Recessed Lighting Problems
"There are several reasons why your recessed lights turn off by themselves."
Recessed Lighting Problems Checklist
- Heat sensor in fixture turning off lights
- Bulb wattage possibly too high
- Insulation trapping excess heat
- Wrong recessed housing leaking air
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DEAR TIM: My husband installed some recessed lights in a family room we just built. I think he goofed something up. Every time I turn the lights on, ten minutes later they automatically turn off.
Also, I feel a draft through these fixtures. Did we make a mistake purchasing recessed lights? T. G.
DEAR T. G.: No. However, your husband very likely made several mistakes during the installation. Some of these are potentially very serious and could result in a fire.
FIRE HAZARD: Do not use the lights again until you have them checked by a professional or by your local electrical inspector. By the way, the electrical inspector DID look at the lights and wiring before they were covered, didn't he? I hope your flashlight batteries are fresh.
Can Recessed Lights Produce Layers Of Light?
Recessed lighting is a very functional type of lighting. It can be used to create a border of light in a room, flood work areas with light, spotlight pictures or sculptures, and as general purpose lighting.
Personally, I prefer to mix recessed lights with other types of lighting fixtures such as indirect lights and hanging fixtures. This creates layers of light that can be peeled from one another to create different moods.
Is the Thermal Protection Switch the Issue?
There are several reasons why your recessed lights turn off by themselves. All Underwriters Laboratory (UL) approved recessed lighting fixtures produced since the early 1980s must have a thermal protection switch built into the fixture. This device will turn off the light if the temperature inside the fixture gets too hot.
It turns off the light so the excess heat doesn't melt the plastic insulation on the electrical wires. If that insulation melts, arcing can happen and a fire results.
After the light cools down, the sensor resets itself allowing the light to turn back on.
If this is what's happening to you, your lights are telling you there is a problem that must be addressed.
Does Ceiling Insulation Trap Heat?
Your problem may be the ceiling insulation. Some recessed fixtures are allowed to be smothered in insulation. These often are designated IC fixtures.
Fixtures without this designation must have a minimum of 3 inches of clearance between the fixture, its junction box, ballasts and any insulation.
The National Electric Code specifically states that nothing should be installed above these fixtures that will either trap heat or block free air circulation through the fixture.
Is Light Bulb Wattage Important?
The wattage of the light bulbs is important. More wattage means more heat. The fixture is rated for a maximum bulb wattage.
In your case, your husband may have installed a fixture without the IC designation. If insulation is too close or on top of this fixture, the fixture will overheat. The problem may also be as simple as the light bulb within the fixture. If it is too large (too high a wattage), the bulb is creating too much heat.
Where is the Bulb Wattage Label?
Remove the bulb and look inside the recessed light housing. You should see labeling which tells you the maximum wattage of the bulb that you can place in the fixture. Be sure to use the approved light trims for the fixture as well. Intermixing trims between fixtures can cause you to lose your UL rating.
Am I Supposed to Feel a Cold Draft Through the Light?
The draft you feel is unnecessary. Many manufacturers now make recessed lights that are completely sealed. Using these fixtures can save you money.
A single recessed light fixture that's not airtight can allow up to 2.5 million cubic feet of air to pass through it in one year. This type of air flow could waste up to 1 million BTU's of energy loss per fixture per year!
Are There Great DIY Electric Books?
If you're looking for a great book for installing simple wall lights to running wire in new construction and in existing walls and ceilings, then Wiring a House is the book for you.
This book, written by master electrician Rex Cauldwell, is sure to become an indispensable reference for anyone who wants a common sense guide to residential electricity. The photos and illustrations featured in this book are clear, crisp and easy to understand.
If you're looking for a book with invaluable information on tools and materials, detailed instructions for how to repair or replace the wiring in old buildings and bring them up to code then you need a copy of Old Electrical Wiring. This 400-plus-page book tells you everything you could ever imagine about switch layouts, troubleshooting, and design change.
It also has an extensive glossary of old wiring terms and slang. Packed with drawings and illustrations, including pictures of old devices, this practical book will tell you whether an old electrical system should be torn out or repaired. This book will really help you.