What Are the Different Types of Downlights?

Downlights are the next step in lighting evolution. You see it everywhere, from houses to offices and even conference rooms. They’re good for interior design and business as they aren’t going out of style any time soon. But these downlights come in various options, and it can be unclear to choose the right one. Here we’ve gone into detail about types of downlights that will help you make better decisions. 

Table of Contents

What Are Downlights?

Downlights or Can lights are lamps installed on ceilings and project light downwards, hence the name downlight. The light is directed from above to the ground at a beam angle ranging from 60 to 120 degrees, creating a soft wall wash pleasing the eye. Moreover, these lights are part of modern interior design and are loved by fashion lovers worldwide. The downlights are practical, efficient, and aesthetic. Traditionally, halogens and incandescent bulbs were used in downlights, but now LEDs are part of contemporary lighting. 

LED Downlights

Are There Different Types of Downlights?

Yes, downlights come in all shapes and sizes. Here we have discussed different types of downlights and categorized them in terms of fixture designs and IP ratings. 

Types Of Downlights Based on Fixture Designs

A lighting fixture is the outer casing of a bulb or lamp that lets it connect with the main electric supply. 

1.   Retrofit Downlights

Retrofits are your best bet if you want to change the less efficient downlights with energy-saving LED downlights. Retrofit downlight fixtures are designed to replace the existing lighting easily.  In some cases, there is even no need to replace the old transformer.

Retrofit downlights come in stylish designs and are mostly plug-and-play. The initial cost is high, but since it doesn’t need new wiring, the cost evens. 

2.   Surface Mounted Downlights

A surface-mounted light fixture is an incredible option if you want to reinvent illumination at your home. Why is that so? Downlights are traditionally installed in the ceiling, which requires cutting a hole and inserting a large fixture inside the drywall.

surface mounted downlights
Surface mounted downlights

But surface-mounted lights come in a slim fixture design that can be fitted onto the surface without needing to carve out a giant hole in the ceiling. The fixtures are stylish and convenient to install.

3.    Recessed Downlights

Recessed downlights replaced the old lamps with chic lighting designs. Recessed LED  downlights now come in ultra-thin fixture design, which is the size of a drywall thickness and is easy to install. 

4.    Adjustable Downlights 

Adjustable downlights can direct the light in a specific direction. Unlike fixed downlights, you can adjust the beam angle to highlight a certain area or showcase your exquisite décor. It can also be used as task lighting and accent lighting. Moreover, it works best to correct the lighting angle at sloped ceilings. Adjustable downlights give you more control over the lighting. 

adjustable led downlights
adjustable led downlights

5.      Smooth and Baffle Trim Downlights 

Downlights generally have slivery reflective areas surrounding the lamp. But the new smooth and baffle trim designs have changed that. 

In baffle trim downlights, the area encircling the lamps has circular grooves or ridges. This helps minimize glare and softens the light.

On the other hand, a smooth trim design maximizes the spread of light across the area. 

6.      Pendant Downlights 

Downlights are a modern and practical lighting system, but their many uses don’t mean it has to be strictly utilitarian. Pendant downlights have beautiful fixtures that make the environment much more appealing. Many designers prefer pendant downlights over simpler ones. 

Types Of Downlights Based on IP Ratings And Fittings 

Downlight fittings refer to the type of connectors and supply (AC&DC) the fixture has. An IP rating is short for “Ingress Protection,” an international standard that defines a lighting fixture’s robustness.         

1.   GU10

GU10 downlight bulbs have two prongs sticking out of the bottom of the fixture that is ten millimeters apart. They are easy to install. You need a gentle press and twist.

Traditional GU10 downlights use to host 50 – 100 watts halogen lamps. In olden times a heavy external transformer was needed for them to function, but recent GU10 LEDs can function without them.

2.   MR16 

MR16 (GU5.3) light fixture is the most common type on the market. Instead of prongs, as in the case of GU10, these fittings host two pins inserted in the holder. Commonly hosts voltage halogen lamps ranging from 30 W-50 W power. Furthermore, they require a transformer to operate properly. 

3.   AR111

AR11 downlights are similar to GU10 bulbs but run on low power and give off intense light beams in a shorter area. AR11 downlights consume only 12 W- 20 W of power and produce 600-1200 lumens of light intensity.

Typically, used in jewelry shops, stores, and office cubicles where continuous illumination is required in a small space.

4.   IP20 

IP20-rated downlight fixtures are well protected against minor impacts and dust. Particles over 12 mm in size can’t enter inside the fixture. These downlights are low cost and great for indoor offices, kitchens, lounges, and bedrooms.

