Home insulation electrical safety
If installed correctly, home thermal insulation is a safe way of improving your home energy efficiency. However, incorrect installation of thermal insulation around electrical wiring and other electrical installations can cause fires and serious electrical accidents.
Safety considerations and fire risks
If insulation isn't correctly installed it can cause house fires. This happens when insulation is placed too close to down lights, ceiling fans or electrical fittings - eg transformers, security alarms. You may be at greater risk of fire if you have installed in the roof space:
- halogen down lights
- electrical wiring installed before 1999
- gas or combustion heater with a flue going through the roof
- high intensity heating lamps
- electrical items - eg exhaust fans, water heaters.
You should tell your insulation installer beforehand if you have any of these items in your roof space so the appropriate precautions can be taken.
>>>smoke alarm requlations<<<
Checking your existing insulation
If you are concerned about insulation you already have installed you can have it checked by a licensed electrician. They can make sure the insulation is correctly installed and that down lights and electrical fittings are safe. If your insulation hasn’t been correctly installed you are entitled to have it rectified by the contractor responsible.
Electrical safety for blow-in insulation
Blow-in insulation is a type of loose-fill insulation that is mostly made from recycled paper. The insulation is funnelled into ceilings and other spaces using a flexible hose.
If installed correctly, blow-in insulation is safe. However, if not secured, this type of insulation can move too close to electrical equipment such as downlights and exhaust fans due to drafts in the roof space. This may cause the equipment to fail, overheat the wiring and cause fires. To prevent the movement of blow-in insulation, it is sprayed with a fixing solution.
Older electrical wiring (installed before 1986) is more likely to overheat and fail due to thermal insulation. Since 1986, AS/NZS 3000 - Australian Wiring Rules has included mandatory requirements for electrical contractors to allow for the de-rating of electrical wiring due to their proximity to thermal insulation.
Installing electrical equipment in homes with blow-in insulation
Electricians must observe safe clearance distances when installing electrical equipment such as exhaust fans and ELV downlights in homes with blow-in insulation. They must also install appropriate protective barriers to prevent the insulation material from getting too close to electrical installations. It is important to use a licensed electrician to install electrical equipment as incorrect installation can cause fires and pose other safety risks.
Installing blow-in insulation in homes with ELV downlights
If you intend to install blow-in insulation in a house that is fitted with ELV downlights, ask a licensed electrician to conduct an electrical safety check. This is to ensure that the necessary safety barriers are in place to protect the downlights, fans and other electrical equipment from drifting insulation material.
Electrical safety for insulating new homes
Installing ceiling insulation is a requirement for new homes and additions to existing homes. New homes are usually insulated with fixed insulation batts which do not move around in the roof space. Clearances of batts from wiring and electrical equipment must be maintained according to Australian Standard AS/NZS 3000. An electrical certificate of compliance is required at the completion of the electrical work.
Australian Standards for installing home insulation
Australian Standard AS3999 Thermal insulation of dwellings – bulk insulation – installation requirements is currently being revised. The revisions will become available in the near future.
Australian Standard AS/NZS 3000 - Australian Wiring Rules prescribes mandatory requirements for wiring and installing electrical equipment such as ELV downlights close to thermal insulation. Compliance with AS/NZS 3000 is mandatory for electrical workers and contractors.
Electrical contractors are also required to provide the home owner with an electrical certificate of compliance before energising the electrical installation. This is to certify that the electrical equipments have been installed in compliance with the safety and technical requirements.