How To Tell If A Recessed Light Is IC Rated? Let’s Find Out!

A few days ago, I finally made the purchase that I had wanted to make. My love for books made me invest in a Kindle. While I think there is no greater joy than reading a physical book, but with increased work-related travel, I was finding it inconvenient to carry books along. The old school girl in me was avoiding buying a Kindle, but she gave up for the sake of convenience, and I am sure it is worth it.

Yesterday, while I was at work, I received a message from Amazon that my package had been delivered. Excitedly, I finished work and rushed home to unbox the package. I had planned in my head to order dinner home and relax through the evening reading a book. But as soon as I reached my place, I heard my neighbor’s fire alarm ringing. There was a small fire in her Non IC-Rated recessed lighting fixture due to overheating. Gladly the fire did not reach the insulation of her ceiling, which would have readily caught fire.

IC rating stands for Insulation Contact rating, which determines whether or not your lighting is safe to be in contact with insulated ceilings or walls. IC rating in recessed lights is important as Non IC-Rated recessed lights create a fire hazard if they are in contact with the insulation. You can tell if a light is IC-Rated by checking its label or the color of the light. You may also be able to identify an IC-Rated light by locating holes in its housing.

In this article, we will understand in detail what IC-Rated recessed lighting means and how it is different from Non IC-Rated lighting. We will also learn about how to tell if a recessed light is IC Rated.

What Does IC-Rated Mean?

The acronym IC in IC rating stands for Insulation Contact. The IC rating of light is the measurement to determine if it is safe to come in contact with insulation or not. If a light is IC-Rated, it means that it is suitable for use in an insulated home, while a Non IC-Rated light can cause a fire hazard.

Most homes in the US these days are protected by a layer of insulation in the ceilings and walls. The insulation layer acts as a barrier to heat, ensuring your home is cool in summers and warm in winters. Insulation also improves the energy efficiency of your space and can decrease the attached heating and cooling costs.

The insulation on the walls and ceilings, however, can be highly flammable. Hence, installing any Non IC-Rated lighting or electrical appliance near the insulation can pose a fire threat. In case you have a Non IC-Rated recessed lighting installed at your home, the chances that the insulation catches fire due to overheating of light are high as the fixture of a recessed light is closed.

Difference between An IC-Rated Light and A Non IC-Rated Light

Difference between An IC-Rated Light and A Non IC-Rated Light


An IC-Rated recessed light fixture is constructed with a double can design, which is basically a can within a can with an air gap between the two. The air gap creates an insulating effect that keeps the outer can of the light cooler. Hence, if your light comes in direct contact with the insulation of your space, there is no risk of combustion. This cooler outer can allows the fixture to be installed in direct contact with  an insulated wall or ceiling.

A Non IC-Rated light fixture is built with a single can with holes for ventilation. These lights work great for areas where insulation is not really necessary but for areas with insulated ceiling or walls, these lights are hazardous as the holes in the fixture allow heat dissipation into the space surrounding the light, which can cause a fire.


The IC-Rated recessed light fixtures are lower in wattage as compared to Non IC-Rated fixtures. But since IC-Rated lights are low wattage, they are also energy efficient. Hence, Non IC-Rated fixtures were traditionally preferred due to their higher wattage, but with improved awareness, most people are now switching to IC-Rated lights. 


A Non IC-Rated recessed light fixture usually has a white can or housing, and light can be seen shining through holes in the can. However, an IC-Rated recessed light fixture has a silver outer can and no holes for light to shine through. 


A Non IC-Rated recessed light is usually priced lower than an IC-Rated recessed light fixture as an IC-Rated fixture has a more complicated construction than its counterpart.

Why Should You Prefer IC-Rated Recessed Lighting?

If you are planning to install recessed lighting in your home or office, I highly recommend choosing the IC-Rated light fixtures rather than the non IC-rated ones. Here are a few reasons why you should do so.

  • Since recessed lights are enclosed lights with chances of overheating, IC-Rated recessed lights ensure that there is no fire threat and that the home or office is safe.
  • The Installation of a Non IC-Rated light is more time-consuming as you will need to remove the insulation around the recessed light. Hence, the cost of the installation is higher.
  • Since these lights are low wattage, they are energy efficient and cost-efficient.
  • With Non IC-Rated lights, you may face an issue of blinking light due to overheating of the light fixture. However, it is less likely to face the issue with IC-Rated lights.

