Do Recessed Lights Use A Lot Of Electricity?

Do recessed lights use a lot of electricity?

With energy costs on the rise and climate change an increasing concern, many homeowners are looking for ways to reduce their home energy use. One area that often gets overlooked is lighting. While recessed lights can provide attractive and customizable lighting options, they tend to be far less efficient than many other lighting choices. This article will examine whether recessed lights use a lot of electricity compared to alternatives, and provide tips on how to add recessed lighting while minimizing energy costs.

Types of Recessed Lights

There are several main types of recessed lights to choose from:

Downlights: These are the most common type of recessed lighting. Downlights shine light straight down from the ceiling and are ideal for providing overall ambient lighting or accent lighting. They come in different beam spreads, from narrow spotlights to wide floodlights (according to Home Depot guide in [1]).

Directional lights: As the name suggests, these recessed lights point the light in a specific direction. They are adjustable and can be aimed to highlight architectural features or art pieces ([2]).

Wall washers: Wall washers distribute light evenly across a wall. They feature a wide, one-sided lens and are placed close to the wall.

Wattage of Recessed Lights

Recessed lights are available in a range of wattages, typically from 40 watts up to 100 watts or more. The wattage indicates how much electricity the light bulb uses and determines the brightness output.

Standard incandescent recessed lights often come in 75 watt or 100 watt options, which provide enough light for most indoor spaces (Source). Higher wattage incandescent bulbs up to 150 watts can be used in some housings for extra brightness. LED and CFL recessed lighting is also available in equivalent wattages, such as a 9-13 watt LED bulb to replace a 75 watt incandescent.

It’s important to choose an appropriate wattage bulb that matches the specifications of the recessed lighting fixture. Using a bulb with too high of a wattage can generate excessive heat and be a fire hazard (Source). Most housings have a recommended maximum wattage rating that should not be exceeded.

Cost to Run Recessed Lights

The cost to run recessed lights depends on several factors, most notably the wattage of the lights, how many hours per day they are used, and the cost per kWh in your area. Here’s a closer look at each of these factors:

The average wattage for recessed lights ranges from about 25 watts for LED models up to 100 watts or more for less efficient incandescent and halogen models. The typical range is 25-75 watts. Newer LED recessed lights use the least energy.

Most homeowners use recessed lighting about 5-6 hours per day on average. Usage may be higher in kitchens, bathrooms, and living spaces and lower in hallways, closets, and bedrooms.

The average residential cost per kWh in the U.S. is around 12 cents, but this varies significantly by state and region. Some parts of California and New England have rates over 20 cents per kWh.

By combining these factors, you can estimate the daily and monthly cost to run recessed lights. For example, six 50-watt recessed lights used 5 hours per day at an electricity rate of 12 cents per kWh would cost around 15 cents per day or $4.50 per month to run.

Recessed vs. Other Lighting

When compared to other common lighting options like track, pendant, and surface mounted fixtures, recessed lights tend to use more electricity for a few reasons:

First, recessed cans are normally fitted with medium to high wattage bulbs ranging from 50W to 100W. This allows recessed lights to put out adequate lumens to light a room effectively. Meanwhile, track and pendant lights often use lower wattage bulbs since they are mounted lower in a room and don’t have to light as large of an area. For example, many pendant fixtures use 40W bulbs or less.

Additionally, recessed lighting is intended to be used in greater quantity than other fixtures in order to properly light a space. While you may only need 2-3 pendant lights over an island or dining table, most kitchens require 6 or more recessed cans for sufficient overall illumination. More fixtures equals more electricity used.

Lastly, recessed lights are built into the ceiling which can allow escaping air from the home to enter the fixture and diminish energy efficiency. Track and pendant lighting does not have this weakness since they do not cut into the insulation barrier of the ceiling. One source suggests sealing recessed lighting to prevent air leaks can reduce energy costs by up to 30% (Kompulsa).

