How to Insulate Ceiling Lights

Written by dave donovan
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How to Insulate Ceiling Lights
Uninsulated recessed lights could be costing you money. (ceiling image by EvilGirl from

With utility costs constantly on the rise, homeowners are becoming more concerned with fixing things around the home that can help conserve energy use and eliminate energy waste. One of the most common causes for lost heat or inefficient cooling is poorly insulated ceiling fixtures. Air easily slips up into the attic through these light fixtures, causing your AC or furnace to run more often than they really should. Making sure your ceiling lights are properly insulated will help you control your utility costs and make your living space more comfortable.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Screwdriver
  • Insulation

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  1. 1

    Turn off the power to the light fixtures and wait for the bulbs to cool. Remove the light bulbs to determine what type of recessed lights you have. Most recessed lights have a label on the inside of the can that identify its type. If a label is not there, you may have to gain access above the ceiling to look on the fixture's housing for the label. There are typically two types of recessed ceiling light fixtures--IC-rated and Non-IC-rated.

  2. 2

    Remove any insulation away from the housing of a Non-IC-rated ceiling fixture in the attic. In most cases, these fixtures are safe for using in insulated ceilings, but the insulation must be at least 3 inches away from all sides of the fixture.

  3. 3

    Cover the IC-rated ceiling fixture with insulation to help prevent air loss. Because it's designed for use in insulated areas, overheating is not a concern for this type of fixture.

  4. 4

    Install properly sized finishing trim rings on your ceiling lights, using a screwdriver. If there are gaps between the cut drywall and the edge of the ring, a larger ring is needed to prevent air loss through the gap. Before installing, however, make sure the foam insulating ring is on the inside of the trim.

Tips and warnings

  • An IC-rated light fixture is constructed for use in ceilings where insulation is existing. Non-IC-rated fixtures are designed for use in ceilings with no insulation. Your local building codes may have different regulations for Non-IC-rated fixtures, so always check before installing them.
  • If these changes don't satisfy your needs, install new recessed light fixtures rated "airtight." Airtight fixtures are designed to eliminate air leaks in and around the housing and are the best means of preventing air loss through ceiling lights.
  • If insulation completely covers a Non-IC-rated fixture, it can overheat, making it a fire risk.

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