Downlights – Changing over to LEDs

I wrote an article on my FaceBook page a little while ago about downlights and requirements. https://www.facebook.com/greg.rowell.electrical/posts/544638732748180

Well, this article is a follow up from that, and I refer to the Wiring Rules – AS/NZS 3000:2018 Amt 1

Suspended socket outlet
Illegally installed socket outlet. Suspended without support.

There are a lot of contractors offering cheap change-overs from halogen down lights to LED down lights.

Is it a good idea, or a bad idea?

The opinion of most decent electricians is the following

• A cheap and nasty outcome will occur, it will be a short term solution

Why am I making this statement.

Most of these adverts are put in letter boxes for electricians to sell something. They lull homeowners into a false sense of security.

But are they a good offer, or a bad offer?

Here are some questions to ask before you sign on the dotted line.

What will the contractor be installing?

  • Do you know exactly what light fittings they will be using?
  • What is their policy for flickering (Ausgrid ripple injection for instance)
  • What is the warranty of the light fittings they are giving you.
  • What will they be doing exactly?
    • Will they be changing the light fitting, or just fitting an LED globe to an existing fitting?
  • If they are changing the fitting
    • Will they be fitting a socket outlet?
    • Will they be fitting a junction box?
    • Will they be hard wiring the circuit into the light fitting (not that easy in modern LEDs)?
  • Are the new globes or light fittings dimmable?
    • Are the existing dimmers compatible with the LED light fittings that they are giving you? Or will you need new dimmers?

Insulation and building structure

How will the contractor be dealing with insulation and parts of the building structure?

  • Light fittings must have specific clearances from structural beams, and many don’t allow insulation to cover either the light fitting, nor the transformer. Has you contractor told you exactly what they will be doing.
  • What is the classification of the light fitting being installed. Different downlights have different classifications that specify clearances. What will they be installing?
  • How will they deal with “loose fill” insulation – this is very difficult and costly to manage!!!

Asbestos

Is the light fitting mounted into asbestos sheet? Fibre cement sheet can be asbestos – do you know the correct procedures for working with it?

Next steps

So now that they have told you exactly what they are going to do, what are your lighting needs exactly?

LED Globes

  • If you swap over to LED globes, will 450lm per lamp be suitable?
    • 450lm is normally the most common lumen output for globes. But do you need 800lm or 900lm per light fitting?
    • Perhaps 700lm will be the correct output.
    • This might mean that new globes are not suitable.
  • LED globes are less efficient than new integrated LED downlights. This might mean that the light output per Watt is lower than what could be achieved otherwise.
  • LED globes also blow more often – meaning you will have to change them regularly.
  • Old transformers are often at the end of their life, and this option will always provide a bad outcome long term.

Your actual requirements

  • How big is each room?
  • What is your lumen requirements?
  • Should you change your 70mm light fittings to 90mm to get a better light output or outcome?
    • 70mm holes are very difficult and time consuming to work with if you have to add a socket outlet!
  • After you change over to your new light fittings, will you need a dimmer, or will it be satisfactory as it is?
  • What will you do if the light fittings flicker? Flickering due to the Ausgrid Ripple Injection is a very big issue on the Ausgrid network (and others). There are some hotspots, like the area that I work in most – Hornsby district.

New LED fittings

If you are going to install new light fittings and remove the old MR16 (or GU10), what is the best way to do it?

  • All new LED fittings come with a plug. Do you install a socket outlet, or hard wire it? What are the implications of this long term?
  • A socket outlet will allow you to change the light fitting in the future should the current one die.
    • If installing a socket outlet there may be other implications – have these been discussed?
    • Socket outlets MUST be fastened to a beam or structure. Clause 4.4.2.2 (d).
  • The socket outlet needs an earth,
    • many halogens were installed without an earth. That means that a new earth will need to be installed. Some contractors DON’T install an earth – this is highly dangerous and illegal.
  • Do you hardwire in the new LED?
    • This comes with its own complications, but every time your light fitting dies into the future, you will need an electrician to repair it.
    • Do you want that long term cost?
  • If you install cheap light fittings, you will likely have to replace them again in 2-3 years time. Is it worth it?

Before you sign on the dotted line

Licensing

Is your contractor licensed to perform electrical work in NSW?

  • Have they shown you their electrical license, and have you checked it.
  • Is the person who turns up to do your work a licensed electrician, or an apprentice.
    • An apprentice MUST be supervised at all times by a licensed electrician, and is not allowed to work on their own – Ask to see their license when they turn up to do the work.
    • Don’t allow an apprentice to work unsupervised.

Insurance

Is the contractor who turns up at your door insured.

If they are not, your home insurance will be providing cover for any damage that they may do to your home. Your insurance could also be used to provide coverage should they injure themselves.

After the light fittings have been installed

Your electrician MUST test every single socket outlet to confirm that it complies with the Wiring Rules.

Your electrician MUST then make a few other mandatory checks under section 8 of the Wiring Rules. Main switch and Earth electrode are my favourites – they are usually non-compliant.

After these mandatory checks have been made, the contractor MUST provide a CCEW (see below).

Is the work compliant?

Appliance compliance

Do you know if the light fitting has a tick of approval on it.

It is illegal to sell electrical products in NSW unless it has a NSW approval number (or a tick of approval).

Many contractors are buying cheap electrical products imported into Australia that don’t have an approval number. Don’t take the risk. Buying a reputable brand from an Australian distributor is your only guarantee that the appliance is approved for use in NSW (even then, there are some mistakes made by importers/distributors – and I have caught some out!)

https://www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au/buying-products-and-services/product-and-service-safety/electrical-safety/safety-labels-for-electrical-goods

Compliance certificate – CCEW

Did you know that your electrician MUST provide a compliance certificate?

A CCEW (Compliance Certificate of Electrical Work) is mandatory in every state and territory of Australia. In NSW only 1-2% of electricians provide it, but it is the only way in which you can be sure that the electrician’s work complies with the mandatory Wiring Rules (AS/NZS 3000:2018 Amt 1).

NSW has the worst compliance in Australia!

There is a $1000 on the spot fine for not providing a CCEW – see https://www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au/…/electrical-compliance-… but nobody is checking!!!

Do you get a receipt with all details of work done. It is mandatory that a receipt be provided for every job done.

Does the receipt list the model and type of light fittings installed for warranty purposes, and the type of work done?

So…

Do you know what you will be getting???
or is cost more important?

As I always say to my customers, it doesn’t really matter which contractor you choose, as long as they work safely, do compliant work, and abide by their legal obligations.

Again… it is always your choice to make.

Hopefully now you have a bit more guidance on what you should demand, and expect from every single contractor.

Bye for now,

Greg

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