Recessed lighting can be beautiful, but it can also have a downside. Those “pot lights” that are tucked into the ceiling requires a substantial hole in the room’s envelope… and that can lead to drafts, making them among the most notorious energy wasters in modern homes.
Thermal mapping technology allows Energy Auditors to see exactly where air leaks are located. Recessed lighting fixtures often stand out as the biggest HVAC efficiency problem in the room.
Addressing the recessed lighting problem
First, determine what type of recessed light fixtures you have and how they’re attached to the ceiling. There are two types of recessed lights:
- Insulation Contact – IC fixtures are lower wattage and produce less heat, which means it’s acceptable to pile insulation material over the light housing.
- Non-Insulation Contact – Non-IC lights get too hot to be in direct contact with insulation material, which means these lights often have the worst air leak issues.
Check how the light is affixed to the ceiling. Ideally, you want a tight caulk seal attaching the light directly to the ceiling material. If it’s bolted or wedged into place and not caulked, then air is getting through.
What to do
If all you want to do is improve the seals around your lights, all it will cost you is a little caulk — but your efficiency boost will be minimal.
You might want to hire an electrician to help you with this. But if you’re willing to upgrade your fixtures, you’ll want to choose IC fixtures that are fully sealed. When you have them installed, be sure they are sealed tightly and that the tops of the fixtures are covered with plenty of heat-resistant insulation.
Another option is to replace the recessed lights with hanging fixtures or track lighting. Fully patching those holes in the ceiling is the most HVAC-friendly choice you can make.