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Choosing Recessed Light Fixtures

Recessed light fixtures can be used in every room and passageway in a home. However, all recessed light fixtures are not the same! The differences not only apply to the external trims that each manufacturer has available, but there must be consideration made to the safety of the fixture used in a specific location.

There are 5 primary categories of recessed light fixtures:

  1. Incandescent Recessed
  2. Fluorescent Recessed
  3. Low Voltage Recessed
  4. ENERGY STAR Recessed
  1. Fire Barrier Recessed

Within those categories there are 4 other factors which should be taken into consideration:

non IC recessed light fixture

Figure 1 - Non IC recessed light fixture

IC recessed light fixture

Figure 2 - IC recessed light fixture

IC and air tight recessed light fixture

Figure 3 - IC and air tight recessed light fixture

  1. Non IC, as shown in Figure 1, (these are recessed light fixtures which should be used in a ceiling that has conditioned space above, such as the first floor of a two story home. Non-IC fixtures cannot have insulation touching the surface of the metal fixture. Hence, they are not good for attic spaces.
  2. IC rated recessed light fixtures, as shown in Figure 2, can be used in any location. The IC label indicates that they have been tested and approved to have insulation surrounding and on top of the light fixture housing.
  3. IC rated and tested for Air Leakage to ASTM E283, as shown in Figure 3. These fixtures are the best for attic locations as they provide for insulation to surround the metal fixture and they are air leakage tight which will prevent drafts and conditioned air from being expelled to attic or other non-conditioned areas.
  4. Many, if not all, of the IC fixtures manufactured require that the wiring to the fixture be rated for a minimum temperature of 75 degrees C. Most homes in North America, built before 1985 used wiring that was only rated to 60 degrees C. Installing these fixtures with wiring that cannot take the additional heat can cause a fire to occur, because the insulation could melt from the wires.

Note: Do not confuse an IC rating with an Air Leakage rating. IC rated fixtures can provide drafts and expel warm air from living quarters into attic space.

Of course it is the trim that makes the recessed light fixture suitable for the ambience of your room, passageway, hall, foyer or closet. Following is just a small sampling of the trims that are available.

recessed light trim 1 recessed light trim 2 recessed light trim 3 recessed light trim 4
recessed light trim 5 recessed light trim 6 recessed light trim 7 recessed light trim 8