ICS Engineering Inc.
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IC Rated vs. Non-IC Rated Light Fixtures

Lights generate a lot of heat and can pose a safety hazard. Understanding the difference between IC rated light fixtures vs non-IC rated fixtures is important for reducing fire hazards in your home and office.

IC Rating Lighting Fixtures

When a light fixture is to be placed in a ceiling filled with insulation, it requires an insulated contact (IC) rated fixture. An IC rated fixture "shall be permitted to be in contact with combustible material or blanketed with thermal insulation", according to the Canadian Electrical Code section 30-906.

Both the Alberta and BC Building Code (Section stipulate that IC-rated fixtures are only to be use in insulated ceilings. These rules are meant to keep our buildings and homes safe.

Pot Lighting

IC rated fixtures are very common in Canadian homes. Since we use blown insulation in the attic, these 'canned units' provide the proper housing for safe usage.

By having safety rated fixtures that can withstand the heat generated from the light bulb, the chances of a household fire is greatly reduced. That is when the wattage warming is followed.

Most IC rated fixtures use a double-can approach, with one metal can install stalled over the other. The outer can comes in direct contact with the insulation and remains cool enough to prevent combustion.

It's important to remember that IC-rated fixtures are also required to be used in developed basements as sound proofing material is usually placed in the overhead joists.

Non-IC Rated Lighting Fixtures

If the space where the lighting fixture is to be place (also called the plenum) does not contain insulation, a non-insulated contact (non-IC) fixture can be used. These units have a single can and the heat will harmlessly dissipate within the air cavity.

Non-ic rated light fixture above a t-bar ceiling (Coquitlam, BC)
A non-ic rated light fixture above a t-bar ceiling (Coquitlam, BC). The light spilling out the top could let insulation in and cause a fire.

In some installs with insulation, a non-IC fixture can be used if the insulation is be held back by 3" (CEC section 30-902). This is only appropriate for indoor applications where the recessed portion does not come in contact with the colder outside air. Otherwise, the gap in insulation will allow cold air to flood into the living space and condensation to form.

Usually, higher wattage bulbs can be used with non-IC fixtures because the open plenum allows for more heat dissipation. As electrical consultants, we've specified these fixtures in our commercial lighting designs where false ceilings are used within TI projects.

Proper Installation Considerations

All recessed fixtures are to be installed to the standards set in the Canadian Electrical Code as well as local regulations of your municipality. Over the years, these fixtures have undergone improvement to ensure their safety, efficiency and ease of installation.

Proper installation is required to reduce their fire hazard but also to prevent:

  • condensation build-up,
  • mould growth and
  • to minimize drafts.

The type of recessed lighting fixture to use depends on the living space and the visual atmosphere you want to create with this down-lighting. For most designs, we place the pot lights about 6-8 feet apart (depending on the wattage of the bulb) and on a dimmer switch to adjust the lighting level. The fixture should be more than 18" from the wall to allow for uniform light spreading and an efficient lighting design.

Contact ICS Engineering about a customized lighting design for your next building or renovation and receive expert lighting advice from our award-winning designer.

IC-Rate vs Non-IC Rated

ICS Engineering Inc.
Edmonton 587-557-1152