Should I Use 4-Inch or 6-Inch Recessed Lights?

should i use 4-inch or 6-inch recessed lights

Want to add a sleek and modern touch to your rooms? Installing some lighting fixtures on your ceiling can elevate your space. Recessed lights have been a trendy choice offering lighting and space efficiency.

But as you go shopping, you will face the common dilemma of choosing between 4-inch and 6-inch fixtures.

Despite their different sizes, both options provide a smart lighting solution. Each fixture is installed inside the ceiling. So, they don’t require much installation space, while illuminating expansive areas.

However, don’t be misled into believing they are interchangeable. Each size comes with its unique features and some drawbacks.

Curious to find out which option lights your home the brightest?

Join us in our comprehensive 4-inch vs 6-inch recessed lighting comparison. We’ll unravel their characteristics and distinctions so that you can find the right choice for your rooms.

4 Inch vs 6 Inch Recessed Lighting: A Quick Overview

Before demystifying the characteristics of each lighting fixture, there is one thing you need to know: size doesn’t equal brightness. Contrary to common belief, 4-inch fixtures are not less bright.

In the past few decades, this has been true. Back then, recessed lights depended on the light bulbs’ size. However, this landscape changed significantly, thanks to advanced LED technology. Now, 4-inch lights can shine as brightly as their larger counterparts.

Now that we’ve cleared up this misconception, let’s dive into the specifics of each lighting option.

What is a 4-inch Recessed Lighting Fixture? 

A 4-inch lighting fixture is a compact spotlight installed inside the ceiling. As with any recessed lighting option, these fixtures go by these common names including downlights, can, or pot lights.

The small size doesn’t reflect their lighting abilities. Many commercial 4-inch LED fixtures produce about 600 lumens or more.

As the name suggests, these spotlights are 4 inches wide and are installed inside a 4-inch ceiling hole. This cavity contains the wiring and the lighting source housing.

The housing part is usually tucked inside the cavity and connected to the electrical wiring. The housing comes in two different types:

  • IC-rated: This housing type fits insulated ceilings and comes with a thermal protector. This way, the power will shut off automatically, once the temperature reaches too high.
  • Non-IC-rated: This type of housing requires at least a 3-inch clearance from insulation. This allows for better ventilation and air circulation and eliminates potential fire hazards.

In comparison, the visible part is a trim ring that comes in multiple shapes and finishes, making the spot suitable for different decorations.

The compact design of these fixtures makes them ideal for lighting kitchens, bathrooms, and hallways. These fixtures allow for discreet lighting without compromising brightness.

What is a 6-inch Recessed Lighting Fixture? 

A 6-inch lighting fixture is similar to its smaller counterpart but with a larger diameter. They are 6 inches in diameter. Despite being installed inside the ceiling, their larger size makes them more noticeable. Such a bold presence makes them compatible with large rooms, including living rooms, bedrooms, and dining areas.

Despite being larger, they fall into the category of mid-sized spotlights. This size has no reflection on the illumination, but it may offer built-in control options like brightness control.

This ceiling lighting option offers increased coverage due to its larger size. Yet, it has the same components as the 4-inch version.

Thus, you will find three components in this fixture:

  • A trim: This is the visible element and decides the style of the fixture. It comes in various shapes including, a shower, an eyeball, a reflector, and a baffle.
  • A housing: This part remains hidden within the ceiling. It accommodates the wiring to ensure safe installation and functionality.
  • A light source: It commonly comes in the form of LED modules or bulbs. These bulbs fit inside the housing and remain unnoticeable.

4 Inch vs 6 Inch Recessed Lighting: The Comparison

With many present similarities between 4-inch and 6-inch lighting fixtures, they won’t offer the same lighting impact. The notable difference in the sizes may imply there are no other distinctions. But don’t fall for that, they have vast differences in their functionality, uses, and styles.

Space CompatabilitySmaller areasLarger area
Brightness LevelsSameSame
AppearanceMinimalisticBolder look
Beam AngleNarrow beamWide beam
Lighting EffeciencyConcentrated lightingWider spaces
Ceiling Height9' or lower9' or higher
Energy EffeciencyMore effecientLess effecient
Ease of InstallationEasier to installSlightly harder
Special FeaturesLess optionsMore options
CostCheaperMore Costly

Now let’s take a closer look at the notable differences between these two types of recessed lighting:

1. Space compatibility

A 4-inch fixture is more suitable for small areas and spaces, but not due to dimmer illumination. LED technology has changed the brightness abilities of these compact lights so that they have become rivals to larger spotlights.

Yet, they are a better fit for focused lighting to make an area more visible and brighter. Thus, you can install a 4-inch fixture above artwork, decorative plants, closets, and kitchen cabinetry. This adds extra highlighting and visibility.

While tucked into the ceiling, their directional beam makes them fit in kitchens and bathrooms. In such areas, the concentrated light will add visibility without being overpowering.

In contrast, a 6-inch fixture is a better option for a larger space and a high ceiling area. The wider beam reflects light across expansive areas. This wider coverage creates a sense of spaciousness in a room.

Compared to a smaller size, a 6-inch fixture will create an ideal atmosphere for general lighting. So, don’t hesitate to pick them as lighting fixtures over a sofa or bed will create the required ambiance.

2. Brightness levels  

Another significant difference between a 4-inch and a 6-inch fixture is their brightness. Both offer high brightness due to the presence of LED modules. However, the exact brightness level varies depending on the lumens, not the fixture size. The installed light source is responsible for determining the lumen output or the luminous flux.

