Friday, December 24, 2010

Should I insulate my recessed lights?

Dear Ida B. Green,

I've read that my recessed lighting fixtures are decreasing the effectiveness of my house's insulation. How do I fix that?


Recession Proofing

Dear Recession,

Anytime you create leaks between your heated space and unheated spaces, you're defeating the goals of your building envelope and insulation. Although you might assume this is only of concern if you've got recessed lights or fans in rooms directly under your attic space, you need to pay attention anywhere they're installed, as the cavity between your ceilings and the floor boards above are not usually sealed and insulated to the outside.

Air infiltration can be slowed by correctly installing the gasket that comes with your fixture or by caulking carefully around an existing fixture at the ceiling. If your fixture's opening goes directly into the attic, you will also need to check on how it's insulated from above. Many recessed lights are not rated to come into direct contact with insulation and your attic insulation must be kept at least 3 inches from all sides of the fixture (a barrier will need to be made if you have loose fill insulation).

However, if your light does not produce enough heat to start insulation on fire, it will be rated as such and is marked with "IC," and can be surrounded and covered by your attic insulation.

Keep it Green,


—Elizabeth Jeffrey

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