Closeup on a glowing A19 light bulb in a recessed can fixture in the ceiling

A19 light bulbs are both affordable and widely available, which is why many choose to use them in the majority of light fixtures in their homes. Even though A19 bulbs enjoy widespread compatibility thanks to their E26 bases, there is still some confusion surrounding their use in recessed can fixtures and downlights.

This article will go into depth on the compatibility of A19 bulbs in recessed cans. So, read on if you’d like to learn more.

Is It OK to Install A19 Bulbs in Recessed Cans?

Using A19 bulbs in recessed can lights is OK as long as you check that the bulb physically fits the specific fixture and that the wattage is also appropriate. Most A19 bulb wattages will be perfectly safe for can lights.

What Are Recessed Cans?

Recessed cans, also known as recessed light fixtures or downlights, are light fixtures that are installed flush with the ceiling. They are a popular choice for general lighting in residential and commercial spaces because of their clean and modern look. 

Recessed Can Installation

Recessed cans are some of the trickiest lighting fixtures to install in any home. This drawback is primarily because a hole that meets the exact dimensions of the can must be cut into the ceiling. 

After the hole is made, the fixture is wired in and inserted into the void. The light bulb is then installed inside a reflector or a trim that sits flush with the ceiling.

Types of Recessed Can Fixtures

There are several types of recessed cans available, including:

New Construction Recessed Cans

New construction recessed cans are for ceilings just being built or renovated, where the internal ceiling structure is exposed. This is because the housing needs to be installed behind the drywall.

A recessed can fixture installed in the drywall of a ceiling under construction

Remodel Recessed Cans

Remodel recessed cans are designed for existing ceilings where the structure is not accessible from above. They have a combined housing unit and trim piece. The entire fixture is fitted from below, and the trim is held in place by springs or clips.

Shallow Recessed Cans

Shallow recessed cans are for use in ceilings with limited space under them, such as basements with low ceilings. They have a shallow depth, which allows for installation in tighter spaces.

IC-Rated Recessed Cans

IC-rated recessed lighting fixtures are specially designed with heat shielding, meaning they can directly contact insulation in your ceiling cavity without fire risk. In addition, they have insulation-contact (IC) ratings, signifying they have approval for use close to insulation.

Non-IC Rated Recessed Cans

Conversely, non-IC-rated recessed cans are not certified for installation in direct contact with insulation. Therefore, you must install them a certain distance from it to prevent overheating.

Airtight Recessed Cans

Airtight recessed cans contribute to the overall energy efficiency of your home by preventing air leakage through the ceiling. They feature gaskets or seals that prevent the loss of cooled or heated air through the light fixture.

closeup on an airtight recessed can fixture in a ceiling

What Are A19 Light Bulbs?

A19 light bulbs are bulbs commonly used in household lighting fixtures. They belong to the A-type bulb family and have a diameter of 2.375 inches, equivalent to 19/8″—hence, A19. 

A19 bulbs are the most common bulbs installed in household lighting fixtures. They are available in a wide range of wattages and color temperatures. 

a graphic of an A19 LED light bulb with two arrows pointing to it showing dimensions of 2.4 inches wide and socket base type E26

Types of A19 Light Bulbs

A19 bulbs are available in a range of types, including:

Incandescent A19 Light Bulbs

A19 incandescent bulbs are a traditional type of bulb that uses a filament made of tungsten wire to produce light when heated by an electric current. Incandescent bulbs are inexpensive and have a warm, soft light, but they are not energy-efficient and have a short lifespan compared to other types of bulbs.

Halogen A19 Light Bulbs

Halogen A19 light bulbs are similar to incandescent bulbs but use a small amount of halogen gas to extend the filament life and improve lighting performance. Halogen bulbs produce a bright, white light and have a longer lifespan than incandescent bulbs, but they are still not as energy-efficient as other Fluorescent or LED bulbs.

A glowing A19 light bulb hanging from a fixture trasnsposed against a dark background

Fluorescent A19 Light Bulbs

Fluorescent bulbs contain gas that generates UV light when exposed to electrical current. The inside of the bulb has a phosphor coating that glows bright white as a reaction to the UV light. 

Fluorescent bulbs are more energy-efficient and have a longer lifespan than incandescent bulbs, but they can take a few seconds to reach their full brightness and may not be suitable for use in fixtures that are frequently turned on and off.

LED A19 Light Bulbs

These bulbs use a semiconductor to produce light when an electric current is applied. As a result, LED A19 light bulbs are the most energy-efficient and have the longest lifespan. They are available in a wide range of colors and color temperatures, and homeowners can use them in various lighting fixtures, including recessed cans. 

a hand in the middle of the picture holding up a lit up LED light bulb with a garden in the background

​​Here’s a chart comparing the various styles of A19 light bulbs and there characteristics

Lifespan1 Year1-2 Years8-9 Years15-20 Years
Initial Cost$$$$$$$$
Max BrightnessRequires warm upInstantRequires warm upInstant

What Kind of Bulbs Are Best For Recessed Cans?

While all of the lighting technologies mentioned above can be compatible with recessed cans, LED bulbs are the best choice for the job. First and foremost, their low temperature makes them incredibly safe, especially when used in non-IC-rated cans. 

Additionally, LED light bulbs have a resistance to shock and vibration resistance far superior to any other bulb type. As a result, lights in recessed cans in downstairs rooms are often subjected to increased shock and vibration from footsteps above, and because LEDs are incredibly robust, there is a reduced chance of damage to the bulbs. 

Are All A19 Bulbs and Recessed Cans Compatible?

There are several factors to consider when determining whether you can use an A19 light bulb in recessed cans:

  • Bulb wattage – it is essential to ensure the bulb’s wattage is appropriate for the fixture. Overheating can occur if the wattage of the bulb is too high for the fixture, potentially causing a fire hazard.

    This occurrence is less of a concern with LED bulbs as they require significantly fewer watts to produce the same light in lumens as incandescent or halogen bulbs.
  • Heat dissipation – some bulbs, such as halogen and incandescent bulbs, produce more heat than others. Therefore, it is essential to make sure that the fixture is designed to handle the heat produced by the bulb and that there is enough space around the bulb for the heat to dissipate.

    LED bulbs are generally the safest in this regard as they produce the least wasted heat energy.
  • Fixture size – finally, ensure that the can fixture is compatible with an A19 light bulb. A19 bulbs may not fit in particular small cans, and if the can is designed for a larger bulb, like an A23, you might find that the bulb does not provide sufficient light.
A homeowner screwing a LED can light into a fixture

Final Thoughts

As long as you ensure that the A19 bulbs you choose are of a suitable wattage and that they will physically fit, you will have no problem installing them into a recessed can fixture. A19 LED bulbs are the best option for recessed light fixtures for optimum performance.

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