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Surface-mounted LEDs

NormanWB | Posted in General Questions on

I understand how recessed lights are a problem with air sealing, so I want to go with surface mounted LEDs wherever I can. So, how are these mounted and wired? Is a 4″ box sealed with foam and then the box sealed to the ceiling, followed by the surface mount?

Also, are there any smart LED fixtures that work with Google Home?



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  1. NormanWB | | #1

    "Also, are there any smart LED fixtures that work with Google Home?" - I mean surface mount ones. :)

  2. Expert Member
    Dana Dorsett | | #2

    Many surface mount LED fixtures are designed be mounted in a sealed 4" electrical box, eg:

    Don't know of Google Home capable fixtures, but if not right now, they'll probably be available in another 20 minutes... (It's a rapidly moving market!)

  3. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #3

    There are many types of LED fixtures that can be installed in a shallow electrical box. Here are links to two GBA articles on one brand:

    Rethinking Recessed Lighting

    Canned Lighting Conundrum

    The easiest way to install this type of thin LED fixture in an airtight manner is to buy and install airtight electrical boxes. Here are some links to web sites that sell these boxes:

    If you have already installed your electrical boxes, and you forgot to buy the right type of box, it's possible to seal an ordinary shallow electrical box (sort of) to make it airtight, especially if you have access to the back of the box from the attic side. (The results won't be as satisfying as they would if you had bought airtight boxes, though.)

    You can use caulk or canned spray foam, or in some cases, high-quality tape, to try to seal the holes in the box and the hole where the cable or cables penetrate the box. Don't forget to seal the crack between the drywall and the box, and remember that it's a code violation (and a fire hazard) to fill the box with canned spray foam.

  4. NormanWB | | #4

    I found this one that seems to address some of the issues with these boxes:

    ATB Box

    Hoiwever, I am not sure their seal will work with drywall and no vapor barrier. I think a compressible foam would have been a better choice.

    Also, how do these adhesives hold up to a Rotozip tool on drywall installation? It would seem you would either fill the glue with drywall dust or somehow try to remove the covering tape after the drywall is up. Am I missing something?

  5. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #5

    As far as I know, this type of electrical box is incompatible with the Rotozip method of drywall installation.

    One solution is the old-fashioned one: measure and mark the cut-out for the electrical box before installing the drywall; cut out the box opening with a drywall saw; and install the drywall panel. I've used that approach for most of my drywall hanging jobs, and it isn't that hard.

    Do GBA readers have any other suggestions?

  6. jberks | | #6

    What about "spring clip" LED luminaries? I am not a fan of the Large cans or surface mounted LED.

    I'm planning on using this product at $20/light:

    They are dead simple to install, no electrical boxes needed. It looks like it has a foam gasket around the contact area to seal around the bottom side of the drywall.

    Does anyone have any experience with these?


  7. Expert Member

    I can't see how any method of cutting out the holes would consistently leave a debris-free edge that the adhesive would attach to. The foam-edged boxes work, and are easy to use.

  8. NormanWB | | #8

    Jamie B.: I have installed similar lights in a basement bath, They look nice, but the springs do not provide a true airtight seal, even with the foam around the perimeter. I would probably caulk around the edges ether in the attic or from below.

    What would be great is something similar that used 12V wiring that did not require a junction box, just a little hole in the ceiling. Then you could daisy chain them together to a smart home controller in a wall switch. It just seems wasteful to me to put a rectifier in every one of these and any associated wireless capability, too.

  9. jberks | | #9

    Hi Norman,

    Good advice. In my case the lights are going on every floor, and there won't be an attic or access from the top side. I would be concerned on how to seal it without caulk poking out the sides. I'll figure something out.

    I agree with you that its wasteful and inefficient to have a rectifier at each light. But good luck trying to convince the residential electrician to do a 12v lighting system.

  10. NormanWB | | #10

    I found some relatively inexpensive surface mounts at They come in two temps, various trims, dimmable versions, and work in damp locations. At 1000 lumens they put out a lot of light.

  11. adilali23 | | #11

    Recently, I stumbled upon this issue that how can I make my house more decorative much like an antique asset. I came across some antique electric components like brass or antique ceiling fans and lights, modern minimal design switch boards.
    Now that I knew what I need, I want to buy this online since as there's lock-down in my area so I searched on google and stumbled a website named Blitzen India. Oh boy, there website aesthetics gave me that antique - decorative vibe. I decided to explore the site where I did found so best modern electrical products with that antique touch. Never seen such assured delivery in just 2 days (Jaipur).
    My experience was very good, trust me. I do recommend visiting

  12. davidsmartin | | #12

    LED fixtures occasionally fail. And it is not unusual for manufacturers to discontinue a model. Even if there is a long warranty that won't help you match the old ones if the one you want is no longer available. So if you have a bunch of the same fixtures it is worth buying a couple extras. Otherwise if (when?) one fails you may spend many hours trying to find a new fixture that is similar to your old ones.

    1. Expert Member
      MALCOLM TAYLOR | | #13


      That's a good idea. Think of it like keeping spare lightbulbs.

      1. Expert Member
        Peter Engle | | #14

        Yes, except spare lightbulbs only cost $.50, or they used to. Keeping spares of many different fixtures would significantly increase the cost of lighting. This is one of my bigger LED complaints - the variability of lifespan. I track the life of my LED's. Yes, my OCD kicks in and I put a date on each one as installed. We are nearing the 10 year mark on many of them and they are still kicking. But I've got others that fail within a year. When it's just an A10 or other standard replacement bulb, that's not much of an issue. But when it is an integrated fixture it can be a real PIA. I don't think that buying extra fixtures as insurance is really a sustainable solution. I do try to buy fixtures from the larger manufacturers and that seems to help, but even so, the race to the bottom in quality/cost affects these too.

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