Recessed lighting first became really popular and mainstream in the 1980’s with the advent of vaulted ceilings and all that came with them. These lights were great; they presented a smooth, sleek ceiling surface and they in many cases, could be directed without the use of a rail system.
Today they are still popular given the abundance of “atrium” living rooms in the current architecture, but the topic of recessed lighting safety is still just as relevant as it ever was.
The History of Recessed Lighting
Of course, you have tried to change out a light bulb which has been turned off for only a few minutes? You burned your fingers, didn’t you? Light bulbs can get very hot. The temperature of the bulb can reach hundreds of degrees of heat.
This will cause fires in the right circumstances. As a matter of fact, a lot of home fires have been caused by improperly installation or a modification of can (recessed) light fixtures.
This is often true in old homes equipped with older model recessed lights. In situations such as these, homeowners have wrongly encased older fixtures with fiberglass insulation.
The insulation encapsulates heat generated by the bulb. This heat can melt the insulation on the wiring or set ablaze flammable materials that are located close to the fixture.
The popular insulation movement, originating in the energy meltdown in the latter 1970’s, made the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) respond. This organization is responsible for many of the improvements to the electrical fixtures, electric code, and wiring requirements that we see on a periodic basis.
The Industry Response
Once again, the UL folks heeded the call. They formed guidelines which let manufacturers build recessed light fixtures that could be totally covered and smothered with insulation for additional energy conservation. All of these fixtures will have an IC label if they have been certified. This is your assurance of compliance guarantee.
But, these lights can come with a bit of a penalty. They usually use lower (below 100 watt) wattage bulbs. The reason for this is because the insulation that covers or touches the light fixture will contain way too much thermal energy from higher temperature bulbs.
These IC light fixtures are equipped, so long as they’re UL approved, with a thermal protection switches. So, install a bulb that’s too powerful and your light will cycle on and off.
Today you can get an additional level of energy conservation with a lower level of heat generation by converting over to compact fluorescents.
Manufacturers have begun producing these bulbs for all imaginable applications, from appliance bulbs to lamps.
Using these bulbs, you can get the wattage you desire and not only lower the heat output but lower your electrical bills from less wattage consumption.
photo by pdz_house -CreativeCommons Attribution