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Halogen Downlight Dangers

One of the reasons to upgrade to LED downlights is to eliminate the danger of halogen downlighting. Various governments and regulatory and safety organisations throughout Australia have issued warnings about the use of halogen downlighting due to the very high operating temperatures which can occur, up to 250°C, which over time can cause objects in contact to ignite and burn depending on factors such as moisture content and ambient temperature. Other sources cite an operating temperature of 370°C to 500°C which is the temperature close to the point where some timbers will instantaneously ignite.

An inspection of halogen downlighting will often identify melted and short circuited wires, burnt insulation and/or timbers. In such conditions, the roof space can suddenly became a raging fire. A study in Melbourne identified that some 57 homes in Melbourne over a period of 18 months had been lost with the likely cause being downlights which came into contact with flammable materials.

The NSW Fire Brigade also make a good comment that “Smoke alarms will only detect smoke below the ceiling…” They suggest to consider replacing 50W bulbs with 20W or 35W Infra-Red coated bulbs which emit less heat. Or we suggest even better replace with 7W to 10W LED light bulbs which emit considerably less heat.

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Insulation too close to a downlight (image from Energy Safe, 26)

For this reason there are now strict guidelines and rules for the installation of halogen downlighting such as the new wiring rules in AS/NZS 3000:2007. However, for older homes (pre-2007-2008) an inspection is recommended to ascertain if the halogen downlights have been installed correctly and are safe, particularly where paper based insulations have been used. With LED lighting this is no longer a concern with the maximum temperature of the globe reaching only approximately 70°C depending on the ambient temperature. In the advent that the LED globe was to heat up further for some reason (say 100°C to 150°C) the LED globe would rapidly fail leading to an open circuit and automatic turn off well before dangerous temperatures are reached.

References:

Minister Urges Safety Check of Installed Downlights. Energy Safe, 3, Winter-Spring. Victoria Govt.

Minister Re-iterates Warnings on Downlight Safety. Energy Safe, 26. Victoria Govt.

Insulation and Downlight Dangers, March 2012, Qld Government Justice Gateway.

Fact Sheet No 12 Halogen Downlights. Version 7, Feb 2010, NSW Fire Brigades

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