Can Lighting: The Good, The Bad & The Funky

| by Ken Summers
Can Lighting: The Good, The Bad & The Funky

Today many homes have a type of lighting fixture called recessed can lighting. While these can be a great accessory for your home and are often used to purpose light into an area without being seen, they can also add to your indoor air quality issues.
Originally developed in the 1930's these lights were used sparingly and mostly in tight or small quarters such as closets and showers, where space was limited. In the 1980's they started to become a standard fixture and now almost every home has recessed can lights somewhere in the house.
There are two types of recessed can lights -  IC rated and non IC rated. They come in models for new construction or for remodeling projects. IC rated simply means that they can have the insulation of the home touching the fixture without being a fire hazard, while a non IC rated fixture may not.

Non IC rated lights should be used in soffits or in between floors. The IC rated lights should be used when the penetration goes into an area where there is insulation – such as in an attic. That does not mean to say that you’ll never find a non IC rated light used in an attic.  You’ll find plenty of them used this way – particularly in older homes built before 1982. In such cases, it’s a good bet that the installer simply tore out any insulation that might be near or around the fixture. While this may pass from a safety standpoint, the lack of insulation could affect the heating and cooling of the home.

Going into the attic and inspecting the lights can be quite an eye opener for homeowners. Most HVAC professionals will use an infrared camera when looking for hot or cold spots in the home. Using thermal technology is a sure way to quickly spot missing insulation in walls, attics and crawlspaces. And in older homes with can lighting, expect to see lots of red! If that’s the case for your home, you should seriously consider talking to a professional about eliminating this costly problem.
It is also important to figure out if the IC or non IC can lights in your home are deemed airtight from the manufacturer. Holes in these types of fixtures allow heat to dissipate and escape. During the winter the heat used to keep your home comfortable can also escape through these holes, causing cold spots and drafts. In the summer, these holes allow hot air full of humidity to enter the home, causing hot or muggy rooms. In some cases I’ve seen it affect the comfort level of entire floors in a home.
And finally, these lights are great pathways for dust, pollen and other pollutants to enter the home. The good news is that they are repairable. Today there are sealed trim kits, specialty boxes and one-piece LED lights that will solve the problems that recessed can lights maybe causing in your home.

For more information about this issue or anything else related to maximizing your home’s performance, visit the Comfort Institute website at or email me any questions you may have at


Topics: Indoor Air Quality, Lighting

Sponsored Links:

Related Content

Latest Content

Get the latest news & insights





‘How-To’ video creator Tom Mills makes world greener :26 at a time