Recessed lights can be quite decorative, but they are known among Energy Auditors as notorious energy wasters. Those “pot lights” that are tucked into the ceiling requires a substantial hole in the room’s envelope.
Recessed lighting fixtures often stand out as the biggest HVAC efficiency problem in the room, as evidenced by thermal mapping. This technology allows Energy Auditors to see exactly where air leaks are located.
What to do if you have recessed lights
Which kind of recessed lights do you have? There are two types:
- 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.
Ideally, you want a tight caulk seal attaching the light directly to the ceiling material. If it’s merely bolted or wedged into place and not caulked, you’re setting yourself up for drafts.
Solving the recessed lights problem
If you want to keep your recessed lights, you can caulk to improve the seals around your lights, but the efficiency boost will be minimal.
If you’re willing to upgrade your fixtures, select 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. It’s probably a good idea to hire an electrician to help you with this.
Another option is to replace the recessed lights with track lighting or hanging fixtures. Properly patching those holes in the ceiling is the most HVAC-friendly choice you can make, putting $$ back into your pocket.