Other Tips & Design Ideas

Can vs Canless Recessed Lights: Pros, Cons & Key Differences

Written by

Rosanne Jones

Writer, Designer


Steven D. Carrico


can vs canless recessed lights

Recessed lighting has become an increasingly popular choice for modern homes due to its sleek and contemporary appearance. However, when choosing between can vs canless recessed lights, homeowners may find themselves in a dilemma.

Recessed lights are any lighting fissure that is installed into a hole in the ceiling, creating a clean and modern look. In this article, we’ll explore the differences between canless vs canned recessed lighting, their pros, and cons, and help you decide which option is best for your home.

About Recessed Lights

Recessed lights, whether you call them pot lights vs can lights, have been around for decades and are a common sight in most homes.

Recessed lighting vs canned lighting both refer to lights installed in the ceiling. In this case, the bulb appears to glow through the opening while the electrical wirings are hidden and are most suitable for low ceilings.

Recessed lights come in various types depending on their design, functionality, and features. Here are some of the different types of can lights:


  • Remodel can lights

For ceilings with limited access above is limited, remodel can lights are meant to install in these ceilings.

  • Retrofit can lights

These can lights are designed to replace existing non-recessed fixtures or outdated recessed lights without the need for major modifications to the ceiling.

  • Insulation contact-rated (IC)

IC-rated can lights are designed for installation in direct contact with insulation.

  • Non-IC

These lights are suitable for locations without a need for insulation since it does not offer heat protection like the insulation contact-rated light.

  • Airtight can lights

These lights are designed to minimize airflow between the conditioned space and the ceiling.

About Canless Lights


On the other hand, canless recessed lights, also known as wafer lights, have gained popularity in recent years due to their energy efficiency and ease of installation. These lights do not need separate housing since they are directly installed on the ceilings.

Unlike canned recessed lights, these are suitable for high ceilings and can offer a modern look.

Differences Between Canless Lights Vs Recessed Lights

The distinctions between canless recessed lights vs can lights are listed below:

Canned Recessed Lights Canless Recessed Lights
Requires a housing or canister to flush into the ceiling. Do not need separate housing and directly installed with no canister.
Requires more space for the additional housing. Typically slimmer and more compact and fits into smaller spaces.
Installations require additional adjustments on ceiling for the canister and can be more time consuming. It is easier, and faster to install canless recessed lighting.
Has a more traditional appearance, with the visible canister giving a distinct visual style. Provides a more minimalist appearance since they sit flush with the ceiling surface. It offers a clean and contemporary look.
The additional cost for separate housing adds to the overall costs of the fixtures making it more costly than canless lights. More affordable.
More customisation recessed lighting options such as adjustable trims, directional light output, and compatibility with different bulb types. There is limited customisation and adjustability due to their compact design.

Pros and Cons

Advantages of canned recessed lights:

  1. Versatility: Can recessed lights offer a wide range of options in terms of sizes, shapes, and trims. This allows for flexibility in achieving different lighting effects and styles.
  2. Directional lighting: Can recessed lights often have adjustable trims that enable you to direct the light precisely where you want it. This feature is beneficial for highlighting special areas or objects in a room.
  3. Compatibility: Can recessed lights are compatible with various types of bulbs, including incandescent, halogen, CFL, and LED. This versatility allows you to choose the type of lighting that best suits your needs.
  4. Heat dissipation: Can recessed lights usually have built-in thermal protection mechanisms and proper ventilation. This helps dissipate heat generated by the bulbs, reducing the risk of fire hazards and prolonging the lights’ lifespan.
  5. Retrofitting: If you already have canned recessed lights installed, replacing or upgrading the bulbs or trims is relatively easy without major modifications to the housing. This makes them suitable for retrofitting or updating existing lighting systems.

Disadvantages of canned recessed lights:

  1. Installation complexity: Installing canned recessed lights requires more effort.. It involves mounting the housing into the ceiling, ensuring proper wiring connections, and positioning the fixture correctly.
  2. Space Requirements: Can recessed lights need enough space in the ceiling, which is difficult in houses having limited clearance or shallow ceilings, as modifications or adjustments to the ceiling structure might be necessary.
  3. Cost: Can recessed lights are more expensive than canless recessed lights. The additional cost is due to the housing and potentially higher installation expenses if professional help is necessary.
  4. Potential air leakage: If not properly installed or sealed, canned recessed lights may create air leaks between the conditioned space and the ceiling, affecting energy efficiency and insulation performance.
  5. Aesthetic: can recessed light leave a visible trim and canister on the surface, which may not appeal to everyone’s aesthetic preferences.

Advantages of canless recessed lights:

  1. Space-saving design: Canless recessed lights are typically slimmer and more compact which makes them ideal for installation in limited clearance where traditional lights may not fit.
  2. Easy installation: Canless recessed lights are generally easier and faster to install since they do not require separate housing.
  3. Cost-effective: They are more affordable, at about $20 to $150 for a fixture.
  4. Modern aesthetics: Canless recessed lights give a clean and contemporary look that is favored by many homeowners.

Disadvantages of canless recessed lightning:

  1. Limited adjustability: They might not offer adjustable trims or directional lighting.
  2. Bulb compatibility: Some canless recessed lights may have specific bulb compatibility requirements due to their design.
  3. Heat dissipation: Canless recessed lights may have smaller heat dissipation surface area which can potentially lead to a higher operating temperature and shorter bulb lifespan if proper ventilation is not maintained.

Frequently Asked Questions


Where to put recessed lights?

The placement of recessed lights depends on several factors, including the purpose of the lighting, the size and layout of the room, and the specific tasks and areas you want to highlight.

But the baseline is that the height of the ceiling should be divided by two to establish how far apart recessed lighting should be in bedrooms, kitchens, and living areas. For instance, recessed lighting should be placed around 4 feet apart in an area with 8-foot ceilings.

How long do canless lights last?

Canless recessed lights use an energy efficient and durable bulb like LED light. These lights typically have an average lifespan of about 50,000 hours. This means that if you were to operate the lights for 5 hours per day, they could last over 13 years or even longer.

Tips to install recessed lights

Installing recessed light like a DIY project can be fun but be cautious and follow the popper installation process to keep yourself safe. Here are some tips to help you with the installation process:

  1. Have a proper layout by measuring and marking the desired location.
  2. Then, determine the wiring and power source to install a new circuit if necessary.
  3. After that, choose the right type and size of recessed light for your needs.
  4. Next is to follow the installation process in this video.

What is the difference between LED disc lights vs can lights?

An LED disc light is an alternative to canned recessed lights. They look similar but LED disc light is mounted on the surface of the ceiling and is very thin compared to recessed light.


In conclusion, in choosing between can vs. canless recessed lights, it is important to consider factors like lighting goals, room layout, bulb compatibility, adjustability needs and overall aesthetics when making a decision.

Both types have their own pros and cons, and the choice depends on the homeowner’s preferences, installation requirements, and budget considerations.

Regardless of what type of lights you choose, a well-planned and executed installation of these lights can enhance the ambiance, functionality, and visual appeal of any space.

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