Installing Recessed Lighting – Fire Safety

By Todd Fratzel on Electrical

Recessed Lighting Fire Safety

IC Recessed Lighting Installing Recessed Lighting   Fire SafetyI’ve had several questions this month about fire safety and recessed lighting (or recessed cans). If you’re going to be installing recessed lighting or you’re going to be adding extra insulation to an attic it’s important to understand the dangers and potential fire hazards with recessed lighting.

Recessed Lighting Housing Types

Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (UL) identifies 4 primary types of recessed lighting housing including:

  • IC (Insulation Contact) for New Construction – These fixtures are typically installed before finished ceiling materials and before insulation installation. The fixture can be completely covered and in direct contact with insulation materials.
  • Non-IC for New Construction – These fixtures are typically installed before finished ceiling materials. However, these fixture can NOT be in direct contact with insulation materials.
  • IC (Insulation Contact) for Remodeling – These fixtures are typically installed after finished ceiling materials and insulation installation in a typical remodeling situation. The fixture can be completely covered and in direct contact with insulation materials.
  • Non-IC for Remodeling – These fixtures are typically installed after finished ceiling materials. However, these fixture can NOT be in direct contact with insulation materials.

One safety feature that ALL recessed lighting fixtures contain is a self resetting thermal switch to prevent overheating. So in theory even Non-IC fixtures have some protection from overheating and fire. Even so Non-IC fixtures should NEVER be used in a situation where they might come in contact with insulation materials or other flammable building materials.

UL Labels

All recessed lighting fixtures should include a label. The labels are found on the inside of the “can” where the light bulb is installed. As shown above recessed lighting that’s acceptable for contact with insulation will include the initials IC while fixtures that are not rated for contact will typically include NIC on the label.

Most manufacturers also include specific information about recessed lighting fixtures online. You can download most specifications including whether or not a certain fixture is rated for IC installations.

About the author

Todd Fratzel

I'm full time builder for a large construction company in New Hampshire. I run their design-build division that specializes in custom homes, commercial design-build projects and sub-divisions. I'm also a licensed civil and structural engineer with extensive experience in civil and structural design and home construction. My hope is that I can share my experience in the home construction, home improvement and home renovation profession with other builders and home owners. I'm also the author of Tool Box Buzz and Today's Green Construction. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, suggestions or you'd like to inquire about advertising on this site.

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2 Comments

  1. David H says:

    Great website, has been very helpful in my basement re-remodel after previous owners wrecked it so poorly. Question on recessed lighting. We will be installing a drop ceiling due to low height. Are there any additional considerations with recessed lights since we will be using the drop ceiling panels?

    • Todd says:

      David – Nothing in particular but I’d highly recommend using “IC” or “In Contact” lights even if they won’t be touching anything. Also, I prefer a 2×2 ceiling grid when using recessed cans so the tiles won’t be as likely to sag over time. Good luck and thanks for visiting the site during your project.

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