In February 2009 when the then Minister for the Environment Peter Garrett announced the Energy Efficient Homes Package installing ceiling insulation in 2.7 million homes, concerns were raised about the potential dangers relating to insulation around electrical wiring, downlights, proper training for installers and other related issues that were not addressed until March 2012.
The incidence of 174 house fires and the four related deaths of 25-year-old Matthew Fuller, 22-year-old Mitchell Sweeney, 19-year-old Marcus Wilson and 16-year-old Ruben Barnes meant the Government’s initiative was the subject of heavy criticism and a growing public safety concerns. Fear and confusion ignited in regards to incandescent halogen downlights and their suitability for residential installations.
Recessed lighting has been around in some form since the 1940’s when Ivan Kirlin of the Kirlin Company in Michigan, Detroit hid a light source in a hollow opening in the ceiling. It had the advantage of being energy efficient as a light source because of its focussed beam, with a hefty trade-off of being relatively permanent with an essentially unflattering light angle for anything not furniture or featured. As crude as initial versions were, they have since evolved into more sophisticated light sources, with high levels of incandescence. Energy consumption, globe life span and size continue to improve.
Managing heat generation is continuing an issue with high temperatures in the roof cavity in the vicinity of loose, flammable insulation has proven potentially disastrous results. Downlights heat up very quickly, and if insulation is close by, it is easily ignited to spread through the ceiling space completely undetected by smoke alarms. Such is the output of heat from downlights they can ignite the general cavity debris of rodent and nesting bird leaves and detritus, as well as having the capacity to set fire to solid timber beams.
LED downlight installation can be finicky and dangerous and it goes without saying that it can only be done by a qualified electrician. Make it simple by using online and internet marketing services to find appropriate the tradies for the job. Roof space holds many electrical dangers, and inspection by an electrician needs to ensure a functioning safety switch.
Insulation must have a fire rating in accordance with Australian Standard (AS1530). Glasswool and rockwool have excellent fire ratings, and are commonly used in industrial equipment because of their superior fire proofing properties.
Halogen downlights are safe when correctly installed alongside insulation in accordance with AS3999 Amendment 1 (March 2012).
Always check the fire rating of your choice of insulation prior to purchase to avoid a costly mistake.
Avoiding potentially lethal fire damage can be as simple as placing a heat-resistant fireproof barrier in the roof cavity around the transformer, or using infrared reflective coating (IRC) bulbs, which reflect most of the heat. Qualified electricians will be aware of this, as well as having the knowledge and experience to safely install.