Section 30 – Recessed Luminaires

Misapplication of recessed lighting can result in fires and have other serious consequences. For this reason, the National Building Code of Canada and applicable Provincial and Territorial building codes specify that recessed lighting “fixtures” must not be located in insulated ceilings unless the fixtures are designed for such installation.

The Canadian Electrical Code offers a number of choices for selection of recessed “luminaires” for installation in insulated ceilings. Rule 30-002 Special Terminology defines four distinct types of luminaires, and Rules 30-900 to 30-908 make available the conditions for their use.

This article reviews these permissible options and how they are intended to be utilized. You have no doubt noted that the NBC and the CEC use different terms to describe such lighting equipment. The NBC refers to them as fixtures while the CEC uses the term luminaires. In this article, I will refer to them as luminaries.

Recessed luminaires may be marked IC or Non-IC. Reference to IC means approval for installation in an insulated ceiling. CEC Rule 30-002 defines recessed luminaries as “luminaires designed to be either wholly or partially recessed in a mounting surface” and explains their construction requirements for contact with buildings insulation or otherwise as follows:

Recessed luminaire, Type IC (intended for insulation contact)– “a recessed luminaire designed for installation in a cavity filled with thermal insulation and permitted to be in direct contact with combustible materials and insulation.” This type of luminaire has a thermal protective device that opens when the lighting equipment’s surface temperature rises to a pre-determined level. Rule 30-900 explains that a “cavity” may be within either a ceiling or wall. A thermal device opens the circuit and shuts down the luminaire until it has cooled down. Turning off lighting can be inconvenient.

Recessed luminaire, Type IC, inherently protected (intended for insulation contact)– “a recessed luminaire that does not require a thermal protective device and cannot exceed the maximum allowable temperatures under all operating conditions.” Although this luminaire does not have a thermal protective device, it is designed and constructed so that the maximum allowable surface temperature will not be exceeded even when blanketed with thermal insulation. There is no need to turn off this luminaire, since its inherent design will prevent it from reaching an unsafe temperature.

Recessed luminaire, Type Non-IC (not intended for insulation contact)– “a recessed luminaire designed for installation in a cavity with minimum dimensions and spacings to thermal insulation and combustible material.” The minimum required spacings are listed in Rule 30-902.

Recessed luminaire Type Non-IC, marked spacings (not intended for insulation contact)– “a recessed luminaire designed for installation in a cavity where the clearances to combustible building materials and thermal insulation are specified by the manufacturer.” Rule 30-904 defines this requirement.

Obviously, Non-IC type luminaires are not designed for blanketing with insulation. All recessed luminaires must be marked to identify their intended applications. Rules 30-902 to 30-908 specify the required markings to ensure that such lighting equipment is correctly identified, installed and put safely into use.

Rule 30-902 Spacings for Non-IC type luminaires.
This type of Non-IC recessed luminaire must be marked Type Non-IC and its installation must provide at least 13 mm spacing from combustible materials other than at the point of support, and thermal insulation must not be closer than 76 mm from the luminaire. In this case, minimum spacings are provided by the CEC.

Rule 30-904 Spacings for Non-IC – marked spacings type luminaires.
This type of luminaire must be marked Type Non-IC, marked spacings and must maintain spacings from thermal insulation and combustible materials except at the point of support in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions marked on the luminaire. In this case, minimum spacings are provided and the equipment is marked by the manufacturer.

Rule 30-906 Luminaires designed for thermal contact.
Type IC luminaires are permitted to be in contact with combustible material or blanketed with thermal insulation, since their design will prevent temperatures sufficiently high so as to ignite combustible materials materials.

Rule 30-908 Luminaires designed for non-combustible surfaces contact only.
These luminaires must be marked as suitable only for installation on a non-combustible surface and in contact with non-combustible materials. Misapplication of such luminaires can result in a fire.

As with previous articles, you should always consult the electrical inspection authority in each province or territory for a more precise interpretation of any of the above.

Leslie Stoch
Leslie Stoch, P. Eng, is principal of L. Stoch & Associates, providing electrical engineering and ISO 9000 quality systems consulting. Prior to that, he spent over 20 years with Ontario Hydro as an electrical inspection manager and engineer. Les holds a B. S. in electrical engineering from Concordia University in Montreal.