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LED retrofit for bad recessed lighting installation

TomFid's picture

I was just about to have fiberglass blown into a cathedral ceiling over a living room, when I discovered that all 15 can lights in the room were bad. They're non-insulation contact and non-airtight (Lightolier 1102p1). When the attic was originally insulated, the cans were surrounded with tar paper cones to keep the insulation back. Those have since collapsed. So, now these are not only venting a lot of air, but they're also a fire hazard - a couple of the thermal switches cycle.

I haven't talked to a lightolier dealer yet, but it doesn't look like there's a viable air tight/insulation contact retrofit for this model - the labor of getting into the soffits, wading through fiberglass, to replace the frames wouldn't be worth it. Lightolier makes an LED module, but it's pricey, and the system still wouldn't be rated for insulation contact.

So, it seems like my best bet is to remove the lightolier reflectors and trims, and install retrofit IC/AT cans in the existing holes. I'd like to leave the lightolier frames in place, but they seem flat, so that seems like it would work. Removing them would be a major hassle.  Then I could either use regular bulbs and trims, or LED modules like the Cree CR6.

I'm somewhat inclined to go straight to the LED modules, because they have a lot of heat sink capacity. I'm a bit concerned that LED bulbs might have heat issues (CFLs seem to suffer a bit in the existing fixtures).

So, I guess I'm just looking for a sanity check on whether this is the way to go. Have I missed a way to work with the lightolier hardware? Any particular retrofit cans to seek/avoid? Thanks for any insight.


You might consider installing (post #205404, reply #1 of 6)

You might consider installing commercial CFL fixtures.  They have the ballast separate from the lamp, so they don't have the overheating problems regular Edison-base CFLs have.

Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.  --Herman Melville

Interesting thought on the (post #205404, reply #2 of 6)

Interesting thought on the CFLs ...


I guess the counterargument to using LED modules now (instead of LED bulbs in regular cans) is that the bulbs are on a much faster learning curve right now, so that I could use my existing CFL bulbs in the cans through the end of their lives, then upgrade to LEDs that are much better or at least cheaper than what I can get today.

Cree (post #205404, reply #3 of 6)

I just put Cree lights in existing 6" cans. Nice. More info here at the end of this thread:

There are 10 kinds of people in this world; those who understand binary and those who do not.

LED Recessed Lighting Retrofits, work with most any housing (post #205404, reply #4 of 6)

First of all , Happy New Year.  

I am not sure if it is a heat issue, or the turning them on and off that hurt the CFL the most. On the LED modules I have been somewhat standing back on the whole LED recessed lighting issue for some time.  As the head lighting designer for the company I refused to recommend the LED retrofits as too many of them produced a beam of light that was too narrow and way to harsh.  Also I wanted a module that would fit 99% of the housings and be able to dim on most dimmers.  So having resisted for a long time  I think we have found the one that will solve a number of problems, including being able to put the same module in both a standard housing and a shallow housing and it works in both. So most any housing you find at home depot wil work, and you do not have to spend a small fortune as the module is now affordable.

the  5” and 6” size.  So please excuse my post sounding like an advertisement. But I get  questions on this all day long,  and if  it will help any on the forum, great.  As always you are welcome to contact me and discuss most anything.  I do a lot of kitchens, so I am always interested in comments on kitchen lighting issues.  

Thank you for your time.

Take care,

Mark Scott

Lead Lighting Designer TLS


here is the link to the module:

It took me forever to (post #205404, reply #5 of 6)

It took me forever to actually get to this job, but I thought I'd report back how things worked out.

First, there doesn't seem to be a good retrofit option for the Lightolier non-IC hardware, that doesn't involve working in the attic space. (That wasn't an option for 3 of the cans, and obnoxious for the others due to existing insulation and scissors trusses that make getting around hard.)

So, I elected to remove the Lightolier baffles/reflector/trim assembly, leaving the top plate assembly in place. I installed retrofit cans through the openings. This worked out fairly well, because the metal framing made a good grip surface for the can clips, though it was a bit tricky to orient the cans so that the new clips didn't interfere with the old ones.

Fortunately the Lightolier wiring is accessible through the opening, so I didn't have to spend any time in the attic - just pulled the wires out of the old and hooked up the new.

The tricky part was that it turns out that not all 6" cans use the same rough opening. I initially tried Halos (HR7ICAT, which are pretty much all I can find in stores now). But they didn't have a big enough lip to cover the full rough opening from the Lightoliers. Then I found a Juno retrofit can that was a hair bigger - but almost too big to fit through the Lightolier top plate.

The Junos worked, but I must say that "airtight" is a bit of a stretch. I'd say that they still have at least half a square inch of penetrations throught he can, which adds up to a lot of air flowing through to the attic when there are 14 of them. Plus, they want an extra $6 for gaskets. I ended up caulking the rings and covering some of the penetrations with foil tape after everything was installed and tested.

The Halos were even worse - almost a joke. They include a gasket, but sometimes crooked and therefore useless. In addition to having multiple penetrations, the top cap of the can is a pretty loose fit.

To finish everything off, I installed Cree LED modules, which are great so far. Good, natural, slightly warm light. Very easy installing into virgin cans. (I removed some of the guts of the Juno cans, but that was to get a pair of screws off the outside; I think they would have gone in as is.)

Now I finally have much better light than before, for 1/4 the power, no fire hazards, and can blow more insulation.

Thanks to folks who contributed thoughts.

LED Recessed Retrofit (post #205404, reply #6 of 6)

My concern is that the current housing is not IC rated and the thermal is cycling.  With a CFL this should not happen as in most cases the CFL does not put out much heat. We can provide a recessed air tight trim easily enough to solve that problem. But your housing not being a IC will not allow insulation on it. As to the LED module, we have them, but they do put out heat.  They will solve the Air Tight issue and will fit  our housing with out a problem. But still not insulation in contact. Is it possible to push the old housing out of the way and maybe put in a new IC and AT rated retrofit with a new LED modue made for it.  Feel free also to send me photos of the inside of the housing as it exists now. It will help me with insuring what trim or module  will work for it.  Send it to my direct email at   Or call me on my private direct line at 505-717-7142   Thanks, Mark Scott