How To Insulate Around IC Rated Recessed Lights

Insulation Around Recessed Lighting

IC rated recessed lights are designed to burn cooler than regular lights. When they get too hot, they shut down automatically. Therefore, as the name suggests (IC-insulation contact), installing certain insulation in contact with the lighting fixture is safe. You may insulate them and their surrounding with either fiberglass or cellulose insulation.

You may be wondering how to insulate around IC rated recessed lights. Start by gathering the supplies you will need, and then make sure the recessed lighting is actually IC rated. To do this, check the label on the inner chamber of your lighting fixture. Next, cover any holes with batt insulation or loose fill insulation between the canister and the ceiling joists.

Read on for more detailed steps on how to insulate around IC rated recessed lights.


  • Screwdriver
  • Fiberglass or cellulose batts or insulation fillings
  • Sealant


1. Confirm The Recessed Light Is IC Rated

If you have the recessed light’s packaging, check to see if it is labeled as IC-rated. Otherwise, you will need to unscrew the lighting to check. Turn off the power supply from the main switch first. Once unscrewed, look for an IC rated label at the bottom.

2. Determine If The Canister Is Airtight

Switch off all lights in the house apart from the recessed lighting fixture you are working on. Go to the attic and observe if there is any light. If there is, it means that the recessed cans are not airtight sealed. While you may go ahead with the insulation installation, the air leak will reduce its efficiency, and you may experience heat loss. This will be evidenced by a high electricity bill despite insulating your recessed lighting fixture.

If the lighting is not airtight, insert a loose fill of unfaced fiberglass or cellulose insulation inside the empty spaces within the canister. You may also seal the holes completely or partially with caulk. Then, apply a waterproof membrane using a sealant over the fixture to prevent condensation within the canister.

3. Insulate The Recessed Light

Place insulation around the canister until all the gaps between the recessed lighting fixture and the drywall are completely sealed. Cover the bottom of the fixture with batt insulation or loose fill insulation. Keep topping up the insulation until the insulation layer is on the same level as the rest of the attic insulation.


You may think that recessed lights have minimal effect on your energy bill. However, do not underestimate the chimney effect as it can cause huge energy loss cumulatively, particularly if there are several recessed bulbs installed. If the recessed lights are IC rated, you can insulate them yourself without risking a fire hazard by following the steps described above.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you know if a lighting fixture is IC rated?

Check the underside of the fixture. You should see an “IC-rated” label on the Underwriter’s Laboratory sticker. If It is not IC-rated, there will be a “Non-IC-rated” label or no label at all.

What is the difference between can lights and recessed lights?

The term can light is a nickname used for recessed lights. It is derived from the fact that recessed lights have a cylindrical, can-like housing. At a glance, it may seem as if a light bulb is placed in an empty can and then inserted into a hole in the ceiling.

Can I use spray foam to insulate around IC rated recessed lights?

While spray foam insulation is a great insulating material, it forms a barrier on the surface it is applied to. Therefore, if it comes into contact with IC rated recessed lights or adjacent surfaces, it may prevent heat transmission from the lighting fixture. As a result, the light may overheat, leading to an explosion or electrical malfunction.

Why should you install insulation around IC-rated recess lights?

Interior designers and property owners prefer recessed lights as they provide ambient lighting in the spaces they are installed in. However, since they are technically cylindrical canisters, they tend to have a chimney effect.

Chimneys rely on their design to direct smoke out of the fireplace through the laws of thermodynamics. Similarly, the canister shape of recessed light enables warm air to drift from the living space into the attic area. As a result, the HVAC has to work harder to maintain optimal temperatures. Insulation reduces heat loss, promoting energy efficiency.

Is it possible not to have enough insulation around the IC rated recessed lighting?

Yes. The insulation in place may have a lower R-value than what is recommended. Or, it might be improperly installed, compromising its energy-saving efficiency.

To determine if the insulation is adequate and properly installed, hire a professional to assess your recessed lighting using a thermal imaging camera. If it is not enough, you will need to reinsulate and also insulate the attic. If you are not adequately skilled or knowledgeable about insulation, it is best to leave it to professionals.

While they may be costlier, they will be more efficient and ensure that the insulation works appropriately. This will save you significantly in energy bills. It will also save you time, energy, and materials lost in trial and error.