Asked on Dec 01, 2011

I plan to retrofit cans or replace incandescent bulbs in my 25 recessed light fixtures throughout the house.

by Nora
This is for two reasons: first, because of the cost of running incandescent and second, because of the air migration through non-airtight (and non-IC-rated) existing can fixtures. I'll be using LED bulbs. I've done some research and it seems that Cree EcoSmart LED downlight (dimmable) fixtures/bulbs are good and easy to use. I'd like professional (and other credible) opinions on whether or not this brand is reliable and worth the $40 per bulb/fixture, and also which to use--the GU24 base which replaces part of the existing unit, or the 575L bulb, which screws into existing bulb outlet--in order to best stop costly conditioned air migration into the attic. Both can be done DIY from inside the room (no need to go into attic) and would save me the cost of putting boxes around the housings in the attic because the lights don't heat up and therefore are not a fire hazard when in contact with insulation. Your thoughts?
  16 answers
  • KMS Woodworks KMS Woodworks on Dec 01, 2011
    Nora...When I set up my off grid cabin I modified some basic mini can lights that used 50 gu10 halogens to accept an e27 1.8 watt multi chip LED...later I found some GU10 bulbs in 12 v I did not have to swap out the "guts" of these lamps. In some of my prototype testing I ran a number of different bulbs...of those the Cree bulbs were the most powerful. Some of the ones I tested were in the 120 v ac camp...others in 12 v ac and DC. I ended up using the 12 V DC as my choice, which can run off of the "native" current of my solar systems battery. This way all of my lights there can be run without having to power the inverter...which saves even more energy. I can light my entire cabin for less than 40 watts. If you can seal the inside of these cans, with a simple kit go for it. While I do not have direct experience with that specific bulb. I have been running my leds. ( some of them cree, for a couple of years now) I'm going to begin to phase them in at my home as my older CFL's drop out.

  • KMS Woodworks KMS Woodworks on Dec 01, 2011
    I just found these at the HD web site...Ν=P_PARENT_ID&storeId=10051&Ntpr=1&ddkey=Search&AID=10368321&SID=u265830t3270702f9fp0dd0c0s671&cj=true&PID=2026489&cm_mmc=CJ-_-2026489-_-10368321 Reading through some of the reviews ( 100 + five star ratings) some folks talk about rebates from the power cut the cost way down...other talk about a special low power "diva" dimmer that reduces potential flicker when in dim mode.

  • Seeing that your planning to seal your can lights you want to be sure that no one puts a standard light back in. With the common screw in type Edison base that most bulbs use this risk is raised should a Edison based NON-CFL light bulb be replaced by accident. By using a plug in style CFL light bulb fixture adapter you prevent this overheating concern should the bulb burn out as they cannot remove the conversion Edison to plug in base in the fixture without damaging it. How are you planning to air seal the can from below? The link that KMS provided is a good alternative, but the lights cannot be dimmed. Also do not forget even though the lights your considering are able to be dimmed, you must have a special dimmer switch, the standard ones you purchase and use with the old style element light bulb will not work. As far as cost, that number is about normal for this type of bulb and fixture. Reliability? Have not heard anything about issues with early burn outs. There all expensive, but combine the savings on electrical use, the savings on heat and the increased comfort, you win all the way around.

  • CR Draves . com CR Draves . com on Dec 01, 2011
    Excellent, check Alibaba or Ebay for your best price. I am assuming that your going LED because of the energy savings, so be sure to audit the rest of your house for energy eating items other wise it will be pointless to spend all that money in the long run. Example you change out your light bulbs before you change out that electrical water heater. The money is better spent on changing the electric water heater hog before the lighting. C.R. Draves

  • Glkirk Builders Inc. Glkirk Builders Inc. on Dec 01, 2011
    I would just suggest that you first be sure the light emmited is going to be strong enough and not too harsh. Maybe by just doing one room first. Good green idea!

  • Charles R Charles R on Dec 01, 2011
    I did that, replaced my incandescent light bulbs with Cool White CFL/Compact Fluorescent Bulbs and every month I am saving a bundle of $$$$. I do not have a single old style bulb in the house.

