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Save Energy by Improving Recessed Lights in the Attic

Recessed lights (also called a ”down-light,” ”can light,” or even ”high-hat”) that stick up from a ceiling into an attic floor are often a significant source of air leaks and wasted energy. This is especially true for older recessed lights. Older versions of these lights have holes which leak warm air into the attic and get so hot, they cannot be covered with insulation. The air leaks are also amplified by the heat from light bulbs since warm air rises. When a home has many recessed lights that protrude into the attic, the leaks can lead to higher energy bills especially in the winter because the house struggles to hold the warm air in.

So, how do you go about fixing this problem?

  • Replace old lights with modern recessed lights to greatly improve the situation. The modern version of recessed lights are labeled “ICAT” (insulation contact air tight) to indicate that they can be covered with insulation and are much less leaky. However, unless you have electrician skills, replacing all the recessed lights in your home can be an expensive project. 
  • Another less expensive approach to solve this problem is shown in our “How to Cover and Seal a Recessed Light” video (also above). Using an inexpensive, fire-proof cover (as shown in the video) available at many home improvement stores, a homeowner can reduce air leakage and cover recessed lights with insulation using this approach.


downlightBONUS TIP: It is important to remember that, at the same time, the light bulb in the recessed can should be replaced with a cooler-running, longer-lasting ENERGY STAR certified LED bulb rated for recessed cans for additional savings (see examples to the right).  ENERGY STAR certified LED bulbs rated for recessed cans are specially tested in high-heat test chambers to simulate the environment a light bulb will experience in a recessed can. Plus, ENERGY STAR certified LEDS use much less energy, have great light quality (choose from warm/soft white or cool/bright white), are longer lasting (a lifetime of 12 years with typical use), and have a minimum 3-year warranty.  The lower wattage (while delivering the same amount of light) also greatly reduces the overall heat inside the recessed can fixture. All of this adds up to a great choice for a home improvement project. Go to to learn more about improving your attic and to learn more about ENERGY STAR certified lighting products.

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