Recessed Lighting Q and A

Q. My husband installed recessed lighting in the kitchen. The problem is the recessed light bulbs keep going out after a couple of months of use. Can anyone tell me what might be causing this problem?

A. There are a number of things that might be the cause:
(1) It's really less frequently than every couple of months, but it seems like it to you. I don't mean to insult you, but many people's gut feeling is off here.
(2) Excessive vibration can kill bulbs. Maybe your kids' room is above this room?
(3) Excessive heat can kill bulbs, too. One cause of excessive heat is over-wattage bulbs. Many recessed cans are limited to a maximum of 75-watt bulbs, but many people put 100-watt bulbs in them. Another cause of excessive heat is installing the wrong fixture. If you installed a non-IC can in a ceiling with insulation, the heat trapped by the insulation may be killing the bulbs.
(4) Excessive voltage or voltage spikes. This can be caused by a poor quality electrical supply, or by a loose connection of a neutral wire. If you have a voltmeter, you may be able to measure voltage. Call your power company and ask them to check. This is normally a free service.

Q. I recently installed a H7ICAT 6" recessed light over my tub/shower, which is in a closed area tub and commode separated from rest of bath with a door. Now I am looking at trims. It appears I have a choice of three - 170PS flat (I think that one has a reflector cone), 171PS dropped opal (may have a reflector), or 172PS, which is sort of a bubble and doesn't say anything about a reflector cone. With the H71CAT can, I can only use a 40-watt bulb, which isn't much. Has anyone had experience with the trims and could tell me which trim would give the brightest light possible?

A. If you use a trim or lens with a reflector, you'll get a little more light from the 40-watt bulb than usual. In case you didn't know why 40 watts is the max, it is because of the lens, which traps the heat from the bulb. You don't want to use atrium without a lens for obvious reasons. In some cases, the use of the trim/lens without a reflector will allow a higher wattage bulb.

Q. I have small recessed light fixtures in the bedroom ceiling. Periodically two of them cycle off and on. I have changed the bulbs several times with no change. Is this a socket problem or maybe an overheating issue caused by too much insulation packed around the fixtures in the attic?

A. This could be caused by insulation, however, you need to make sure that the bulbs in your fixture do not exceed the wattage recommendations of the fixture. If this isn't the case, then check to make sure that the fixture's ventilation has not been blocked by either insulation or other possible issues such as installation error like being too close to something that blocks air flow or even coats of paint over vent openings. I've seen all of these. Finally, a factor simply could be how long the fixture is being left on. Leaving it on for long periods will cause heat build-up and could be causing the fixture to cycle off. Over wattage is the most common cause. Make sure your bulbs are no more than 75 watts, and 65 watts are better. Make sure the bulbs are the appropriate type for the can - usually you want "R" or "BR" bulbs. Then go up in the attic and make sure all the insulation is no closer than 3 inches to the can unless the can is marked "IC" rather than "non-IC."

Q. I want to install recessed lighting in a basement remodel. As sound dampening, I used Kraft faced insulation in the ceiling. The recessed lighting cans are type-IC. My question is, is it OK to let the recessed lighting can touch the Kraft face of the insulation battery or is this fire hazard? The instructions say it is OK for the can to touch the insulation but said nothing about the Kraft face. The fact that it is paper concerns me.

A. I don't think it's a good idea to let the can touch the paper. But I don't think you should have used faced insulation between floors, either. Take the paper off the insulation, replace it with un-faced insulation, or turn the insulation upside down so that the paper doesn't touch the can.

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