Thousands of homes fitted with recessed halogen down lights are potential death traps. These lights generate high amounts of heat and have the potential to start a ceiling fire. Ceiling fires are particularly dangerous as the fire can be spreading rapidly in the roof cavity without activating a ceiling mounted smoke detector and residents are not aware of the fire until the roof starts to collapse around them.

I have frequently seen these lights installed too close to timber roof framing, or fitted into timber and hardboard ceiling panels. Another problem is roof insulation installed or displaced too close to the light. Regulations require loose fill insulation to be restrained by barriers around the light, but in my experience these are often either not present or so flimsy that they have collapsed over the light. Another unforseen problem is leaf litter that is blown into the roof cavity and can land on the lights.


This light is one of several in a Bundaberg home mounted in a hardboard ceiling.


A North Brisbane home owner was lucky to escape a house fire recently when she smelt smoke coming from a light fitting. Fortunately the fire department arrived in time to extinguish the fire. A roof inspection revealed insufficient clearance from insulation to the light was to blame.

There are approved light guards available to protect against these hazards but it is a very rare occurrence that I see them in a roof cavity. When you consider that halogen lights are very inefficient at making light and so dangerous, it makes sense to replace them with one of the much safer and more efficient options available today such as compact fluro or LED lights. Lighting retailers and licenced electricians can advise on the best options for your requirements.

If you have any questions or concerns about this or any other building matter, you can call Matt King at BPI Building and Pest Inspections on 07 4151 1613 visit or email us on

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