Recessed light gasket

Recessed light gasket DEFAULT

How to Draft-Proof Recessed Lights

By Cecilia Harsch

Recessed lights have several holes cut through the housing that can allow air drafts from the attic into the room below and air to escape your home through the ceiling. The openings cut in the ceiling’s drywall can also allow drafts. To stop these drafts, you must install light caps over those recessed housings that do not allow you to cover them with insulation. You can also install recessed housing gaskets between the ceiling and the trims to further draft-proof both IC and non-IC (insulated ceiling or non-) recessed fixtures.

Be sure the lights are off. Go into your attic to access the recessed light housings. Check the color of the housings; white housings cannot have insulation within 3 inches of the housing, but the insulation can touch the sides of silver colored recessed housings.

Ensure the insulation covers the recessed housing to help stop the drafts from entering your home through the openings in the housings. Cover the white housings with recessed light caps. The caps should sit flush against the drywall between the attic and the room below. Mark along the outside of the cap any items, such as wires or brackets that keep the cap from sitting against the drywall.

Remove the caps from the housings. Create cutouts in the caps for the wires or brackets with a utility knife. Place the caps back over the housings. Make any additional adjustments to the cap to ensure it sits flush against the drywall.

Insert the application straw into the spray nozzle on a can of spray foam insulation. Apply the insulation around the bottom of the cap where it touches the drywall. Make sure to apply the foam around the cuts you made in the caps.

If you haven't yet, turn off the recessed lights. Remove the light bulbs and the recessed trims.

Peel the protective backing from the adhesive side of an air-tight recessed light gasket. Center the gasket over the recessed can opening in the ceiling. Press the gasket against the ceiling. Press the gasket’s center tabs into the inside of the housing.

Replace the trims and light bulbs in the recessed housings.


Writer Bio

Cecilia Harsch has been writing professionally since She writes mainly home improvement, health and travel articles for various online publications. She has several years of experience in the home-improvement industry, focusing on gardening, and a background in group exercise instruction. Harsch received her Certified Nurses Assistant license in She attended Tarrant County College and studied English composition.


Recessed light sealing ideas

Clodbuster said:

JFletcher and steve That old work can is a good tip and thanks. I guess that's the way a guy needs to go to get airtight while dealing with the possibility someone sticks a high watt bulb back in.

I think if I go to the trouble of removing and replacing it though I'll try to eliminate the can projection in the attic altogether though. Maybe replace with a flush mount/puck light type setup and regular ceiling box.

Does anyone do any caulk/firestop/mastic/whatever sealing on all the holes and penetrations in a regular 4-O box? They are pretty porous.

Click to expand

I see you are in WA state. The cans linked above comply with your state's energy codes. The only time I have sealed 4 square () steel boxes is in rated walls, in hotels, where there are over " of opening or less than 24" horizontal spacing. In all but one case, moldable putty pads were installed by us or the firestop contractor. They are draft, smoke, fire and sound seals.

Overlamping cans with a medium base bulb is physically possible of course, tho I do not know of any recessed can lights with that socket that do not have a thermal overload built into them - I believe it is a requirement for listing:

'Ghost switching' or can lights coming on and off by themselves is a sure fire indicator it's overlamped and the cutout is doing its job. I replaced hundreds of these at a hotel I used to work for; previous maintenance got a 'great deal' on those hr W bulbs, and installed them everywhere. If not for those cutouts I'm sure there would have been a few fires, tho several severely overloaded dimmers were found melted and on their way.


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This post was originally published on the Structure Tech blog, and has been lightly edited.

Showing heat beneath the insulation on a spectrum:
red and white is hottest while blue is coldest.

To be honest, I love recessed lights, but even the best quality recessed lights create a ridiculous amount of heat in attics, which can lead to ice dams and other issues. Until I started performing infrared inspections (using an infrared camera to examine heat differences, which could pinpoint air leaks and lack of insulation) in attics, I never quite grasped how much heat recessed lights contributed to attics, but now my eyes are wide open.

On a recent home inspection in Maple Grove, Minnesota, I found a home with 46 recessed lights sticking up in to the attic, along with some wicked ice dams on the roof!

The main problem I find with recessed lights is that they're not insulated well enough. A standard recessed light will stick up in to the attic about 7 inches. If an attic has 14 inches of loose fill fiberglass insulation, how much insulation does that leave on top of the recessed light? Hang on, let me get my calculator…

At any rate, there's far less insulation above recessed lights than anywhere else in the attic, and these are the areas that get the hottest, so the area above and around recessed lighting should really have more insulation than anywhere else in the attic. Unfortunately, that rarely happens. When you use an infrared camera, the combination of minimal insulation and hot light fixtures shows up clear as day.

How to tell if recessed lights are airtight

The thermal images above show how much heat is leaking through the insulation above an IC rated, airtight recessed light with a watt incandescent bulb. IC rated means that it's safe to have insulation directly in contact with the light, but it's not synonymous with airtight. You can usually tell if a recessed light is airtight just by looking inside it; if there are a bunch of holes inside the housing, it probably isn't airtight.

If you can see light pouring through on the attic side, it's definitely not airtight. All of these little holes in the housing are passageways for heated air to escape in to the attic; they’re called attic bypasses.

How to prevent problems with recessed lighting

Having said all this, I don’t think recessed lights are truly "evil," but they sure can cause a lot of problems, and there seems to be very little understanding of this in the building trades. Here's what you can do to prevent problems:

  • If you plan to install recessed lights that are going to protrude in to your attic, make sure they're airtight, IC rated lights. After the lights are installed, be sure to double down on the amount of insulation above the lights; you're gonna need it.
  • If you already have airtight recessed lights in your home, you probably need way more insulation installed on top of them. This is usually quite simple to do, but without an infrared camera, it might take a little time to locate all the lights.
  • If you already have non-airtight recessed lights sticking up in to your attic, don't worry: there's a fix for this. Simply construct an airtight box out of rigid foam insulation, and "glue" it together with spray foam.

Airtight box made of rigid foam insulation and
glued together with sprayfoam, used to
insulate and air seal recessed lights.

After you've created your airtight, insulated box, place it over the offending recessed light in your attic and use a bunch more expanding foam to seal it up and make it completely airtight. Not only will this prevent air leakage from around the light, but it will also dramatically increase the insulation level above the light. While the box pictured below is the ugliest box I’ve ever seen (I built it), it’s still very effective at preventing heat loss.

If constructing and installing insulated boxes throughout your attic seems like too much work, you could always replace any standard incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent lights or LEDs; they produce far less heat, they’re easy to install, and you’ll start saving money right away on your electricity bills.

Recessed Light repair and replacement

Foam Gasket for Ultra-Thin Recessed LED Lights (1 Gasket)

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