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Community and Q&A

Balancing holes in the ceiling with adequate lighting

whitenack | Posted in Green Building Techniques on

Hi all,

Building a new home in central KY, zone 4A. Trying to figure out lighting needs on the 2nd floor and trying to limit the amount of holes in the ceiling. We will not be using canned lights, so that is good, but we are still talking about fixture boxes cutting holes in the drywall. My wife wants to put a few extra lights in the bathroom and bedroom ceilings vs. me trying to get by with just one (in each room) plus (or including) the exhaust fan.

How difficult is air sealing around light fixtures in an attic during new construction? I am planning on doing the air sealing myself to ensure it is done correctly as well as cutting down the labor cost, so we are just talking about the cost of materials and how difficult it is to properly seal all the holes (and the resulting energy efficiency of those sealed holes).


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  1. STEPHEN SHEEHY | | #1

    Have you considered strapping the ceilings with 2x4s under your air barrier and using shallow boxes? Then you don't need to seal around the lights.

  2. Jon_R | | #2

    Also consider mounting lights up high on interior walls.

  3. Expert Member

    It isn't difficult at all. You can use gasketted boxes that just need a dap of caulking where the wires enter, manufactured or homemade enclosures that will cover any box, or LED fixtures that come with good seals. Unless you are using cans or dozens of ceiling mounted fixtures it isn't worth making any drastic changes to the construction or location of your lights.

  4. user-2310254 | | #4

    Clay. I would be a little cautious about over-minimizing the lighting. It's one of those things that's easy to handle now but a potential pain if you want to add more later. If you have a good lighting store in your area, you might want to have a Certified Lighting Designer review your plan. Sure, the CLD will likely suggest a lot of fixtures, but you don't have to accept all his/her suggestions.

    I've built houses with and without CLD input and think it's worthwhile to check with an expert.

  5. whitenack | | #5

    Thanks folks. I always enjoy the advice I get here.

    I am planning on the LED disk lights that look like recessed can lights. They are cheap, efficient and dimmable. And, sounds like the air-sealing is easy enough on the attic side that I can put in as many lights as my wife wants and not have to worry about losing a lot of heat through the ceiling (assuming I seal things correctly).

    On a related topic... There is a pretty good price difference between the whispergreen light/fan combination unit and the fan-only version. Am I thinking incorrectly that I would be better off getting the fan-only version and using a separate light fixture? I am paying extra for labor and materials, but i would imagine I am still not spending all of the savings?

  6. brp_nh | | #6

    The lighting decisions for our house were very DIY with some advice from our electrician. We decided on no ceiling lights for the 2nd floor and just have wall sconces, one in each bedroom and two in the bathroom. It's worked out fine for us in terms of lighting design, but may sound extreme to other people. Upstairs Panasonic bath fan is also below the ceiling in a chase, vented through wall. I'm sure these decisions plus other attention to air sealing helped us get below passive house levels on the blower door test.

    For your planned ceiling lights, just make sure you have the right materials (gasketed boxes) on hand or available locally...and that your electrician is on board. You don't want to be scrambling last minute for materials.

    And make sure you have time to spend in the attic air sealing before the insulation is blown in. Getting to those "little" projects can often be challenging when lots of bigger stuff is happening.

  7. drewintoledo | | #7

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