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Illinois Country Living

Lighting your home with style and efficiency

Recessed lights have been popular for decades, and remain the lighting fixture of choice for overhead lighting. As with any other product in the home, some recessed light fixtures are more energy efficient than others. Efficient options can use 80 percent less electricity than inefficient versions and provide the same amount of light output with practically the same appearance.

Recessed light fixtures are unique because they penetrate and are mounted in the ceiling of a room. From an energy conservation standpoint, this is not an issue when installed in the first floor ceiling of a two-story house. However, if fixtures are installed in the second-story ceiling or the first floor ceiling of a one-story house, a hole is created between a conditioned living area and the open, unconditioned attic area.

Without an efficient design and proper installation, a recessed lighting fixture allows conditioned air to leak out of the house.

There are new energy efficient recessed light fixture designs that meet Energy Star standards. All of these fixtures use fluorescent light sources instead of inefficient incandescent bulbs. This fact alone reduces electricity consumption by 75 percent. The inside surface of the new fixtures is also more reflective than older inefficient versions.

For fixtures in ceilings where indoor air leakage seems likely, select a new airtight design with a sealed canister. The sealed airtight recessed fixture canister, when installed properly, forms an airtight seal between the ceiling and the fixture.

As a safety note, if you already have recessed lighting fixtures in your home, do not go up into the attic and wrap them with insulation to try to save energy. Wrapping older fixtures with insulation can hold in too much heat, particularly when standard incandescent bulbs are used. The excess heat buildup can become an electrical or fire hazard.

If a recessed light fixture will be installed in a ceiling under an insulated attic floor, select an insulation contact-rated (IC) design. These fixtures are designed to touch insulation without overheating the fixture.

To brighten an entire room, downlighting can be quite effective. In a normal-height ceiling, a four-foot spacing of recessed light fixtures provides an even lighting pattern at floor level. Typical six-inch-diameter fluorescent fixed vertical fixtures work well for downlighting. If you’d like to dim some of the lights, consider installing a second circuit and dimmer switch with incandescent bulbs in those fixtures.

For task lighting, a single fixed vertical fixture directly over the work area seems effective. Wall wash recessed lighting can be used to accent a painting or other wall hangings. For a sloped cathedral ceiling, install an angular recessed IC model fixture.

The following companies offer efficient recessed fixtures: Capri Lighting, (800) 234-1890,; Cooper Lighting, (770) 486-4800,; Juno Lighting, (847) 827-9880,; Lightolier, (800) 215-1068,; and Sea Gull Lighting, (800) 347-5483,

Send inquiries to: James Dulley, Illinois Country Living, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit


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