What is the difference between
IC and Non-IC Rated recessed lighting?

recessed lighting - electrician new jersey new jersey — A recessed light is a light fixture, usually shaped like a cone, which is installed into a hollow opening in a ceiling, directing a focused beam of light downward. There are two basic types – IC and Non-IC Rated. IC stands for “Insulation Contact” and Non-IC housings are prohibited from direct contact with any type of housing insulation (see last week’s Wednesday e-mail). The reason is that the insulation can trap the heat created by the bulb and either melt the insulation on the electrical wiring, creating a fire hazard, or actually ignite combustible materials.

Some older homes may have recessed lighting that is not IC-Rated but is covered with insulation. The obvious solution is to simply remove the insulation from a distance of 3 inches surrounding the fixture. This, however, creates its own hazard, especially in an attic, because heat can now escape from the fixture and cold air can come into the house. This can not only increase your heating bills but can also cause condensation around the light that can damage plasterboard or plaster ceilings as well as the fixture itself.

That’s why today’s building codes require that recessed lighting installed in ceilings exposed to outside air be IC-Rated and air tight. These fixtures, noted for their safety and energy efficiency, can be covered with insulation to reduce energy loss without creating a fire hazard.

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IC-Rated fixtures are essentially “a can within a can” with a layer of insulating air in between. As a result, the inner can may be heated by the bulb, but the outer can, which can come into direct contact with insulation, remains cool and is not combustible. To ensure even greater safety, The Underwriters’ Laboratory (UL) also requires that both IC-Rated and Non-IC Rated recessed lights be equipped with a safety override switch within the fixture. The safety switch automatically turns off the light when too much heat from the bulb has been trapped, causing the temperature to rise to a certain point. Once the fixture has cooled, the switch turns the light back on again.

As recently as a few years ago, Non-IC Rated recessed lights were often preferred over their newer IC-Rated counterparts because they usually allowed for higher wattages. You can tell the difference by looking in the attic because IC Rated fixtures are silver while Non-IC Rated fixtures are white. The newest IC-Rated fixtures are ICAT (Insulation Contact Air Tight) Rated and are silver but have insulation around any holes. They can be installed wherever conventional Non-IC or IC-Rated fixtures are used and can also be installed in a ceiling with an unconditioned space such as an attic above it. They can also accommodate higher wattage bulbs that could formerly be used only with Non-IC Rated fixtures.

If you are unsure what type of recessed lighting you have, especially if you own an older home, it would be a good idea to have it inspected by a licensed electrician. Even if the fixtures are IC-Rated, replacing them with ICAT-Rated fixtures can dramatically reduce your heating and cooling bills.

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