Recessed ceiling spotlights can be used to create a clean uncluttered look in your new build. Whilst ceiling spotlights used to be restricted to the kitchen, the desire for clean modern spaces has seen their popularity grow throughout the home.

Whilst these lights can be attractive, installing a light into the ceiling space can cause problems. We take a look at some of the risks and provide some top tips on installing downlighter spotlights…

FIRE

Risks:

  •  Recessed spotlights can be in close proximity to other materials. This can increase the risk of fire, the below photograph shows the results of fire spread within a floor void caused by an electrical fault in a spotlight (photograph courtesy of Manchester City Council Building control)

  • Fire can also be associated with substandard fittings, the quality of installation, heat build-up because of poor ventilation, or contact with combustible materials.

Top tips:

  • Modern fire-rated downlights are either covered with a fire hood that blocks the spread of fire or come fitted with an intumescent pad that swells up when it reaches a certain temperature. 
  • Spotlights should not be installed through a ceiling if the ceiling provides part of the required fire resistance of the property.

HEAT

Risks:

  • Core drilling through the plasterboard can  damage many insulation products.
  • You should never cut through or hollow out insulation boards, rolls or multifoils to accommodate the downlighter. Not only does it mean the insulation isn’t performing correctly it also insulates the fitting with the potential to get hotter and hotter.

Top tips:

  • Good practice is to have 75mm clear air space above fittings.
  • Consider modern LED bulbs to reduce the heat produced.

NOISE, WATER VAPOUR AND CONDENSATION

Risks:

  • Condensation and water vapour can also be a problem when the vapour control layer, membrane or acoustic ceiling is cut through. Vapour always finds the easiest way out so not only will there be a vapour build up in the space above but the fitting may fuse or the bulb may have a shorter life - fittings can also degrade quicker when they are subject to moisture.
  • Inserting downlights into the ceiling can also affect the acoustic performance of the room if the ceiling is part of the required acoustic insulation.     

Top tips:

  • If you cut into a ceiling you must restore it to its original condition and not interfere with its natural ability to act as a barrier to fire, heat, noise and water vapour.
  • Spotlights in your new build should take into consideration the location of the acoustic insulation.

Key points…

  • Downlighters can generate significant heat when fitted with halogen lamps. Maintain a safe clearance from any combustible materials.
  • Check the acoustic detailing when installing lights in separating floors.
  • Heat loss in roofs can be substantial. Ensure fittings are suitable for this location.
  • Use light emitting diode (LED) lamps wherever possible to minimise energy use and heat build-up.
  • To prevent air and sound leakage, check the specification to ensure the downlighters won’t penetrate the insulation.
  • Properly seal light fittings to minimise the passage of water vapour to the roof space.

Our partners at LABC have produced a handy guidance document which provides further information;

http://www.labc.co.uk/sites/default/files/labcpd0914_techg_dlight_dwellings.pdf