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How to inspect exterior lighting for unsafe conditions:
In a series of photographs and comments this article describes unsafe or otherwise defective outdoor floodlight and security light or other outdoor light installations whose defects can be spotted (mostly) by mere visual inspection.
This article series discusses outdoor lighting installation, troubleshooting and repair procedures. This series also explains how to install recessed lights in an exterior soffit or roof overhang. We provide lighting installation suggestions about the type of light fixture to use, light fixture support, clearances, fire safety, moisture resistance, switch location, and electrical code citations for exterior lighting on buildings.
Here are a examples of outdoor "lighting" practices to avoid. Above: a jury-rigged hanging exposed wiring (above) and (below) the use of indoor "zip cord" electrical wiring to add a (non-weather-tight) outdoor light at the house fascia.
Below left, well at least there is some conduit.
That flood bulb is actually touching the wood fascia board interior surface.
At the outdoor but under-roof light fixture below we lack weather protection and the bulb base is broken.
We inspected a home that caught fire after the owner installed an over-watted incandescent bulb in a plastic coach light fixture like the one at left.
Click the news story to read about a similar fire that began in the outside light.
Here is the coach light fixture that is plastic and that can actually melt and perhaps catch fire from an over-sized incandescent light bulb.
Below left we see an indoor light fixture screwed to a vinyl sided wall, and added to that unsafe installation is the use of an extension cord adapter on the fixture. Outside electrical receptacles for extension cords require grounded and GFCI receptacles.
Below we illustrate a closer look at a wall-mounted floodlight that includes cracked unsafe electrical wires, an opening into the box missing a weather cover, and exposed electrical wires almost touching the metal light fixture. At least he taped them.
Similar to the plastic light fixture fire we cited above, even in a well built metal light fixture such as the coachlight at left, if the bulb and wiring become loose and damaged it is possible to short-circuit the wobbly bulb simply by touching it.
Notice in the photo below that the bulb is askew. We could push it to center - it was hanging by a wire. This exterior light fixture needs repair or replacement.
Below: an indoor-work electrical box was used to install an outdoor floodlight.Notice too that the box is "fastened" to the wall by loose electrical staples.
Above: you'll also notice that the gasket for this surface-mounted floodlight is damaged and that water has been leaking into the fixture. More about this horrible outdoor light installation is at REPAIR AUTOMATIC OUTDOOR LIGHT FIXTURE.
Use the "Click to Show or Hide FAQs" link just above to see recently-posted questions, comments, replies, try the search box just below, or if you prefer, post a question or comment in the Comments box below and we will respond promptly.
 Codes & Standards pertaining to fire-rating enclosures:
UL 263 (also see Canadian CUL specifications)
 Steven Bliss served as editorial director and co-publisher of The Journal of Light Construction for 16 years and previously as building technology editor for Progressive Builder and Solar Age magazines. He worked in the building trades as a carpenter and design/build contractor for more than ten years and holds a masters degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Excerpts from his recent book, Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction, Wiley (November 18, 2005) ISBN-10: 0471648361, ISBN-13: 978-0471648369, appear throughout this website, with permission and courtesy of Wiley & Sons. Best Practices Guide is available from the publisher, J. Wiley & Sons, and also at Amazon.com.
 New Jersey State Energy Code, N.J.A.C. 5:23-3.18, Recessed Lighting Fixtures (RLFs), Uniform Construction Code Communicator, Vol. 16, No. 1, Spring 2004, p. 8, Division of Codes and Standards, POB 802, Trenton NJ 08625-0802. Web site for free downloads of the energy
compliance tools REScheck, New Jersey edition and
COMcheck-EZ is www.energycodes.gov.
N.J.A.C. 5:23-3.18 adopts by reference the 1995
edition of the Council of American Building Officials’ Model
Energy Code (CABO MEC/1995) as New Jersey’s Energy
Subcode of the Uniform Construction Code. Sections 502.3.4 and 602.3.3 of CABO MEC/1995, both entitled
“Recessed Lighting Fixtures,” contain requirements for RLFs
in relation to the Energy Subcode. The following are the
three options for the installation of RLFs when installed in
the building envelope. Only one must be followed to meet
the requirements of the Energy Subcode:
1. Type IC rated, manufactured with no
penetrations between the inside of the recessed
fixture and ceiling cavity, and sealed or gasketed to
prevent air leakage into the unconditioned space; or
2. Type IC rated or non-IC rated, installed inside a
sealed box constructed from a minimum ½-inch-thick
gypsum wall board or constructed from preformed
polymeric vapor barrier, or other air-tight assembly
manufactured for this purpose, while maintaining
required clearances of not less than ½ inch from
combustible material and not less than three inches
from insulation material; or
3. Type IC rated, in accordance with ASTM E 283-
91 (Standard Method of Test for Rate of Air Leakage
Through Exterior Windows, Curtain Walls, and
Doors), with no more than 2.0 cfm air movement from
the conditioned space to the ceiling cavity. The
lighting fixture shall be tested at 75 Pa or 1.57 lbs/ft2
pressure difference and shall be labeled.
Sections 502.3.4 and 602.3.3 of CABO MEC/1995
are the responsibility of the building subcode official, who
inspects RLFs to ensure that they are either insulation cover
rated (IC rated), or installed in a sealed box that has the
insulation at least three inches from the light fixture. It is
the building subcode official’s responsibility to ensure
compliance, both in the inspection plan review and inspection
plan review stages, because RLFs pose a potential fire
hazard if installed incorrectly with insulation. These fixtures
also act as chimneys, transferring heat loss and moisture
through the building envelope into attic spaces if not installed
properly. The heat loss resulting from improperly insulated
RLFs can be significant.
