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Community and Q&A

Recessed lights & insulation

rcl330 | Posted in Energy Efficiency and Durability on

Hi all,

I recently had an insulation contractor come in and put 12 inches (additional) insulation into my attic spaces (3) and install some baffles because of some ceiling shadows we were experiencing.

Problem is that the same evening I noticed all of my recessed lights thermal sensors flicking them off and back on from overheating. I went up into the attic and noticed that they had insulated a foot right overtop of the non-IC cans (halogen bulbs in these as well.) I’ve pulled it back as best as I can for right now, but I had a few questions. Keep in mind, I’m minimally handy — just want what’s safe for my wife and 2 y/o daughter.

1. Is there a retrofit kit I can use on a can that has a GU10 plug to convert that can to a surface LED? Most of the surface light kits I see have the standard bulb screw-in.

2. If no one has any recommendations for option #1, should I install tenmat covers over top of the cans? I have 13 recessed lights total in my home that need this done.

Thanks very much in advance.


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  1. rcl330 | | #1

    Attached image of can/plug.

  2. charlie_sullivan | | #2

    An adapter like this could do what you want

    I can't vouch for that particular brand ... Just illustrating an approach.

  3. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #3

    First, you should call up your insulation contractor and inform them of their error. They should know better.

    Second, even Tenmat caps are no guarantee that you will avoid overheating, but they're better than your current situation.

    Third, the best approach would be to hire an electrician to install IC-rated LED fixtures (shallow ones).

    Here is a link to an article with more information: Recessed can lights.

  4. rcl330 | | #4

    Thank you both.

    I agree about calling the contractor. I called them back to have them clear it out and asked them about putting down tenmat caps at that time, but they said they didn't even know what it was/who sold it. They are going to come out tomorrow and clear the insulation off the lights/build a dam so it can't roll back on, but I think what I may do for the semi long term while I get the money to replace those fixtures is to put the covers on myself and try to switch to LEDs.

    Needless to say I'm a little frustrated... this is one of the more reputable companies in the area, and I figured they would know how to deal with recessed lighting properly. Crawling in my attic the day of install to keep my house from potentially burning down isn't my idea of a good time.

  5. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #5

    The insulation company violated good practice guidelines and violated the building code. They are legally responsible for complying with both, in theory. Not worth suing them, unfortunately -- but you might inform them of their legal liability in the (vain) hope that they will raise their standards a notch for the next customer.

    All they would need to do is read a few articles on the GBA site -- just the articles about their chosen profession, mind you -- before they go dragging an insulation hose through your house and up to your attic... But that's asking for a lot, I know.

  6. charlie_sullivan | | #6

    It's exasperating how often a moderately well informed homeowner can exceed the expertise of a contractor in the contractor's own specialty. My luck with insulation contractors has been particularly poor. But there are also contractors out there who have a wonderful wealth of knowledge and skill. I hope you have better luck the next time.

    I think you could get away with leaving the insulation in place, installing an LED retrofit, and caulking the LED trim for air sealing, but that's not really the proper way to do it.

    1. redbera | | #7


      Have you ever tried that method (caulked LED retrofit)? I was thinking of doing it for our recessed lighting problem (though we have IC rated fixtures) and am looking for advice.


      1. andy_ | | #8

        Since this thread is a half decade old, I think they've got it sorted by now.

        1. redbera | | #9

          Haha, I realize that. I was just looking for advice for myself on what I mentioned/was mentioned by Charlie S.

          1. charlie_sullivan | | #10

            Personally I have some can lights with LED trim, but they are in a lower level where they aren't penetrating the envelope and aren't caulked. My upper-level lights are all surface mounted with junction boxes in the attic.

            I think the decision on whether to air seal from above or below with an IC rated fixture is mostly about ease of access above.

          2. redbera | | #11

            Not sure why it won't let me reply to you direct, but right. I was mostly curious if it is still safe air seal from below. Seems like it would, that there wouldn't be anything to worry about, but I was just checking if any body have done it. It seems like a far more convenient and pleasant retrofit, but I didn't find much discussion about it.
            One drawback seems to be during replacement where you might peal off some paint removing the caulked baffle, but then you add another and bob's your uncle. And it might be hard to find the exact same project 5 years later to match the other retrofits. But those things seem minimal to me.

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