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Kicking the Can

First introduced in the 1950s, recessed lighting or “can lighting” is still a popular choice for residential and commercial lighting. Traditionally, these fixtures consist of a cylindrical or square-shaped metal housing that extends above the ceiling so only the trim or baffle is visible on the ceiling surface. A lamp or bulb is screwed into a socket mounted inside the top of the housing. When switched on, the fixture provides a streamlined and unobtrusive appearance that complements various interior design styles.

Despite these benefits, recessed can lights have a reputation for being inefficient. Though they can be fitted with an energy-efficient LED bulb, many still use less-efficient incandescent bulbs. Recessed fixtures with housing that is not sealed can also lose costly heated or cooled air from the space below. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, these energy losses can account for up to 50% of a ceiling’s total thermal loss. Though customers can install a more expensive, sealed can light or retrofit existing fixtures with seals, they now have another choice: canless recessed lights.

Canless recessed lighting refers to a type of fixture installed directly into the ceiling. They do not have a recessed can or housing that extends above. Moreover, canless recessed lights are self-contained units that integrate the housing, trim, and light source into a single fixture. They are an ideal option for existing homes and facilities as they do not require any large holes in the ceiling and can be easily retrofitted to existing can lights.

Compared to traditional recessed lights, canless recessed lights are generally more compact, allowing for quick and easy installation. This makes them suitable for installations in areas with limited space between the ceiling and other structures, like ductwork or pipes. They also have better energy efficiency since they eliminate the need for separate housing that is prone to air leakage and heat loss while utilizing solid-state LED lighting technology which produces the most amount of light per watt of electricity. Since LEDs produce very little heat compared to other bulb options, customers also save on cooling costs.

Much like their predecessors, canless recessed lights offer multiple trim options, like baffle, pinhole or eyeball trim, to suit different design preferences. Perhaps the best surprise customers find is that canless fixtures typically cost 25% to 50% less when compared to their canned cousins.

Like many other high-performing lighting products, manufacturers can submit their canless recessed fixture products for ENERGY STAR® recognition. Those displaying the ENERGY STAR® label on their packaging are the easiest way customers can assure they are selecting a quality, energy-efficient light.

Your local public utility wants to help their customers gain the most benefit from the electricity they provide. For additional ideas on ways you can make cost-effective efficiency improvements to your home or business, contact your local electric utility or visit for more information.

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