Based on this fact, you can find 4 and 6-inch fixtures with the same brightness level. But in general, the larger fixtures come with a higher lumen output. Usually, a 6-inch recessive lighting fixture contains high-wattage LED modules.

The average lumen output of many 4-inch fixtures is 600 lumens, whereas many 6-inch fixtures have an average of 1000 lumens.

3. Style and Appearance

4-inch recessed fixtures are renowned for adding a discreet and sleek appearance to the ceiling. Their unobtrusive design makes them fit with modern decor and minimal home styles.

The larger size of the 6-inch fixtures makes their appearance bolder and more noticeable. You can implement them as a ceiling focal point that makes a visual impression in the room. Such a bolder presence makes these spotlights ideal for classic designs.

Another important factor to consider if you are seeking the best aesthetics for your interiors, is the trim design. At the end of the day, this part determines the fixture’s style. baffle, gimbal, and eyeball trims belong to the popular styles.

So, when you go shopping for a new recessed light fixture, you will find a wider selection of gimbal trims in 4-inch fixtures compared to larger counterparts.

Gimbals and specialty trims allow for better control of the light shape and direction. Therefore, they will fit above sinks, countertops, or artwork. In such areas, accent lighting is important for better visibility.

In contrast, 6-inch fixtures come in a wider variety of baffle and reflector ring trims. While reducing the glare, this fixture style increases the brightness for general lighting purposes.

4. Beam Angle

This concept refers to the angle at which the light beam comes out of the light source. The transparent cover of the light source, which is known as the lens, determines this angle and the shape of the light. Some 4- and 6-inch fixtures share the same angle, but the vast majority of them come with different angles.

In general, 6-inch fixtures come with a wide beam angle due to their larger lenses. The compact size of their smaller counterparts offers narrower beam angles. These narrow angles allow for focusing the light on certain objects or spaces.

In comparison, a wider angle allows for nuanced lighting effects. But narrow beam angles are available in 6-inches fixtures as well.

In general, 4-inch fixtures offer average beam angles between 30 and 40 degrees, while 6-inch fixtures have an average of 60 degrees.

5. Lighting Efficiency 

The term lighting efficiency refers to the success of a lighting fixture in emitting and distributing its light for covering a certain area. In that matter, you can consider both fixtures efficient. Namely, each one produces enough light for its specific purpose.

That said, A 4-inch recessed light fixture is suitable for concentrated light and wall washing. By wall washing, you won’t wipe clean your home walls, but you will install smaller fixtures and concentrate the angle on the walls. This trick gives an impression of a bigger space by making the walls look further than they are.

On the other hand, 6-inch fixtures provide ample light to cover wider spaces. This makes them efficient in spreading deeper brightness.

6. Ceiling Height

To achieve optimum lighting efficiency, you should consider the ceiling height of your home. A rule of thumb is that 4-inch fixtures go well with low and standard ceiling heights. This means if you have a ceiling height of 9 feet or lower, you should opt for discreet and unnoticeable lighting options.

In contrast, 6-inch lighting fixtures suit high ceilings. In the case of a high ceiling, a large fixture provides proportionate and sufficient light for the room.

As for sloped ceilings, they don’t work well with 6-inch fixtures. Larger fixtures won’t accommodate the angle of these ceilings. A 4-inch fixture will be the right option in this case, due to offering suitable beam angles.

7. Energy Efficiency 

With LED modules on board, both options are considered energy efficient. But generally, 4-inch recessed light fixtures are more energy efficient. Their compact size is translated into lower wattage and voltages. Typically, they consume less energy to emit light. However, innovative 6-inch fixtures can compensate for this with their brightness control features.

8. Cost 

Settling this part of the 4-inch vs 6-inch recessed lighting debate is quite challenging. The cost is associated with other factors such as the quality, quantity, and type of the fixtures. Installation costs, if present, should be taken into consideration as well.

However, 4-inch fixtures tend to be cheaper. The average cost of a 4-inch fixture usually ranges between $10 and $20 depending on the quality and brand. A 6-inch fixture, on the other hand, may cost anywhere between $15 and $20.

9. Ease of Installation

4-inch fixtures have a slight edge in this matter. Their compact size gives them an advantage, as they require minimum installation requirements. For instance, they require smaller installation spaces and ceiling holes. Moreover, 4-inch fixtures accommodate existing electrical wiring.

In comparison, 6-inch fixtures require larger cavities and bigger installation spaces. Moreover, installation them doesn’t fall into the DIY category. You will need to hire an electrician to adjust the wiring system.

10. Special Features

While both fixtures are considered modern lighting solutions, a 6-inch fixture may come with more improved features. The larger size facilitates the integration of more control options like lighting and temperature levels.

4 Inch vs 6 Inch Recessed Lighting: Which is Better for You?

Now armed with a comprehensive understanding of the characteristics and differences between 4-inch and 6-inch recessed lighting, you are ready to make an informed purchase decision.

So, which is the better option? well, there is no better or worse. It is a subjective decision associated with multiple factors including:

  • The area’s size
  • The budget,
  • The decoration style
  • The ceiling height

For instance, If you want to brighten up narrow spaces, 4-inch fixtures will work for you. In the case of lighting expansive areas, you will want a general lighting option offered by 6-inch fixtures. Don’t let the ongoing size debate stop you from improving your home’s light system. Illuminate your home today with the right fixtures.

Still uncertain? You can seek reliable advice from a professional electrician.

Also, if you are considering further improvements to your living room like getting new wall paint or installing an AC, explore these relevant blog posts for further home improvement tips:

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