Did you know some downlights can cause fires?
They can set fire to roof installation or timbers which burn in the roof space above fire alarms and so remain undetected until too late. Often people only know their house is on fire when flaming material comes through the air vents or the ceiling collapses. It makes a safe escape difficult and causes significant damage.
In over 30 years’ experience as an electrician I have found many instances where this type of house fire is highly probable.
One of the main culprits is the dichroic downlight, also known as the halogen globe. A 50 watt dichroic downlight can reach temperatures of up to 370 degrees Celsius. If they haven’t been installed correctly and come in contact with the insulation, leaf litter or timber, that represents a serious fire hazard.
Old or poorly installed ceiling downlights are through to cause at least one house fire each week in West Australia alone.
This need not be the case. There are Australian Standards to ensure safe installation of down lights. They do not pose a fire risk if they are installed so that flammable material does not come in contact with them and there is air flow around them to prevent temperatures building to extreme levels.
Let’s be upbeat about downlights
On a cheerier note, there is an alternative. Let’s look at four good reasons to consider LED (light emitting diode) downlights in your home or business.
- LED downlights are low power, and so low temperature, alternatives. The better quality LED globes and fittings give off as much or more light as the old 50 watt dichroic globes. In most cases the new globe inserts simply slot into the existing downlight fittings, or a new fitting fits into the hole cut for the original downlight.
- Because they consume much less power to produce the same amount of light, LED lights (of any shape and size) use much less electricity and are considerably cheaper to run.
- Because they produce very little heat they do not heat up the rooms or the roof cavity. Did you know that over 75 percent of the energy consumed by traditional light globes is converted to heat rather than light? Installing LED lights not only reduces electricity consumption required to light your house it will also save you considerable money on the costs of air conditioning.
- LED globes generally last for up to 50,000 hours of use. This low maintenance and long life makes them even more cost effective in the long run.
The challenge for the average householder in replacing existing light globes with LED lights is the alarming variation in quality out there in the market.
With my considerable experience in buying and installing all sorts of LED globes I often see advertisements and claims made on market stalls about the brightness of LED globes that are completely misleading.
The best globes on the market at the moment, which are not cheap but are cost effective, are only four or five times more efficient that typical old fashioned incandescent globes, or halogen downlights.
Look for sensible numbers about the claim of how many times more efficient the globes are. Low cost LEDs will rarely achieve anything like the four or five times greater efficiency of the high quality globes.
Compare the specifications of the globe with other products. What is its power rating (watts) and how much light does it produce (lumens)? Realistically an LED lamp claiming to be equivalent to a 60 watt globe would consume between 10 and 15 watts of power.
Next month for Westender, Mal will look at the running costs of various forms of lighting in the average business.
Running costs based on Origin Energy standard rates. Other statistics sourced from Aust. Govt. Dept of Industry and WA Fire and Energy Services Authority.
Malcom Mackenzie is owner of Mackenzie Electrical, and specialises in cost-saving solutions for homes and businesses.