  • 3po3 3po3 on Dec 01, 2011
    I can't afford the LEDs, but I've seen great reviews of the EcoSmart bulbs. They will last far longer than either CFLs or incandescents, and they don't have any of the mercury concerns that come with the CFLs.

  • Nora Nora on Dec 02, 2011
    Thanks, everyone, for your input. I'll be using LEDs because I can't stand CFLs. In my experience CFLs don't even last as long as incandescents and I don't want to be concerned with breakage and disposal issues. I appreciate the thoroughness of these replies. I just got off the phone with Cree tech and he cleared some things up for me. Contrary to what my local eco-oriented energy auditor/contractor told me in suggesting these fixtures, it looks like I'll still have to replace or cover the can housings in the attic because neither the LED retrofit can or bulb fixture is air-tight. I was hoping to kill two issues with one stone but now I don't think I'll be able to do that. Thanks, all! My advice to all of us is to get "second opinions" about upgrades directly from the manufacturers' technical experts. I'll take this new info back to my eco contractor for his input/rebuttal, but I'm pretty sure the Cree tech is correct; he and I discussed the guts of the product and everything he said made sense to me. Maybe I should be an investigative reporter???

  • Nora Nora on Dec 02, 2011
    KMS, your link is exactly what I was looking at purchasing :)

  • LandlightS LandlightS on Dec 02, 2011 pay for what you get. Without question, use the Cree products. Here is a link to the residential retro fit kit......replacing the 65 wall R30 flood lamp and is dimable to 5%. This is assuming that you have 6 inch cans. Also, add a bead of caulk between the can and the ceiling cutout to prevent air leakage. No need to crawl into the attic. Have a great Holiday Season.

  • Nora Nora on Dec 02, 2011
    Thanks, Landlights. Yes, this is the same one I was considering. My big question is whether or not these will drastically cut air migration to the attic when placed inside standard, non air-tight, non insulation-contact housings. Looking at the photos one could assume the answer's yes because there are no visible gaps. Cree tech says no. Does anyone know the answer to that based on experience?

  • LandlightS LandlightS on Dec 02, 2011
    The major difference in a non-ic can and an ic rated can is the rating of the lamp wattage. A non-ic can is generally rated for up to a 150 Watt incandescent lamp. A IC rated can has a thermal protector and is generally rated up to a 75 watt lamp. Heat is the major reason for lamp rating. If the IC can is fitted with a 100 watt lamp, the thermal protector will turn off the lamp until to temperature is reduced. Ever see a recessed light blinking on and off????? As the LED lamp only used 10 - 11 watts of energy, there is no worry of the high temperature associated with the incandescent lamp. If you want to create an airtight can, just line the upper portion of the housing with aluminum foil to close off the open slots (you could use a spray adhesive to hold the foil in place). Also, caulk the edge at the ceiling as I stated above, this will prevent any air leakage between the ceiling a the trim of the retro-fit kit, Also, I agree 150% with you comments on CFL's.

  • Nora Nora on Dec 02, 2011
    Landlights--Now that sounds like a plan. You don't see any safety reason for NOT creating my own insulation inside the can, as long as I'm using LED bulbs? That's one idea I'd also thought of but when I asked the tech he said no, you can't insulate the housing. I figured, though, that he had to say that in order to keep things to code and not give advice that could get him and his company into legal trouble. While no one reading this post should consider all the advice as professional (legally liable) advice, you have given me reason to check into that idea further with some fire safety experts ;)

  • LandlightS LandlightS on Dec 02, 2011
    I just searched the following information...comparing the generated BTUs of LED, Incandescent and CFL Heat Emitted LED Incandescent CFL 3.4 btu's/hour 85 btu's/hour 30 btu's/hour Here is the link: Very interesting fact sheet

  • Do not do insulation in the can. Its all about air sealing at this point. What you can do to stop the air flow is to use aluminum foil tape. You find this in the AC isle in most big box stores. Do not use duct tape. The metal tape will last a very long time and will stop the air flow out of the cans. When you can get into the attic then spray foam the can edge to the sheet rock ceiling to prevent any air from getting out of that area. Once done you can simply cover the light with insulation from above.

  • 3po3 3po3 on Dec 04, 2011
    The only problem with that factsheet is that it's missing prices. LEDs are undoubtedly better than CFLs. Unfortunately, most LED bulbs are still out of the price range of most folks.