In summary, the quantity, wattage per bulb, and potential for air leaks makes recessed lighting generally less efficient than track, pendant, and surface mounted fixtures in most cases. Care should be taken if choosing recessed lighting to ensure energy efficiency is maintained.

Energy Efficient Options

When choosing recessed lighting, going with energy efficient options like LED and CFL bulbs can reduce energy usage and costs. LED bulbs in particular are extremely energy efficient for recessed lighting.

According to How To Make Your Recessed Lighting Energy Efficient, “With LED bulbs, you can be sure that you’ll get the most energy-efficient recessed lighting possible, as LED bulbs require up to 90% less energy than incandescent lighting and last 25 times longer than halogen bulbs.”

CFL bulbs, while not as efficient as LEDs, do use about 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs according to the Guide to Lighting for Building Interiors. This makes them another good energy saving option to consider.

Halogen bulbs are not very energy efficient for recessed lighting. The Guide to Lighting for Building Interiors notes that halogens are only slightly more efficient than incandescents.

By choosing LED or CFL recessed lighting, significant energy savings can be achieved while still providing high quality lighting.

Lighting Controls

Lighting controls like occupancy sensors and dimmers can help recessed lights use less electricity. Occupancy sensors detect motion and automatically turn lights on when a room is occupied and off when vacant. This prevents lights from wasting energy when no one is around to need them. Studies show that occupancy sensors can reduce lighting electricity use by 30-90% in indoor spaces that have intermittent occupancy

Dimmers allow recessed lights to be adjusted to lower light levels that are suitable for the task at hand. This avoids using 100% lighting when only 50% or less is needed. Dimming recessed lighting by just 10% can save about 4% on lighting electricity use Using dimmers in combination with occupancy sensors provides even greater savings by automatically dimming lights when vacant.

Home Energy Use

Lighting accounts for a significant portion of energy consumption in homes. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, U.S. households consumed an average of 1,105 kilowatthours (kWh) of electricity for lighting in 2015, which was about 10% of total household electricity usage. The percentage of home energy devoted to lighting has decreased over time. In 1993, lighting accounted for about 15% of household electricity consumption.

The amount of energy used for lighting depends on the number and type of lighting fixtures and bulbs. Incandescent bulbs are generally the most energy intensive options. LED and CFL bulbs use significantly less electricity. The usage patterns and lighting controls also impact energy consumption. Lights that are left on unnecessarily waste energy.

Reducing Costs

There are several ways homeowners can reduce the costs associated with recessed lighting.

Buying Guide

When shopping for new recessed lights, look for ENERGY STAR certified models which are designed to be at least 75% more efficient than standard models. Choose LED bulbs which last 25 times longer and use up to 90% less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs (Source). Dimming capabilities can also reduce energy usage.

Energy Audit

Many utility companies offer free or low-cost energy audits to analyze your home’s energy efficiency. They can identify areas for improvement like old lighting and provide rebates on upgrades (Source).


Check with your utility provider and local government for rebates on installing energy efficient recessed lighting and other upgrades. The rebates can significantly offset the upfront costs of new lighting (Source).


In summary, recessed lighting can use more electricity than other lighting options, but the exact amount depends on the type of bulbs used. Standard incandescent recessed lights use the most energy, while LED and CFL versions are much more efficient. The number of recessed fixtures in a home also affects overall energy use and costs. There are ways to reduce the energy consumption of recessed lights, such as installingfixtures with built-in LEDs, using dimmers and smart technology controls, limiting use to only necessary times, and switching to more energy efficient bulbs and options where possible. Overall, recessed lighting provides an attractive, versatile way to illuminate a space, but being mindful of energy efficiency is important for both cost and environmental reasons.

To reduce your energy use and costs from recessed lighting, consider an energy audit and look for LED or CFL replacements where appropriate. Also explore options like dimmers, timers, and smart controls. With some adjustments, you can enjoy the benefits of recessed lighting while also maintaining energy efficiency.

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