Question

I would like to cover recessed lighting with fiberglass insulation but am concerned with fire hazards and building code requirements.

Asked by Vincent Da Forno
Woburn, MA

I have recessed lights in 2 rooms for a total of 9 lights, some with halogen some with incandescent bulbs. Some have square metal boxes covering them, some do not. What should I do?

Answer

David Bergman

Answered by David Bergman

New York, NY

David Bergman Architect

October 31, 2011

You're right to be concerned. Recessed lights that will have insulation around them need to designed with heat resistance in mind since the insulation will prevent heat from the light bulbs from dissipating and can create a fire risk.

With your existing lights, what you'll need to do is find the model number and information on the lights and see if they are "IC" (for Insulated Ceiling) rated.

Presuming they are not IC rated, you have a choice:

  • replace the fixtures with ones that are IC rated, or
  • keep the insulation well clear of the housings so that they are adequately ventilated.

The latter route is not ideal since you will be circumventing the purpose of adding the insulation.

Since it sounds like you have access to the ceiling space above (I assume that's how you're getting the fiberglass insulation in there),

  • I'd suggest  "doing it right" and replacing the lights.
  • And you can take advantage of the opportunity by installing energy-efficient CFL or LED recessed lights instead.

And I can't resist adding: check out the alternatives to conventional fiberglass insulation. There have been quite a few posts here in Green Home Guide talking about the other options.  Read these two:

Do you have a question about greening your home? GreenHomeGuide invites you to Ask A Pro. Let our network of experienced green building professionals – architects, designers, contractors, electricians, energy experts, landscapers, tile & stone specialists, and more – help you find the right solution.