00. Would you like 725 dollars? Of course you would!
My eyes are tired and my fingers are sore. Why? Because I’ve been scouring the inter-webs researching LED lighting for finishing your basement. This is by far my most researched article ever. Good thing, because this stuff is crazy complicated.
First some back story. When I finished my basement a couple of years ago I did not put in LED recessed lighting. The price and features just weren’t all there.
But now, in 2013, I strongly recommend LED lighting for your basement. I’ll have a separate article on the exact details but the price, features and benefits are all here, it’s time. DO NOT buy anything but LED.
What do you need to buy?
Just LED bulbs (what type)?
What about the can enclosures?
What about light switches?
Let’s get it on!
Can Enclosures – Recessed Housing
The housing is the metal piece that gets nailed to your floor joists. It holds the wiring junction and the socket connection. I recommend the HALO 6″ recessed lighting housing – which runs about $6.78 per can at Home Depot.
Home Depot also features LED lighting “kits” with integrated housing, bulb and trim. I’m not recommending those, more on that in a minute. If you prefer 5″, that’s good too. I wouldn’t go much small than 5″.
The can enclosure is not bulb specific. LED, Incandescent, CFL… doesn’t matter. Leroy at the Home Depot was very helpful in clarifying this. The integrated kits are about the bulb and the trim – not the can.
The Light Bulb
LED, LED, LED. If you buy incandescent (you know, the kind invented like a hundred years ago by Benjamin Franklin) then I will not speak to you, I refuse. Do not buy CFL (the swirly kind that looks like an ice cream cone). Do not buy fluorescent (the long tubes) unless you’re setting up a workshop.
5 Things You Need to Know About LED bulbs:
- The light color is now very good. You can get “soft white”. I hate with a passion those “blue-white” LED bulbs. That’s fixed now. Look for “warm” or “soft” white.
- They are now dimmable. Buy bulbs that say “dimmable” LED
- They aren’t crazy expensive – I bought some at Costco for $15 a piece, use to be $40. Home Depot sells them for about $21.
- The light is diffused and gradual. The beam used to be narrow and tight, it looked weird, now they’re much better.
- They last a long time, they’re durable (won’t break due to footsteps above you), they use a lot less energy and put off a lot less heat.
The picture above is exactly what I buy – they’re great! Couldn’t find that price online but here’s the same bulb on Amazon, still a better price than HD or Lowes.
LED Dimmer Switches (better Aks somebody !)
If you’ve been reading this blog then you know what I’m about to say.
Wait for it… Wait….
Plan to install dimmers switches for most of your rooms. Only place I didn’t was the furnace and storage room.
You need to buy LED dimmer switches. NOT a regular incandescent dimmer switch. The LED dimmer switches are engineered for LED dimmable light bulbs.
A regular dimming light switch can dim a dimmable LED bulb… but, there may be problems… Here some of the common ones.
- A non LED dimmer switch can’t dim the LED bulb low enough. Maybe only dims it to 20% instead of 5% or 1%
- Drop outs – a regular switch might cause the LED bulb to turn off if you dim it to low.
- Humming noise - I hate that freakin humming noise. It makes me puke. A regular switch might cause the humming noise in the bulb when the light is dimmed.
- Lights won’t come on – LED bulbs need a certain load to turn on. If your whole room is LED bulbs the regular dimming switch won’t work. An LED rated dimming switch will handle the low load. (Read more on that here if you want.)
Look. You can spend about 2 hours researching if you want or you can take my word for it. LED dimmable switch – that is what you want. Available on Amazon - Dimmable LED Switch. Don’t get confused. You want and LED dimmer, not a dimmer with an LED light indicator (two different things)
UPDATE: Just got back from a little field trip to the ‘Po. Saw something there that I have to mention.
$.69 cent light switches. As in plain ol’ regular switches, for 69 cents.
Don’t take my dimmer recommendation as an absolute necessity. If you are scrimpin’ every dollar – buy these 69 cent switches.
They won’t dim, obviously, but they work just fine. LED Dimmer – $20+ bucks. Regular light switch .69 cent. If you have 5 or 6 rooms that’s a hundred bucks plus McDonald’s money. You can put in LED dimmer switches later.
Recessed Lighting Trim
Once you have the housing, a bulb and a switch you just need one more piece…. The trim. This is almost purely aesthetic.
The trim or baffle is the piece that makes the light look good. It goes on at the very end – after drywall and after painting.
The only functional part of the trim is that it does reflect light in different ways – like a reflective metal trim versus a white matte trim. It’s really personal and situational preference.
Save $700 in Lighting When You Finish Your Basement !
Now for the cost savings…. A full LED integrated 5″ recessed light kit at Home Depot was running at $56.97 as of Jan. 2013. The kit has the housing, the LED bulb and the trim. (no switch).
I almost was going to recommend it but it’s very expensive for very little additional value. I searched everywhere online and couldn’t find it for less than the Home Depot price.
Soooo instead I recommend buying the components separately.
If you buy the components separately, you can save roughly $25 per light.
- Halo can enclosure – 7.47.
- White baffle trim – 9.99.
- LED light bulb – 15.99.
All of these you can also buy at Home Depot. There is little to no time saved by buying the integrated kit.
30 cans in basement x $25 savings = $700. Instead you can buy that toilet with the heated seat and remote control!
Finish a Basement with Recessed LED Lighting
I hope that helps. I strongly recommend the LED light bulbs and dimmable LED light switches. To save about $725 buy the components separately rather than as a kit.
If you’re like me and your basement already has regular light bulbs and regular dimmer switches don’t despair. Whenever one burns out replace it with an LED bulb. And when you’re fed up with any issue the switch may be causing – swap it out with an LED rated switch.
That’s what I’m doing, about half of my regular bulbs have burned out or (more likely) broken.
Cheers – Jason