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The Fire Risks Associated With Traditional Downlights

Did you know that you might have a very real fire risk in your home?

This everyday item can potentially be more dangerous than an unattended pot on a stove, or lighting a match for your fireplace. The dangerous part is that you can’t even see it happening.

What is this unseen fire hazard?

Halogen downlights.

How Is The Halogen Downlight So Dangerous?

Did you know that a halogen light can reach temperatures of 380°C?

That is an incredible temperature, especially when you consider that heat is confined to your roof cavity. It is in fact so hot, that it can cause loose insulation to catch on fire. Because of that massive fire risk, insulation cannot be installed over a halogen downlight fitting. Gaps must be left in the roofing insulation around the light fittings for safety.

While safety is obviously importantly, having gaps in your insulation defeats the purpose of it. With patchy insulation, you are automatically losing heat and energy through the gaps. That results in higher energy usage and higher running costs for your home.

Aside from the energy loss, the most worrying part is that you don’t only have one halogen downlight in your home. In fact, there are probably multiple in every room. Each one of those lights is a seperate fire risk. You could quite easily have 40 downlights in your home. That is 40 chances for your house to catch on fire.

Normally you would expect to see or smell a brewing fire in your home, or be alerted by your smoke detectors. But, smoke detectors struggle to detect smoke in your roof unless they are actually installed in your roof cavity.

It’s a scary thought!

Could Your House Catch On Fire?

Even if the insulation was installed correctly in the first place, drafts can cause Insul-fluff styles, or loose fibres to blow onto the light fittings. That was the case in an Auckland home in 2011. A neighbour called the Titirangi fire station as they saw smoke coming from the roof of a house near their own. The owners of the smoking home were not even aware that their house was about to burst into flames.

The fire chief estimated that the roof insulation had been smoldering for 24 hours after a draft had blown fibres onto a halogen light fitting. The smoldering had spread across 25 square metres of the insulation and burnt through 3 wooden beams. It was lucky that the neighbours had noticed the smoke as the outcome could have been much worse.

The owner of the home had smelt smoke earlier in the day, but because the smoke detectors had not activated and she couldn’t physically see it, she thought the smell was coming from outside.


While this family were lucky, many other have not been. The heat generated by halogen downlights has been the cause of a number of house fires in New Zealand and Australia in recent years. It definitely pays to be suspicious and to call the fire station if you do smell unexplained smoke. Better to be safe than sorry!

What Can You Do About It?

If your home has older insulation, or you are concerned about your halogen lights, then there is something you can do about it. It is strongly recommended that you switch your lighting from halogen downlights to enclosed LED units instead.

LEDs produce the same amount of light as a halogen bulb, but use 80% less energy to do it. They also do not carry a fire risk as they don’t produce a large amount of heat like their halogen counterparts. An LED light unit has a lifespan of 25 years, so you hardly have to replace them.

If you would like to see if LED lights are right for your place, then get in touch with us here at LED360. We will be able to provide a free in-home inspection and advise you of the available options. Drop us a line today.

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