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Can vs Canless Recessed Lighting

Recessed lights are increasingly becoming a popular lighting option. However, when choosing recessed lights, it’s important to understand the differences between can vs canless recessed lighting.

Whether you’re building a new home or upgrading your lighting, understanding the differences between can and canless recessed lighting will help you make an informed decision and create the perfect lighting design for your home.

In this post, we’ll compare the types of recessed lights and help you decide which is right for your needs.

What is recessed lighting?

Can vs Canless Recessed Lighting

Recessed lights (also known as downlights or can lights) are a type of lighting fixture that is installed into the ceiling or wall. As the name suggests, the lights are recessed into the ceiling or the wall and light appears to be shining from a hole in the wall or ceiling.

Recessed lighting fixtures consist of three main components: housing, trim, and bulb. The housing is the part installed inside the ceiling or wall, while the trim is the visible portion of the light seen from below. The bulb is inserted into the housing and shines through an opening in the trim.

Recessed lighting can either be can lights or canless lights (also referred to as wafer lights). More on the differences between the two types below.

Can Vs Canless Recessed Lighting

Let’s compare can and canless recessed lights in terms of some critical factors:

FactorCan LightsCanless Lights
Energy efficientNoYes
Heat dissipationYesNo
Installation processHardEasy
Customization optionsMore optionsLimited options
Room size suitabilitySmaller roomsLarger rooms
PriceRelatively cheaperRelatively expensive

What are can recessed lights?

Can lights are a type of recessed lights that have a metal canister or housing installed within the ceiling. The canister is an enclosure in which the light bulb is placed inside, and it is then inserted into the ceiling.

The can recessed lights are not as energy-efficient as wafer recessed lights.

Can Lights Pros

The following are the advantages of can recessed lights:

  • Lights have a housing that helps dissipate heat from the bulb. This helps prevent the light fixture from overheating.
  • When a bulb burns out, you don’t replace the whole fixture. You just buy a new bulb and replace the one that has burned out.
  • Since you don’t replace the whole unit when a bulb burns out, you don’t go through the hassle of finding a light that matches the other lights in the room.
  • Can lights come in various sizes and shapes allowing for design customization.
  • Can lights are relatively cheaper compared to canless lights.

Can Lights Cons

The following are some can lighting shortcomings you need to consider:

  • Since can lights have a canister that needs to be recessed into the ceiling, they are time-consuming to install. You start by installing the canister into the ceiling.
  • Since the light’s canister goes into the ceiling you have to know where the ceiling joists go through when positioning the lights. One mistake and the ceiling studs wiling be standing in your way.
  • Some can lights come with larger irregularly shaped canisters which require you to have access to the room’s attic to install the can lights.
  • Most can recessed lights don’t use LEDs. This makes them less energy-efficient. (NB: Some modern can lights use LED lights.)
  • Most traditional can lights use incandescent or halogen bulbs which are not as durable as LEDs in wafer lights.
  • Depending on the light’s housing, the can light can be directional. This is not good for large rooms.
  • Since traditional can lights use traditional incandescent bulbs that can suddenly burn out leaving you in the dark.

Related: How To Remove a Can Light

What are canless recessed lights?

This type of recessed lighting is an alternative to traditional can lights. Canless recessed lights (also referred to as wafer lights) do not require a housing/canister, instead, they directly install into the ceiling, making for a more streamlined and modern look.

The wafer lights have a low-profile design that allows them to be installed directly into the ceiling without additional housing. With their flush design, they seamlessly blend into the ceiling, creating a sleek and sophisticated appearance.

Wafer lights use a fraction of the energy that traditional light fixtures consume, making them an energy-efficient and eco-friendly lighting solution.

Related: How Many Recessed Lights Do I Need?

Canless Pros

Canless recessed lights are a newer option that offers several advantages, including:

  • Canless lights are so slim you don’t have to worry about where the ceiling studs/joists are when installing them.
  • Unlike other bulbs, the LEDs in a wafer light don’t burn out. They dim over time, allowing you enough time to replace them.
  • Since they don’t come with a canister, you don’t have to find access to the room’s attic to install the light.
  • Canless recessed lights are easier to install. All you need to do is drill a hole in your ceiling, connect the lights to a power source and that’s it. These lights are held to the ceiling by springs.
  • Most canless lights use LEDs. LEDs are brighter, long-lasting, and energy efficient.
  • Smart options are available. The smart canless lights can be controlled using a smartphone or remote control.
  • Thin wafer lights provide a wider spread of light making them ideal for larger rooms. They provide even illumination throughout a room.
  • Canless lights are smaller in size than traditional can lights, making them ideal for tight spaces where a traditional can light would be difficult to install.
  • Canless lights are more energy-efficient than traditional can lights and can save you money on your electricity bills.
  • Wafer lights are modern. The lights will give your house or office that sleek modern style.

Canless Lights Cons

However, there are some disadvantages to consider, such as:

  • Different canless lights don’t follow a standardized set of instructions for installation.
  • When a wafer light LEDs dim over time, you must replace the entire fixture. In can lights, you just replace the bulb and you’re set.
  • Canless lights are relatively expensive compared to can recessed lights.
  • Canless lights have limited customization options. Almost all canless lights in the market look alike.
  • When it comes to replacing a wafer light, you run the risk of not finding a light that perfectly matches the other wafer lights in the room.

Choosing between Can vs Canless recessed lighting

Choosing the right kind of recessed lighting is important as it directly affects the lighting design, energy efficiency, and overall look of a space.

The following are some of the factors you need to consider when choosing between can and canless recessed lights:

Room size

Consider the size of the room where the lights will be installed. Since can lights are more directional, they are better suited for small rooms. The canless lights sit flush with the ceiling providing a wider beam spread. This makes canless lights better suited for larger rooms.

Ceiling height

Since canless lights sit flush with the ceiling, they take up less space making them the perfect type for low ceilings. If your ceilings are high, you can consider can lights.


Consider the cost of buying the lights and installation costs against your budget. Can lights are typically less expensive than canless lights, but the price may vary depending on the specific lights and installation process. The cost of installing canless lights is way lower.

Personal preference

Ultimately, the type of recessed lights you choose should align with your personal preferences in terms of style, functionality, and overall design.

Are recessed lights and can lights the same?

Can lights are an example of recessed lights. So, yes! Recessed lights and can lights are the same thing. They are metal light housings installed in the ceiling for a sleek look. Can lights derive their name from their housings, which are shaped like cans.

Are all recessed lights dimmable?

No, not all recessed lights are dimmable. Most modern canless recessed lights are dimmable. When buying a cannless recessed light, check the product description and/or the packaging to make sure it is specifically labeled as dimmable.

Are recessed lights energy efficient?

Yes, modern canless recessed lights use LEDs. LED bulbs are known to be more energy efficient compared to fluorescent, incandescent and halogen bulbs.

Wafer Lights Vs Can Lights


When it comes to choosing between can and canless recessed lights, it’s important to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each type and consider factors such as room size, ceiling height, personal preference, and budget.

Can lights are more traditional and offer better insulation, while canless lights are modern and cost-effective. Both options have their advantages and disadvantages, and it’s important to carefully evaluate your needs before making a decision.

In the end, whatever type of recessed lighting you choose, it’s sure to add a touch of elegance and sophistication to any room in your home.

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