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Insulating recessed lights where there is no attic

alhjr | Posted in Energy Efficiency and Durability on

I have an interesting problem. We have seventeen, 6″ recessed lights in a ceiling that has no attic above it. We conducted an energy audit (we’re putting in a 9 kw solar system and a host of other related changes) and found these to be a serious source of energy loss. The area where these are located is a single story, family room that just has the heat sucked out of it in the winter. These recessed lights are like chimneys.
While I am replacing most of our recessed lights with LED’s, this one area I haven’t touched as I need to insulate first
I don’t know if these cans are IC, but even so, those make me a little nervous, but I also have ZERO access from above. Everything will have to be done through the can openings.
Any ideas?

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  1. WEG | | #1

    I had a customer who is a builder and had the same problem. He found some air tight trim kits from Cooper Lighting - He had to educate the electrical supply house as they were not aware of these products. I never saw the trim kits installed.

  2. davidmeiland | | #2

    Keep going with the LEDs... google for "Cooper All Pro LED retrofit" and similar items, they will outperform a typical open trim with a flood by quite a bit

  3. alhjr | | #3

    Thank you so much. I will look into this tomorrow.

  4. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #4

    I'm skeptical that either a better trim kit or LED lamps is what you need.

    What you really need to do is remove all the recessed cans and replace those holes in your roof assembly with insulation. Then patch the drywall and install surface-mounted fixtures (for example, track lighting).

  5. davidmeiland | | #5

    Martin, I don't disagree, but that could be a very big job. 17 cans are probably on 2-3 switches, with the wire from each switch running from can to can in series. They are likely run without much slack, so it could be hard to get any one of those wires into a ceiling box to feed a track end. Then there are all the junctions that would be "abandoned"... except they can't be abandoned because they have to be accessible, so somehow they would have to be put into blank covers in the ceiling. Bottom line, the owner is going to have to do a fair amount of drywall damage in order to pull new wires or re-route the existing, and at minimum he needs an electrician, a drywall finisher, and a painter. Yes, your way is better, but if he can't afford all that I think he can make an improvement by going for more airtight trims, and LEDs too.

  6. wjrobinson | | #6

    I have to side with David. Air sealing is everything. Air sealing is why spray foam had an advantage when it first started to be used.

    Air sealing older homes is the first and best improvement one can make to existing home stock. That and going to lower usage of energy via light changes and then a left out idea, reducing the amount of your home that is conditioned or lit.

    In the end my and most customers desire recessed lights. I am no longer in the eliminate them camp. There are now fantastic ways to insulate them and air seal them. I am very willing to use them now that we do have great ways to install them as well as any other light. Track lights are ugly things to many, including myself. Myself I prefer lamps and ceiling fans, but for kitchens and high end bathrooms, recessed are sweet along with some under and over lighting along the cabinets, and pendants over islands and peninsulas.

    I build for the customer and I believe we can accommodate their needs along with being more green than yesterday.

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