How To Tell If A Recessed Lighting Is IC Rated?

How To Tell If A Recessed Light Is IC-Rated?How To Tell If A Recessed Light Is IC-Rated?

Everyone wants to keep their homes safe from any calamity. Once you know what IC Rated recessed lighting means and how it can save you from any fire hazard, I am sure you will want to ensure that your recessed light fixtures are IC-Rated. If you are wondering how to tell if the existing recessed lights of your space or the new ones that you purchased are IC-Rated or not, you can do so using any of the following means.

Check The Label For IC Rating 

One way to find out whether or not your recessed light fixture is IC-Rated is by checking the label on the inner chamber of your light. If your recessed light is IC-Rated, you will see the letter IC in the model number of the light, and the Non IC-Rated lights will have NON IC written in the number. You can easily locate the label while changing the recessed light.

However, if your light fixture does not have a label, or you prefer other ways to find out about IC rating, you can do so using other ways, as discussed ahead.

Look For Holes In The Housing

As mentioned earlier in the article, an IC-Rated recessed light fixture is constructed with a double can design with an air gap which creates an insulating effect that keeps the outer can of the light cooler. However, a Non IC-Rated light fixture is built with a single can with holes for ventilation.

So, If there are holes in the housing or can of your recessed light, it is likely that your light is not IC-Rated. 

Check For The Color Of The Housing

If you are still unable to determine if your recessed light fixture is IC-Rated or not, you can do so by checking its color. In most cases, a non-IC-Rated lighting fixture is white in color, and an IC-Rated light fixture is silver in color.

However, this method is not completely reliable, and having professional help, you determine whether your recessed light fixture is IC-Rated or not is recommended in case to ensure safety.

Insulation Choices Against Non-IC-Rated Recessed Lighting

Insulation Choices Against Non-IC-Rated Recessed Lighting

If your recessed light is a Non-IC-Rated light, and you are looking for insulation options for a Non IC-Rated lighting, then this section of the article will help you find an answer. While insulating your ceiling or wall with a Non IC-Rated recessed light installed, it is crucial to use an insulation that is the least flammable. 

Rock wool is a great insulation for recessed lights as it burns at a temperature of 1,800 ℉, and no recessed light can generate this temperature. Rock wool is the best insulation, and it also has the best fire rating. Fiberglass is also a safe insulation option for your ceiling and wall if you have Non IC-Rated lights. Fiberglass is a light, less rigid, and easy-to-use insulation material. 

On the other hand, loose-fill cellulose, which is recycled paper treated with flame retardant, is the most hazardous insulation material to be used around Non IC-Rated light as it catches fire at 450 ℉.

If you have non-IC-Rated recessed fixtures, the insulation material should be at least 3 inches away from the light fixture as it can catch fire. However, if you have IC-Rated recessed light fixture, any insulation material can be packed around it.


Q1. Is IC rating in recessed lighting the same as fire rating?

Answer – While IC-Rated recessed lighting means that the light is designed to avoid starting fires, fire rated lighting serves as a barrier if a fire has already started and helps put off the fire.

Q2. Can IC-Rated recessed lights be installed in close proximity to insulation?

Answer – A recessed light with an IC rating can be safely installed in a wall or ceiling with insulation. Most IC-Rated recessed lights have a wattage of 75 W which means that the risk of overheating and potential fire is less.

Q3. What does IP rating mean in recessed lighting? 

Answer – An IP rating is an acronym for Ingress Protection, which describes the level of protection that the light has against dirt and water.

Q4. If an IC-Rated light overheats due to malfunction, would it cause a fire in contact with insulation?

Answer – Most IC-Rated recessed lights shut off automatically when they begin to overheat. This trait of these lights greatly reduces the risk of potential fires.

Q5. How do you remove a bulb from a recessed light?

Answer – Am glad this question is asked! I have covered it in detail here.


A home is a place where everyone wants to feel safe. Hence having alight cause a potential threat to you or your home is something that nobody would ever want to experience. If the recessed lights in your home or office are not IC-Rated, you may be under a constant threat of a fire hazard. The threat multiplies if your space is insulated, as insulation materials are highly flammable.

An IC-Rated recessed light is a double can light that does not overheat and hence does not pose a threat. If you wish to check whether your recessed lights are IC-Rated or not, the article must have helped you. In case you have more questions about recessed lighting, write to me in the comment section.

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