Published on November 4th, 2013 | by Henri


Cold air comes in through recessed lights

Q.    My house is only nine years old and well insulated with one exception. The recessed lights that are in many areas throughout the  house allow a significant amount of cold air into the house in the  winter time; in fact, probably as much draft as one would find in a very old house.

I have asked for advice, and all I hear is that you can’t put insulation around these lights, and the only solution, an expensive one, is to replace them with the newer recessed lights that don’t permit air to go into the house. Do you have an inexpensive solution for this?

A.    Those who recommended changing to lights that “don’t permit air to go into the house” are referring to IC fixtures (IC stands for insulated ceilings). These fixtures can be covered with insulation and would be the best solution to your problem.

You didn’t say but assuming that you have flat ceilings and access to the attic, I’ll pass onto you a system a mechanical engineer friend and I devised years ago to solve this very problem. You can build a collar with 24-inch wide stock aluminum coil roll. Make the collar 24 inches in diameter and fasten its ends with sheet metal screws or pop rivets. Place this collar on top of the existing attic floor insulation Put a sheet of aluminum on top of the collar. Wrap R-13 fiberglass insulation around the collar and place the same type of insulation over the aluminum sheet.

This leaves enough air space around the fixture for the heat generated by the bulb to dissipate while blocking cold air from getting through and providing an insulated jacket. Be aware that this is not a procedure recommended by building codes.

However, if you have cathedral ceilings, there are only four solutions: Replace the fixtures with IC fixtures; replace them with surface mounted fixtures after insulating around the new electrical boxes and repairing the drywall; remove them entirely and patch the ceiling; or live with the problem.

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