Easily Update Recessed Fluorescent Kitchen Lighting 

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Last updated: May 22, 2023

Fluorescent fixtures in an old home use bright light tubes inside fluorescent light boxes or a soffit ceiling for illumination. A new home revamped the old lighting style and incorporated other light sources to create lighting layers. Examples are a ceiling fan, track lighting, flush mount, pendant lights, natural light, and recessed can or pot lights.

If you are looking for lighting ideas, consider updating your recessed lights. Recessed lights look sleek and clean in your kitchen; they are a great way to save space on low ceilings. The experts know how to easily update recessed fluorescent kitchen lighting, and I want to make the process easier for you to understand.

I discuss the best light color and brightness in the kitchen. Last, I discuss converting from fluorescent tubes and bulbs to LED tubes and bulbs. Nothing brightens a kitchen like new lighting.

Table of Contents

Easily update recessed fluorescent kitchen lighting

An electrician is always a safe hire when updating fluorescent light fixtures. There is a risk of electric shock, injury, power outage, or defective starters doing projects related to electrical work areas. However, learning the process is not a bad idea.

The Prep Work

Before updating recessed lighting, turn the electricity off at the circuit breaker. Inside the electrical box, the switch should turn off the power throughout the home, not at the fixture. I would keep the replacement that fits inside the recessed box hole nearby.

The specific style for your kitchen space depends on the housing and trim chosen and how compatible they are with the existing hole. There are eight trim and seven housing types. One housing example is the ic-rated light for insulated ceilings, and a trim example is reflector bulbs.

The Instructions

1The first thing to do is to grab a ladder to reach the recessed light. Remove the cover covering the bulb and the surrounding framework. 
2Unscrew the bulb or tube and place that in a safe spot.
3The next step depends on whether you have fluorescent tube lights, fluorescent light bulbs, or can lights. With a can or high hat lights, you find the mounting clips and lightly pull the old fixture loose. One wire connects to the device, so remove the wire from it.
4Tube and light bulb fixtures go in reverse. Remove the wires from the ballast by unscrewing the nuts and moving the ballast to a safe area. The mounting screws should be easy to spot, and after you unscrew them, you can remove the old light fixture. 
5The end should be a hole with wires inside. If you prefer, add wood and drywall to patch the hole before priming and painting. Ensure the ceiling drywall is strong enough to handle a cutout and a new fixture. 
6It’s time to add the new light to the existing hole. New can fluorescent kitchen lights are easy to install. You choose a color temperature, plug it into the same wire that connected the last fixture, and use mounting clips to push the new light fixture into the hole. 
7Tube and bulb installation should work in reverse too. Mount the fixture to the holes where the previous screws were. Connect the ballast and existing cable to the new wires.
8Return the electrical panel box and turn on the breaker. If the light comes on, turn it off, add a light bulb while it is at a lower voltage, and turn it back on. 

If the light allows, install a light switch wall dimmer. The dimmer switch can change the light color to suit different ambience (i.e., task lights, general/ambient lights, and accent lighting). A remote-controlled dimmer is another option.

kitchen with deck view and fluorescent lighting

How to remove a fluorescent light cover from a kitchen ceiling

Most makeovers on kitchen fluorescent lights are ceiling lights. If the recessed light has a cover, it is critical to know what type of cover it contains. There are drop ceilings, wraparound, and acrylic flat light covers. 

An acrylic flat are flexible decorative light covers that slide out after pushing it upward or unscrewing the screw. Drop ceiling covers have lever hinges that swing outward at a ninety-degree angle. A spring-loaded cover can be a flat or a drop ceiling version.

A wraparound cover wraps around the light fixture with a lip at the top to secure it. To remove it, unfasten the lip and unravel it. 

modern white kitchen with fluorescent recessed lighting

What fluorescent light color is best for the kitchen

The color temperature on the Kelvin scale is between 2700K and 6500K, ranging from yellowish to bluish color. Packages will label lights as soft white, warm white, cool white, bright white, neutral white, daylight, or blue white.

Lights in the kitchen are for cooking, cleaning, storing, and prep work. There may be separate lights for dining and entertaining if you have a breakfast bar or dining area. The experts recommend using 3000K to 4000K as general lighting and 4000K to 5000K as task lighting.

I would use a 3000K or 3500K on the kitchen ceiling and a 4000K or a 4500K in specific areas. Examples are under the cabinets, the pantry, and pendant lighting above the kitchen island. However, the best thing to do would be to take the other route and choose 4000K light throughout the space as it suits all situations. 

Colors lower than 3000K or higher than 5000K are too dim or bright, respectively. Dim lights serve a bedroom, living room, or dining room better. Daylight 5000K or higher is accent lights highlighting architecture or displays rather than completing tasks.

Can you get brighter fluorescent bulbs

You can get brighter fluorescents if you focus on wattage. Wattage would have two or three numbers followed by a capital W. Examples are 50W and 30W. 

Wattage affects light output, and that affects brightness. Before choosing a higher wattage, make sure the fluorescent is compatible with a higher wattage. Additionally, keep the color temperature the same.

Other tricks to get the most out of lighting are to move the light closer to the work surface and choose a narrow beam angle. Two more ways are adding track systems and switching lighting types to incandescent, LED, or halogen lights.

minimalist interior design with kitchen recessed lighting

Can I replace fluorescent lights with LED lights without removing the ballast

Replacing a fluorescent lighting fixture with LED lighting without a ballast switcheroo is possible. The key is to find a converter that will convert old technology into the new one. For best results, I suggest choosing one of two ways.

One way is to purchase tubes and bulbs that are ballast compatible. They are a plug-and-play type that you set and forget. These types are a good choice because they have the construction to work with new and existing kitchen fixtures.

The other is doing a ballast bypass conversion. These LED kits rewire the lighting to bypass the ballast so the light can function without it. A kit is a significant starting point for doing a ballast bypass.

There are different types of conversion kits, and one example is the Magnilumen magnetic retrofit kit. There is also a low voltage recessed light kit that uses a transformer to convert to LED, and I believe the switch to LED is worth the investment.

What is the cost of converting a fluorescent lamp to an LED

As of this writing, an electrician converting fluorescent lights to LED is between $50 and $100 an hour. The total is between $160 and $506 when you combine labor with a conversion kit and other materials. The cost is for one fixture; two or more increase the price to $1,000 and $20,000.

Meanwhile, a DIY conversion kit will cost significantly less without an electrician. The downside is learning the electrical connection and installation process on your own.

Conversely, converting fluorescent or incandescent bulbs to LED depends on size, wattage, color temperature, and the number of bulbs. There are a wide variety of bulbs in different shapes, so compatibility is essential. A roundabout estimate is between $20 and $40, but your results may vary.

That is more expensive than standard light bulbs, but the flip side is an LED bulb is cool to the touch and uses less energy. The other bulbs generate heat and increase energy bills. In summary, LED conversion and bulbs are the best choice for a long life.

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