However, they’re vulnerable to liquids and humidity, making them unsuitable for bathrooms, saunas, pools, and outside areas prone to rainfall. 

led commercial downlights
led commercial downlights

5.   IP44

IP44-rated downlights are more robust as they can absorb medium-level impact and stop particles over 1 mm from entering the fixtures. These downlights are resistant to a light spray of water, making them suitable anywhere inside the house, including bathrooms with a good exhaust system. Ensure these downlights are placed under a shade outside the building, as rainfall can damage these lights. 

6.   IP65 

IP65-rated outdoor downlights are the most secure and durable downlights. They are well protected from water spray, humidity, dust, and debris. So, you can install them in saunas, bathrooms, pools, and terrace areas.

IP65 downlights are suitable for indoors and outdoors alike. Though more expensive than other downlights, the versatility of IP65 downlights makes them a great option for any modern-day lighting.  A GU10 bulb in an IP65 fixture is a common combination for standard light fixtures. 

How Do I Choose LED Downlights?

Home Kitchens 

Kitchen lighting needs to be practical because that’s where the cooking takes place. For that, high-lumen IP44 recessed downlights work best.

LED recessed downlights for kitchen
kitchen downlights

Go for a cooler color temperature, as you need clear visibility. Another great option is adjustable lights which can adjust the light beam to a kitchen island or the cooking range. Place the downlights two feet away from kitchen walls or cabinets for proper visibility. 

Read more about How To Choose LED Downlights for Kitchen?

Lounges and Drawing Rooms 

The pendant or surface-mounted downlights are good for decor and illumination. Since there aren’t any damaging factors like liquid spray and debris in lounges, you can get away with a lower rating of IP20 as they’re cost-effective. 

Offices and conference rooms can also benefit from these indoor lights as the illumination requirements are pretty much the same. 


Bathrooms require IP65-rated downlights. Otherwise, they can get damaged due to humidity and mild water spray. Also, install high-wattage lights, as bathroom floors can get slippery and good illumination can prevent mishaps. 

waterproof downlights for bathrooms
waterproof downlights for bathrooms


Downlights rated IP65, and higher are perfect for outdoor and commercial buildings. You can add these outdoor downlights surrounding the backyard without worrying about the weather. Retrofit LEDs are also good if you want to change the less efficient halogen downlights.  

What are The Best Downlights?

LED downlights are the most efficient, practical, and cost-effective luminaires for modern lighting designs. 

Features of LED Downlights 

Low Maintenance 

Even though LED downlights have a high initial cost compared to halogens and incandescent lamps, they need less maintenance. Typically, led lamps can run more than 50000 hours which is ten times higher than older lamps. The initial cost is paid off within the first year, followed by profits due to lower energy costs. 


LED downlights are inherently brighter and less energy-consuming, making a killer combo. 

Brightness (Lumens)Halogen (Watts) LED (Watts) 
1100 10015

Color Temperature 

Color temperature refers to how warmer or cooler the light is. LED downlights come in a variety of color temperatures which is pretty convenient. A 3000K yellowish light is suitable for bedrooms and lounges. Similarly, downlights falling at a higher spectrum, such as 5000K, are best for bathrooms, kitchens, and garages. 

color temperature
color temperature

Color Rending Index 

Color Rendering Index (CRI) refers to how correctly a lamp depicts the object’s color compared to natural sunlight. LED downlights have the highest CRI compared to old lighting technologies.

Dimmable Lighting 

Another great feature of LED downlights is that you have dimmers to adjust the brightness suited to your taste. CL dimmers are specifically designed for modern LEDs and give you great control over the lighting. 

Final Thoughts 

Downlights are a great option to upgrade the existing lighting or install new ones. They’re quite popular now and a must-have for modern lighting designs. Now you know the different types of downlights available in the market and which works best in a particular scenario. Make sure to invest in high-quality and durable downlights that complement your requirements. 

RC Lighting—The Best Place to Shop for LED Downlights 

At RC lighting, we have a vast catalog of LED products for our customers. All of our LED luminaires are manufactured in a high-tech facility under the supervision of leading experts.

We have LED recessed, surface-mounted, adjustable pendant downlights suitable for various projects. Our products are built from modern technologies and comply with international safety standards.

Still not sure about which downlights to buy? You can always ask our experts for help 24/7 and get customized orders to your liking. Get your FREE quote now

Request A Quote for Your Lighting Projects!

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