Locating Air Leaks 9 - Recessed Can Lights Locating Air Leaks 9 - Recessed Can Lights

Recessed Can Lights: Big Source of Air Leaks, But No Easy Solution

Recessed can lights look great, but when they bump into your attic space, they can make your home less energy efficient. Recessed can lights in a one-story house, or in the ceiling of a second story, create open holes into your attic that allow unwanted heat flow between conditioned and unconditioned spaces. In the summer, can lights make the room warmer and in the winter they draw warm air up into your attic. Warm air leakage into cold attics can contribute to moisture problems and ice dams (where snow melts and re-freezes at the roof edge or gutters). Here are some suggestions for improving the recessed can lights in your attic:

Call a Professional to Properly Seal
Existing can lights that are not rated ICAT (Insulation-Contact-Air-Tight) can be sealed by homeowners, but it's not simple and can create a hazard if not done properly. Because non-ICAT can lights need adequate air space around them to vent the heat they create, it's best to consult with a professional before sealing them.

When Replacing or Adding Buy Energy Star with ICAT
Look for ENERGY STAR qualified recessed fixtures that reduce energy use as much as 75 percent. However, it's important to check that any fixture selected meets your light output expectations since fixtures come with widely varying wattage bulbs and optics. Also make sure fixtures have an ICAT rating to minimize heat loss.

Switch to More Efficient Bulbs
When keeping existing recessed can lights, you can still reduce lighting energy use as much as 75 percent by installing ENERGY STAR qualified compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs. This includes CFL bulbs specifically designed for recessed can lights with built-in reflectors matching the appearance of traditional incandescent reflector bulbs. As with new fixtures, it is important to make sure any CFL bulb selected meets your light output expectations. However switching to CFL bulbs will not solve the air leakage problem.

Keep all insulation 3 inches from can lights, except those rated IC (insulation contact). You can use a piece of circular metal flashing or wire mesh around the light as a dam to keep the insulation away from the light.

Approved for publishing by the EPA

Got a New Project You're Proud of?

Post it on Your Projects!