Many homeowners choose recessed lighting, often referred to as “can lights”, for their sleek, clean aesthetic. Neatly tucked up into the ceiling, recessed lights don’t detract from other design elements and they produce lots of light in the areas where you need it. But these beautiful additions may be one of the main reason behind your high energy bills!
The biggest issue with recessed lighting is that you need to cut large holes in your ceiling in order to install them. Even after the recessed lighting fixtures are in place, tiny cracks between the sheetrock and fixtures that force your HVAC unit to work harder to warm or cool the house. In the winter, warm air can be sucked out of your home, and in the summer, warm air can enter the home.
In addition to higher energy bills, the additional wear and tear on your HVAC system can lead to the need for more frequent heating and AC repairs.
The best way to tell how much of an impact recessed lighting is having on your home’s energy efficiency is to call your HVAC contractor and ask for an energy audit.
What’s more, older recessed lights have holes that can leak warm air into the attic. These older models are also notorious for heating quickly, to the point that most of them cannot be insulated.
What can you do about this?
The ideal solution is to avoid recessed lighting in the first place because it doesn’t matter how much you seal them, they will always leak air. If replacing your existing recessed lights with more energy-efficient alternatives isn’t possible because of the cost, or design concerns there are two options to consider.
Replace older recessed lights with modern, energy efficient models
When buying the new lights, ensure they are labelled ICAT which is short for Insulation Contact Air Tight. This means that the lights can be covered with insulation and leak much less air than uninsulated models. It’s a good idea to bring in a trained electrician to first inspect the existing lights to determine whether they are insulation contact (IC) approved. If they are non-IC, you should have them replaced.
To further increase the energy efficiency of your recessed lights, you should install LED bulbs instead of incandescent or compact florescent light (CFL) bulbs which release between 80% and 90% of their energy as heat, not light.
Cover and seal your recessed light fixtures
There are several ways of covering recessed lights. You can make a foam box or enclosure (cans, buckets) and place these over the leaky recessed lights. Then cover the enclosure with insulation. You can also install an airtight trim kit. Trim kits are little cones that install from the bottom to create a seal around the bulb. Keep in mind though, that the boost in energy efficiency will be minimal if you choose this option.
Don Williams is an online marketer based in the DFW area.