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  1. #1
    Bob Knauff's Avatar
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    Default Attic Hatch Light Fixture

    Came across this light fixture in the ceiling of a house built in 1990. The galvanized metal unit was mfg by Modern-Aire, the range hood guys. As you can see, the metal housing is designed to fit into the space where the attic hatch access panel would be, in the ceiling. The inside, "top" of the unit is a loose panel that can be lifted out of the way to access the attic. The light is on a swivel stalk so it swings up out of the way (sort of). Not pictured is the snap in light fixture cover panel that, when in place, makes the whole thing look like a typical fluorescent light fixture in the ceiling, only it's incandescent. The fixture is wired to the existing ceiling light fixture line so it comes on when the switch is thrown.

    Anybody seen one of these before? It makes it quite difficult to enter the attic without scratching yourself on the metal tabs that jut out on both sides to hold the lens panel or on the light fixture metal pieces.

    Of course I recommended replacement of the funky unit with an air tight cover for energy efficiency reasons.

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  2. #2
    Mike Inspector's Avatar
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    Default Re: Attic Hatch Light Fixture

    Seen hundreds of them. The house I did yesterday had two of them.

    Only problem I see with them is the lens cover gets brittle over time and when you let loose of the springs they pop holes in the lens.

    I would never recommend changing one out but that is my business descision


  3. #3
    Jerry Peck's Avatar
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    Default Re: Attic Hatch Light Fixture

    From your description, the opening may not be large enough to meet the minimum size requirements, especially as you would need to measure between the tabs, not to the frame (which is shown as being larger than the tabs).

    I have never seen one, interesting concept, albeit one which leaves a bit to be desired.

    I noticed that it was UL listed as a recessed incandescent light fixture, but not as an IC one, which means there cannot be ANY insulation above that, and that is a violation of the energy codes because that leaves one heck of an large opening through the insulation.

    I sure hope those are properly grounded too.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  4. #4
    Bob Knauff's Avatar
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    Default Re: Attic Hatch Light Fixture

    Good points Jerry. Another problem with the one I came across is the fact the NM cable that feeds it runs across the tops of the ceiling joists in the attic from some distant point to the light fixture connection box at the light socket stalk base but it was not protected from damage.

    It seems to me that a unit like that will leak so much conditioned air, not to mention losing energy via conduction, that it would be akin to leaving a window cracked open.

    I've noticed an interesting phenomenon in my new warmer climate area vs. living in the Great White North. People here generally do not appreciate the energy losses that can occur with things like that attic light fixture or other problems like gaps in weather stripping on doors. I believe the reason for it is if one has a gap in the weatherstripping in the cold climates one can FEEL the cold and drafts or even see frost build up on the door jamb on the INSIDE of the house. In the south, it is almost impossible to feel a heat leak at a gap in weatherstripping, which is just as bad from an energy loss and occupant comfort standpoint. As such they don't seem to think they are losing energy, be it heat or cold. A quick shot with a IR camera would certainly convince them!

    I see no compelling reason to leave that type of attic hatch light fixture in place. In fact there are more than a few good arguments suggesting it be replaced with the original, properly insulated and sealed hatch door system.

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  5. #5
    Ted Menelly's Avatar
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    Default Re: Attic Hatch Light Fixture

    If there is a light in the attic and there should be that is unnecessary to say the least. As far as that metal contraption they make units that are kinda quilt covered and has a zip around top that I would certainly like a whole lot better than that. Also, where are the pull down stairs that would eliminate having to use a ladder.

    As far as seeing a metal contraption like that? Not once. Just the more logical sensible type with the zip around top.

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  6. #6
    Bob Knauff's Avatar
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    Default Re: Attic Hatch Light Fixture

    In this case Ted the HVAC unit was not located in the attic so no light was required. In fact one could seal the attic hatch pretty tightly and never have to go up there at all for a very long time. Even if the furnace is in the attic no fold down stairs are ever provided here. As far as I know they are not reqired. They ARE required to have a walkway and clear space to and around a furnace in an attic, for service, as well as a light and electrical receptacle but again, none of that was needed here.

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  7. #7
    Robert Pike's Avatar
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    Default Re: Attic Hatch Light Fixture

    Of course I recommended replacement of the funky unit with an air tight cover for energy efficiency reasons.[/quote]

    Seen many of them and some are a pain to enter (normally spring loaded and unless you detach the spring it will close on you, however if they fit tight and have the right clearance - I just mention what type they are and don't make any recommendations for changing it out. Don't burn your arm on the light bulb !


  8. #8
    Mark Jones's Avatar
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    Default Re: Attic Hatch Light Fixture

    I've seen them too here in the East Bay. Good points repeated: watch your arm - it's easy to burn yourself on the bulb; hang on to the snaps, I broke a plastic panel when the spring snapped! I don't think they were ever intended to be used frequently as an access. I've only seen them installed in truss framing.


  9. #9
    Lucas Hoiland's Avatar
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    Default Re: Attic Hatch Light Fixture

    Hi I have one of these in my house but the lens was broken and the previous owner just put a piece of drywall up in its place. Is there a place I can get a replacement lens. The wire spring clips seem to be MIA as well.

    Thanks for any help

    Lucas


  10. #10
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    Default Re: Attic Hatch Light Fixture

    Those attic hatches are as common as dirt in the San Francisco bay area. Show me a home inspector who doesn't hate them and I'll show you a home inspector who has never seen one.

    Jerry McCarthy
    Building Code/ Construction Consultant

  11. #11
    Jerry Peck's Avatar
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    Default Re: Attic Hatch Light Fixture

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry McCarthy View Post
    Those attic hatches are as common as dirt in the San Francisco bay area. Show me a home inspector who doesn't hate them and I'll show you a home inspector who has never seen one.
    And the wiring TO those lights in the attic hatches is not rated for that use (not rated for flexibility to allow for bending back and forth every time the hatch is opened) and all wiring methods are supposed to be secured within 12" of the fixture or outlet box and then every so far (4-1/2' for NM cable), so extra is not even allowed for flexibility.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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