Can anyone recommend a low cost method for dealing with square recessed lights?   We find them often in soffits above kitchen sinks on eave exterior walls. In our experience:

  • There usually isn't enough head room to build a drywall or cement board box around them.
  • The prefabricated covers don't leave enough clearance around the larger housings and the headroom factor often prevents sealing covers anyway.
  • We've replaced the units with air-tight housings but they are expensive, often require new expensive trim, and since we can't find remodel housings, the headroom makes installing them very difficult.
  • We've also replaced them with surface mounts but that usually involves installing a junction box to extend the wiring, patching the ceiling hole, and drywall finishing since the surface mounts haven't been wide enough to cover the old hole.

Has anyone found air-tight inserts to fit square lights?  What about air-tight remodel housings?  Other suggestions?

Tags: Air, Lights, Recessed, Sealing

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I don't think there is an easy answer for this. It might be cheaper to cut it out and replace with a can IC AT can and do the repair.

The other idea which I do not even know if I would recommend it is to remove the trim cover remove the glass spray paint the trim replace the bulb with an LED caulk or silicone the glass to the trim and caulk the trim to the drywall.

you mitigate air but not insulation. the unit itself is still functioning as it was but is now airtight. 

I like your second idea although there is still a fire hazard potential if we insulate around the fixture and someone replaces the bulb in the future.

agreed

Can you create an air barrier (5/8" drywall or 1/2" ply) at the ceiling level? eliminating the soffit, and the need to air seal, baffel, and insulate around the fixture?

This makes allot of sense access in those areas is always tight but if it could be done it makes everything easy.

As I mentioned with sealing the light and you point out lack of the ability to insulate is an issue. I would not insulate around it, but in the future will others show this reservation? The bulb would not bother me as the fixture has not been altered significantly and can still bleed heat into attic space. Will whomever cuts the caulking to access the bulb reseal it? Unknown and therefore not the best solution long term.

However as a cheap way to stop convection thermal bridging it works. Radiant is another story of course.

At times during these processes we need to weigh what is the best way and explore less effective methods based on budget.

for cost effectiveness and speed Georges suggestion is the best one. 

If it was my house, I'd be completely comfortable with the LED and insulating over the housing.  In fact, I'm debating offering it as a solution for clients so long as they are willing to accept the risk.  In this case, the days of incandescent lighting are numbered so the future risk is pretty negligible.

I think we try too hard to make everything idiot proof and risk free...it limits options and makes jobs too expensive.  Our window of opportunity to prevent climate catastrophe is short.  We need to make weatherization more affordable and part of that may require clients to accept some responsibility.  That could mean they can choose to have insulation blown over LED converted light housings, forgo dams around unused chimneys, have their house tightened beyond BPI standards without having to install continuous ventilation, streamline combustion safety to backdraft tests under normal conditions, etc.  Who's house is it anyway?

That's our standard approach but it's just too difficult in the eaves with a 3/12 pitch roof.

always hard to solve what you cannot see.

I use a method which for lack of a better term I call a Popsicle in tight areas such as this. I cut a piece plywood or drywall wide enough to cover most of the hole but slim enough to get between rafters. The length long enough to cover the hole plus about six inches. I attach a 1 x 2 to the board long enough to push to the edge on one side or the other which ever has better access. I crawl to the space bringing caulk, mastic or foam with me and a screw gun and some screws. Once I get to the area I load up the edges and run a bead on the far side as close to the opening as I can. I push the piece as far to the plate as I can squish down with stick and then run a screw into the Popsicle handle to secure it to the ceiling joist

It is not perfect but is ready for blown in insulation now.

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