NOTE: Electrical subcode officials are responsible
for the wiring methods of RLFs.
 "Out of Sight, Out of Mind - the dangers and requirements of recessed light fixtures", Kellie K. Speed, Electrical Contractor, Feb. 2009, Quoting:
When installing recessed fixtures, carefully consider the location of the units. The presence of combustible materials surrounding
the luminaire is very important, and recessed lights can act as chimneys for heat loss and moisture transfer into attic spaces. Many
residential fires have resulted from improperly installed or modified recessed light fixtures, but they can be easily avoided.
In older homes that may have existing recessed lighting fixtures, homeowners sometimes cover these fixtures with insulation. As a
result, the insulation traps the heat created by the bulb and either melts the insulation on the electrical wiring or ignites combustible
materials, which is, of course, a fire hazard.
It is vital to ensure the area surrounding the recessed fixture is insulated properly. In addition to fire, the interior of a property could be compromised if air leakage occurs,
resulting in moisture, condensation and mold. Sealing the building properly reduces air movement in and out of the building. Uncontrolled air movement will negatively
impact the heating and cooling systems, resulting in higher initial and ongoing maintenance costs.
There certainly is a lot to consider when installing recessed lighting. For help, consult the National Electrical Code (NEC). Article 410 Parts M and N offer special
provisions for recessed luminaires installed in walls or ceilings. Most of these Code requirements are designed to protect combustible building materials from
temperatures greater than 90°C (194°F).
 National Electrical Code, (NEC). Article 410 Parts M and N:
provisions for recessed luminaires installed in walls or ceilings.
 "E-Series LED Recessed Light, Installation instructions for E6-E26-30-WH, retrofit installation or new construction installation, American Lighting, www.americanlighting.com
 "Information Bulletin - Recessed Light Fittings", ACE Insurance Limited, CU1-3, Shed 24, Princes Wharf, Auckland 1010, website: http://www.aceinsurance.co.nz/,
Ace reported a "near miss" inner city apartment complex fire traced to recessed light fittings. Quoting:
An investigation into the cause of a fault on an apartment complex’s fire alarm system revealed the cause
as a slow smouldering fire involving the heat detector wiring. Further investigation indicated the probable
cause of the fire to be due to a nearby recessed incandescent light fitting which had overheated. The
insulation on the electric wiring at the point of connection to the light fitting had been burnt away and the
burning had continued for several metres along the electrical wiring to the switch and another
interconnected light fitting within the same room. Thermal insulation material (fibreglass batts) was
present in the roof space around the recessed light fittings.
The recessed light fittings had been installed in the room for more than 15 years without any previous
issues. Repairs to the roof had been carried out some 5 years previously which required contractors to
access the roof space directly above the room.
Australian/New Zealand Wiring Rules (AS/NZS 3000:2007 provides minimum clearance for recessed light fittings but emphasizes that The importance of following relevant codes and standards and the recessed light manufacturer's installation requirements cannot be over-emphasized.
Clearance - luminaire to building element above
Side clearance - luminaire to structural member
Clearance -luminaire to thermal insulation
Clearance - luminaire to supply transformer
 E.Z. Barrier, fire-rated: Fire-rated Recessed Light Enclosure, E.Z. Barrier, 901 N 3rd St, Ste 130
Minneapolis, MN 55401
Ph. 612.436.0606 Fax 612.436.0608
firstname.lastname@example.org, Website: www.ezbarrier.com Product literature describes one-hour rated enclosure for recessed lights that save time over a site built fire-rated recessed light enclosure complies with the fire resistance codes listed in citation  above.
 "Wiring Methods Utilizing Suspended Ceilings (Revised", State of Oregon, Building Codes Division, code interpretation, 10/1/2002, Gary A. Wilson, Chief Electrical Inspector & Doug Alexander, Structural Code Specialist. This interpretation specifies that in light duty systems certain light fixtures (such as recessed fluorescent lighting), the ceiling system shall not be used for the support of the lighting fixtures. Intermediate-duty ceilings may be used for supporting recessed lighting fixtures provided certain support detail specifications are followed. Heavy duty ceiling systems require that the recessed light fixture be secured to specifications included in the interpretation. Web search 4/29/12, original source: http://www.etnews.org/docs/wiring_methods_suspended_ceilings.pdf
 "Recessed Light (Non-Insulating), Installation Instructions, CANARM Lighting & Fans, Tel: 800-265-1833 (English) or 800-567-2513 (French) or 800-267-4427 (USA) describe a recessed light fixture retrofit through a drywall ceiling.
 "Downlights, Recessed Downlight Housings - Installation", Lucifer Lighting Company, 414 Live Oak St., San Antonnio TX 78202, Tel: 210-227-7329, www.luciferlighting.com
 "Outdoor Recessed Light Kit Installation Instructions, apply to downlights / stair lights", Dekor, 2655 Santa Fe Unit 4H, Denver CO 80223, 2011, Customer Support: 800-258-0344, Website: www.DE-Kor.com. This document describes installation for a 12V DC constant current 3A transformer with a waterproof design IP66-rated, UL and CUL approved, and LED lighting fixtures that are waterproof and can be submerged in water. cf: OUTDOORRecessedLight Install1.pdf
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The Home Reference Book - the Encyclopedia of Homes, Carson Dunlop & Associates, Toronto, Ontario, 25th Ed., 2012, is a bound volume of more than 450 illustrated pages that assist home inspectors and home owners in the inspection and detection of problems on buildings. The text is intended as a reference guide to help building owners operate and maintain their home effectively. Field inspection worksheets are included at the back of the volume.
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