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What You Need To Know About Recessed Lighting

Updated on August 28, 2011
Recessed lighting located in a basement bedroom.
Recessed lighting located in a basement bedroom. | Source

Recessed lighting is a great alternative to traditional ceiling lighting as it makes a space feel more open and modern. Installing new recessed lighting is a great way to update a space and increase energy efficiency. But before you start a project installing recessed lighting, there are some basic safety principles that you need to know.

Fire Rating

All recessed lights have an fire rating on the label that states the clearances needed from the recessed light to combustible materials. This warning is mostly due to the likelihood of recessed lighting being installed in ceilings that have an open attic access and can easily come in contact with insulation material. Certain recessed lighting is rated for direct contact with insulation or other combustible materials. The label on the inside of the recessed light will indicate its fire rating (see the picture below of a typical recessed light label).


Any area that is high in moisture or has a likelihood of being a high moisture area is required to be rated to exist in such an area. If this is not followed, electrocution could occur as certain areas could become energized. This is also indicated on the labels of recessed lighting so make sure that you check the labels before installing recessed lighting in high moisture areas.

Bulb Wattage

Many times, people will complain about recessed lights shutting off automatically after a certain amount of time. This is a safety mechanism build into modern recessed lighting that senses excess heat and shuts off the recessed lights. This is almost always due to the wrong bulb wattage. If a recessed light says 60 watts and you install a 75 watt light bulb, this is enough to trip that sensor and the light will turn off automatically for a given time period; usually 20 minutes.


Recessed lighting can be a major source of air infiltration from an attic space. Using fire rated can foam insulation can eliminate the air leakage from recessed lighting and dramatically increase overall energy efficiency.

Recessed lighting is a great option for a modern update. Explore your options before installing recessed lighting. It is always recommended to use a licensed electrician for any electrical improvements. A properly wired home is a safe home.

Recessed light labels indicate the fire rating.
Recessed light labels indicate the fire rating. | Source


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