Choosing the Right LED Light Bulb for Your Recessed Light Fixtures

What is Recessed Lighting?

Recessed Lighting

Also referred to as downlights or can lights, recessed lights are ceiling light fixtures that are installed for a modern finish. These fixtures are great additions to an office, hallway, restroom, restaurant, school, or hotel; the list goes on!

With the way they are installed, you want to make sure that you have the right light bulb to provide the perfect balance of color temperature, beam angle, and brightness.

Recessed ceiling lights are not only versatile, but they can provide multiple lighting options, from general lighting, to task or accent lighting. When choosing the right light bulb for your recessed lights, there are a few things to consider:

Bulb Specifications


A19 LED bulb

A-Type Bulbs are omnidirectional light bulbs commonly used in household lamps. The omnidirectional feature does NOT make these bulbs the best option for your recessed lighting fixtures, due to the wasted light potential.

LED R30 Bulb

R Bulbs are most commonly used in recessed lighting fixtures. The R stands for reflector and refers to the bulb’s reflective surface that helps direct the light in one downward direction. This downward direction makes them ideal for downlight fixtures, as they help control the beam angle helping to prevent any wasted light.

LED BR40 Bulb

BR Bulbs are somewhat of an alternative version of the R bulb. Meaning Bulged reflector, BR Bulbs offer a bulge near the base of the light that helps focus more of the light downward in a recessed light fixture.


PAR Bulbs also have a reflective surface that produces a more controlled light beam. They are commonly used for accent lighting and provide several color temperature options for your desired lighting needs.

LED MR16 Bulb

MR Bulbs offer an inner reflective surface that is also used to control the beam of light. These bulbs are recommended for accent lighting.


Now that you know which light bulb you need, what the heck do the numbers mean? BR40…MR16?

No worries, its simple to figure out what size lightbulb you need. In the U.S, the diameter of a bulb is expressed using a number following the type of bulb. The number represents 1/8ths of an inch.

For example

LED MR16 Bulb

An MR16 light bulb is 16 “1/8ths" or 16/8 inches in diameter (aka 2" in diameter).

LED BR40 Bulb

A BR40 light bulb is 40 “1/8ths" or 40/8 inches in diameter (aka 5" in diameter)


The base of a light bulb shows how the bulb will screw into the lamp. Below are the most common light bulb bases found in recessed fixtures:

Base Type



Medium Screw


LED bulb medium screw base

R, BR, PAR, A, Self-ballasted CFL, Self-driven LED

GU5.3 plug


GU53 LED light bulb base

MR11, MR16

GU10 twist and lock


GU10 LED light bulb base

MR11, MR16

GU24 twist and lock


GU24 LED light bulb base

Self-ballasted CFL, Self-driven LED

2-pin or bi-pin CFL plug


2 pin LED light bulb base

CFL w/ conventional ballast

4-pin CFL plug


4 pin LED light bulb base

CFL w/ electronic ballast

What is a self-ballasted CFL bulb?
Unlike fluorescent bulbs that require a separate ballast to control the current’s flow, CFL light bulbs come equipped with a built-in ballast. These standard screw in bulbs can be plugged into any light fixture.
What is a self-driven LED bulb?
LED light bulbs are powered by an internal driver. Most screw in LED bulbs will feature a built-in driver, while plug and pin bulbs will require a lamp with an external driver.

Common Applications

Color Temperature

General lighting

This is the general illumination that the light will provide to your space. Given your desired brightness and coverage needs, we recommend a bright white color temperature with a wide beam angle. BR bulbs offer very wide beam angles and come in a variety of color temperature options

Task Lighting

This is centralized lighting used to offer brightness to a specific area or workspace. We recommend PAR bulbs for this kind of controlled lighting. They offer a wide beam angle with a high lumen output (brightness).

Accent Lighting

This kind of lighting is great for illuminating displays in retail stores or providing a warm inviting glow in hallways or hotel lobbies. For recessed spotlights, we recommend using MR16 or PAR bulbs. They both provide several color temperature options and beam angle options.

Add recessed lighting to your space with HomElectrical's selection of both residential LED downlights and commercial LED downlights!

Recommended Reading

Color Temperature measures a light's color when illuminated and come in three options: warm white, daylight white, and cool white. Each option works best in certain applications, such as task lighting and general lighting.

You must consider several factors when you make the choice to install LED lights in your commercial space. Read our guide to figure out which type of LED fixture works best for your commercial space.

Shakir Williams
Shakir Williams

A true creative with a penchant for the spiritual and natural order. She loves the Earth, almost as much as she loves writing about it.

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