Modern-day lighting certainly has evolved by leaps and bounds since Thomas Edison first invented the lightbulb. Though with each momentous leap in lightbulb engineering and fixture design there also comes a slew of new terminology to interpret to make sure that you are installing just the right lights to meet your home’s needs.

IC Rating is one of the more important terms to familiarize yourself with if you are updating or upgrading your home lighting. It is particularly important with recessed lights as well as making sure that all your light fixture wiring is concurrent with fire codes. It can also be a factor in some homeowners’ insurance policies.

What Is An IC Rating For Residential Lights

When it comes to home residential lighting “IC” stands for insulation contact and the IC rating is the insulation rating for a specific light fixture determined by the manufacturer.

It’s important to note that a lot of light fixtures generate heat. Some more than others. If your light fixture doesn’t carry an IC rating, then there is an increased fire risk. In some cases, the risk can be so great that your home’s lighting could fail a real estate home inspection. If you have non-IC-rated light fixtures in your home and a fire occurs in one of them, your homeowner’s insurance policy might not fully cover the damages.

Where Can I Find The IC Rating For My Lights?

The first place to look for a light fixture’s IC rating is on the label on the inner chamber of the lighting fixture itself. A lot of IC-rated light fixtures have the letters “IC” in the model number. Whereas a non-IC rated light usually says “NON-IC.”

This label should also tell you the maximum wattage that the light fixture can allow. Going over this rating can damage the fixture, put you at risk of damaging the wiring supplying the light, and could lead to a dangerous electrical fire. So, it’s always wise to use bulbs that are within the wattage rating indicated on the label of an IC or non-IC rated light fixture.

How Is Recessed Lighting’s IC Rated?

The way recessed lights are installed directly into a ceiling requires them to have an IC rating. This might also be included in your local fire codes and will likely be examined in a thorough real estate home inspection.

There are a few key factors that are considered when determining a light fixture’s IC rating. Though the primary factor is the light fixture barriers which provide space between the light fixture itself and the insulation. This is primarily fiberglass or cellulose insulation.

A lot of the best IC ratings are created by having two layers of metal casing enveloping the light fixture, with each separated by a pocket of air. This engineering feature serves to diffuse the heat created by the light. In a lot of light fixtures like this, the outer layer of metal doesn’t heat up to a temperature that is considered to be dangerous.

Do Surface Lights Need An IC Rating?

While recessed lights need to be IC-rated, a lot of normal hanging light fixtures don’t. This is because they don’t make direct contact with your home’s insulation or other potentially combustible materials. Though a light fixture that has an IC rating and one with a wattage recommendation that is strictly followed is a definite safety bonus.

If you are planning a major remodel with light fixtures, or you are just thinking about updating your home’s interior lighting remember that your recessed lighting needs to have an IC rating. You shouldn’t consider purchasing or installing recessed lights that don’t have one.

How Can I Tell If My Recessed Lights Are IC Rated?

If you currently have recessed light fixtures in your home and you are unsure of their IC rating, you can check them yourself. Though you’ll need to go up to your attic to check for any label stickers or other markings from the attic side. This might be a tight squeeze in some attics, but the peace of mind it brings is worth it.

If this truly isn’t an option, you can also check by uninstalling the recessed lights from the interior of the room with the following steps.

  • Step One: Turn the light off, and turn off the circuit breaker.
  • Step Two: Carefully position a ladder under a recessed light.
  • Step Three: Climb the ladder and remove the bulb.
  • Step Four: Place the bulb someplace safe, and look inside to the housing of the light can.

You are looking for a serial number that includes an IC or an IC-AT code. The IC stands for “Insulation Contact”, and AT stands for “Airtight.” However, if you see any holes, slits, or other manufactured openings in the recessed light housing then the light isn’t IC-rated.

Insulating Around IC-Rated Recessed Lights

If your planned remodeling project calls for replacing the insulation around your recessed lighting, or you’ve discovered that you need more insulation around your lights, you’ll need to take the proper steps to ensure the lights are up to local building codes.

If you’ve found that your lights aren’t IC rated, you will need to have any non-IC-rated lighting replaced to remain compliant with local building and fire codes. You might also need to add to your insulation with loose-fill insulation until it is even with the other insulation in your attic.

How Much Does It Cost To Install IC-Rated Recessed Lights?

If you’ve found that your current recessed lights aren’t IC rated, or you want to install recessed lights in a new area as part of a remodeling project, you should strongly consider having them installed by a professional electrician. This ensures that everything is properly installed as well as compliant with all building and local fire codes.

The cost to have recessed lights professionally installed will vary from as little as $65 per light for new construction to as much as $125 per light for a complicated remodeling upgrade. Though knowing that your recessed lights are IC rated and properly installed tends to pay for itself in peace of mind.