How Many Kitchen Recessed Lights Do I Need?

When calculating the amount of recessed lighting fixtures you require, you need to take into consideration the square footage to be illuminated and the angle of the light pattern projected by each fixture, which depends on the type of bulbs you are using. The height of the ceiling is a third variable, but you can often compensate for a higher ceiling using slick bulbs, not adding more of them.

Bulb Identification

Recessed lighting bulbs are usually identified by one of four sets of letters followed by two numbers. The letters describe the form of the bulb, and options include PAR — parabolic aluminized reflector; BR — bulged reflector; MR — multifaceted reflector and R — reflector. The numbers indicate the bulb diameter in eights of an inch. As an example, the amount 30 means that the arc diameter is 30/8, or 3 3/4 inches in diameter. The most frequent bulbs are PAR and BR lights; PAR bulbs are far concentrated and will be the better option for fixtures.

Use an Online Calculator

Besides a measurement of the flooring area, you also need to understand the angle of the projected light in the fittings you intend on using. This angle is usually given on the packaging, but, otherwise, use a default angle of 55 degrees for BR-type bulbs. Plug these numbers into an internet calculator, like the one available at, which saves you the trouble of creating the detailed mathematical calculations yourself. The calculator requires the type of room you intend to light into consideration, which is difficult to do yourself.

A Sample Calculation

To perform the calculation, you have to assess the width and length of the kitchen and then convert the numbers to ins. If your kitchen is 25 feet long by 20 feet wide, that’s 300 ins by 240 inches. You’ll also have to assess the height of the ceiling in feet. In case your 20-by-25-foot kitchen includes 9-foot ceilings, then you will need 18 to 20 BR-type lights. A 10-by-10-foot kitchen, on the other hand, would require only four bulbs.

Placement Pointers

Although PAR-type bulbs are best used outside, they are sometimes recommended for ceilings greater than 16 feet. Even though they have a tighter beam, you don’t need more of them because they’re brighter. Once you understand the number of bulbs you require, you can decide on a pattern that best illuminates the space. The layout doesn’t have to be rotating — a concentric circular or triangular arrangement frequently works better than the usual rectangular pattern.

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