Installing insulation around recessed lighting

Updated February 21, 2017

Incandescent lights generate a lot of heat and can cause fires if they are close to flammable materials, so knowing how to insulate around your recessed lights is important in preventing fire hazards. The method used depends on the type of lamps you have installed. Read on to learn what to look for when insulating and how to do the job correctly.

Verify that the lights have an "IC" designation on them. "IC" means "insulation contact," meaning that insulation can touch the light without danger. If the lights have "IC" labels, you may insulate around them. If the lights do not have this designation, use them in a location that does not require insulation. If you wish to use non-IC lights with insulation, see Step 3.

Whether the light is IC or not, read the printing on the electrical cable connected to the light to verify that it is rated for temperatures to 23.9 degrees C C. If the wiring was installed prior to 1986, it is only rated to 60 degrees C and must be replaced with new cable that can withstand the additional heat from the lamp.

Insulation must be at least 3 inches away from non-IC lamps. Put a piece of wood or sheet metal between the ceiling joists on either side of the lamp to prevent insulation from touching the lamp. If you do not wish the lamps to remain uninsulated, replace them with IC-rated lamps.

Get your work approved by the building inspector.


When shopping, consider buying lamps that have an ASTM E283 air leakage rating.


The maximum wattage bulb allowed for the lamp is printed next to the socket. Never use a bulb that exceeds this number; for example, if the maximum wattage allowed is 60 watts, under no circumstances should you use 75-watt bulbs or higher.

Things You'll Need

  • IC-rated light fixtures
  • Electrical cable rated for 75 degrees C
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About the Author

Etienne Caron teaches English to speakers of other languages and has been writing for Demand Studios since 2009. He graduated from Westfield State College in 1993 with a bachelor's degree in regional planning.