David Hanacek of EcoCycle Solutions loves to think up practical, cost-effective building products that make a big impact on efficiency. Take his Flow-Thru Finisher for example, a handy little caulk gun attachment that helps get adhesive exactly where and how you want it. Before that, it was a clog-free drain device and lightweight steel shipping pallets. But it’s his new invention, the CanCoverIt, that gets him most excited. After all, what looks like a ho-hum, odd-looking box is actually a breakthrough invention that can save countless kilowatts and millions of dollars for homeowners.
If you’ve got an older home, there’s a good chance it came with some non-insulation contact (IC) recessed lighting. You might even have inherited an over-abundance of it like I did with my last house, a 1970’s contemporary lit exclusively with the non-IC can lights so popular during that time period. When my husband and I decided to add insulation to our attic spaces, we learned exactly what that meant. Because these lights get so hot, insulation must be kept at a minimum of 3” from the fixture. Once we realized there would always be holes in our otherwise well-insulated attic, we felt pretty defeated. We went ahead with the work anyway (since some insulation is better than none!) but remained annoyed by this unavoidable air leakage.
This problem has stymied contractors and homeowners for decades, resulting in makeshift barriers (i.e., clay pots and chicken wire) and poorly-designed commercial covers that pose more of a fire hazard than they help. But without insulation surrounding the light, there’s nothing to stop the conditioned air from rooms below from escaping into the unconditioned space above. This is a major epidemic across the country, according to Hanacek.
“With approximately 500 million non-IC can lights in attics throughout the United States, there’s a tremendous amount of energy escaping out of these gaping holes,” he says. “It’s the equivalent of 20 square miles of wasted energy per day! The actual thermal dynamics energy loss affecting these homes is even worse.”
A thorough understanding of thermal dynamics, coupled with the accumulated knowledge gained as a longtime builder and renovator, led to the CanCoverIt design. The fiberglass interior of this patent-pending cover acts as an insulation barrier while two precisely sized and placed openings at the top safely vent away excess heat build-up. A secondary outer shell stops insulation from being blown into the can cover and keeps dust build-up at bay. Additionally, the shape of the cover is instrumental to the cover’s effectiveness- and where the thermal dynamics really come into play. As Hanacek explained in this essay:
The shape of the CanCoverIt™ maximizes the air volume around the can — 21% more volume than a round device of similar dimensions. Thus, CanCoverIt™ not only diffuses heat within, but more important for safety and efficiency, has clear air space above the can to allow heated air to rise as it normally would with no enclosure.
Customarily, many frustrated homeowners have opted to replace their old fixtures with IC recessed lighting, to the tune of thousands of dollars per household and lots of landfill waste. The CanCoverIt retails under $20 a cover, is an easy DIY project, and is fully recyclable at the end of its long life. If the CanCoverIt works as well as Hanacek’s tests and positive feedback from early-adopting contractors suggest, these funny-looking little boxes just might be the bridge between illuminating and insulating we’ve been looking for!
[$] Purchase CanCoverIt for about $20 on Amazon.com.
Photo Credits: EcoCycle Solutions.