Yes you CAN

Retrofitting recessed lighting for LED is worth the effort

Story by Jeff Wilson | Photos by Sherri James

It seems like we just finished changing out our incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescents when new LED technology hit the shelves. At first, LEDs were expensive and delivered poor light quality. As the technology has matured, LEDs have dropped in price precipitously and the quality of light has improved dramatically.

Recessed “can” lights are often the last holdouts when it comes to switching to newer, more efficient lighting. We like the warm color of the incandescent and halogen bulbs and the way they respond to dimmers to create moods. The problem is, with sometimes dozens of recessed fixtures in a home, their inefficiencies add up to major losses of energy and comfort on several levels.

First, the old bulbs are inefficient due to the fact that they produce a lot of heat as they produce light, wasting energy and competing with air-conditioning. Second, the fixtures themselves are often un-sealed, leaking conditioned air into unconditioned spaces like attics. Last, when the lights are on, the inefficient bulbs heat the air around them, causing that air to rise, drawing even more conditioned air out of living spaces.

LED recessed lighting retrofits, while more expensive than new bulbs, offer excellent energy efficiency, light quality, dimmer compatibility, and very long life. At the same time, they integrate a new trim profile with a foam gasket that can reduce or eliminate problems of old, leaky fixtures. On top of that, they’re easy for any homeowner to install in minutes.

The integrated trim ring and foam gasket on a new LED recessed lighting retrofit helps seal the fixture when snapped in place | Photo by Sherri James

Quality LED recessed light retrofits are available at local home centers for under $15 each (and often much less when bought in multi-packs). Choose a retrofit with similar output in lumens to your old bulb. Select warm white, bright white, or daylight, depending on your preference. Also, go for LEDs with a color rendering index (CRI) over 85, which will give the best light quality.

Start with the power off to the recessed fixture. Remove the old bulb, then remove the trim ring by detaching the small springs that hold the trim ring to the ceiling. Since the LED retrofit includes a new, integrated trim ring, discard the old one. Screw the LED retrofit adapter into the old bulb socket and snap the wire harness to the LED. Push the LED retrofit gently into the recessed fixture until the foam gasket is snug between the trim ring and the ceiling. Small, flexible springs on the LED housing will hold the retrofit in place when you let go. It’s that easy.

If you’ve been putting off changing out your recessed lighting wait no longer. The latest LED retrofits offer better quality and big savings over old incandescent and halogen bulbs.

Jeff Wilson has hosted nearly 200 episode of HGTV, the DIY Network, and Public Television. He is also the author of The Greened House Effect: Renovating Your Home with a Deep Energy