How Can I Make My Home More Energy Efficient? – Part 8

It won’t be long before that first cold-snap comes around. Yep. It’s that time of year again: Cold weather, and time to fire up your heating system. So here’s the next installment of how to make sure that you are getting the most out of your utility costs. We’ve been talking about sealing and insulating your attic, and in the most recent post we discussed proper attic ventilation. In this post we will wrap up work in the attic.

How do I deal with Recessed “Can” Lights

Recessed “can” lights (also called high-hats or recessed down-lights) may be aesthetically appealing, but when they protrude into your attic they can cause a tremendous energy loss. They are essentially open holes into your attic that allow heat to flow where you don’t want it to go. In the summer, hot attic air enters your rooms adding to the load on your AC system. In the winter, warm air is pulled out of your home and into your attic. Problems can occur from both the warm air leakage and the heat from the light fixture itself. In cold climates where the “can” light is close to the roof itself, the heat rising from the light melts snow on the roof which then re-freezes at the edge of the roof forming an “ice dam”. And if you have “can” lights in your bathrooms there are additional problems when warm, moist air enters the attic and causes moisture damage. What can you do?

  1. Call a Professional           
    It is possible to seal recessed “can” lights, but it is not easy. And if it is not done correctly it can create a fire hazard. Any old-style light fixture needs sufficient air space around it to vent the heat they put off. So covering them with insulation is NOT the solution. And while fixing the insulation that surrounds them, be sure to keep all insulation from touching the fixture. You can use a piece of metal flashing or wire mesh to create a barrier and keep insulation at least 3-inches away. The exception would be if it has an “Insulation Contact” (IC) rating.
  2. Replace them with Energy Star and ICAT rated fixtures 
    Nowadays you can buy recessed “can” lights that are rated “Insulated Ceiling Air Tight” (ICAT). This allows you to cover the fixture completely in the attic to close the ‘holes’ of energy loss. And if it is also Energy Star rated you could reduce energy consumption up to 75%. Of course there is a huge variety of “can” lights available. So if you decide to go with this option make sure the fixture you choose has the light output and light spread that you want.
  3. Switch to energy efficient bulbs               
    As a side point, if you keep the fixtures you have, you should at least consider replacing the bulbs with compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs. But not just any CFL bulb. Choose one that is designed for “can” lights with a reflector to match the appearance of traditional “can” light bulbs. Just keep in mind that this will only reduce your energy consumption due to lower wattage bulbs and will not solve any air leakage problem caused by the fixture.

That’s it! Pull your tools out of the attic! But stay tuned for the next installment which will discuss what goes on below your floor. (UPDATE: Read Part 9 here!)

Want to ask us a question about making your home energy efficient? Visit our “Ask an Expert” page and let us know what’s on your mind! Our resident expert here at GAMA Air will get back to you ASAP.

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