New rules surrounding the installation of recessed light fittings into domestic installations come into force on the 10th May 2012.
AS/NZS60598.2.2 Amendment A (NZ Only) is a Minimum Safety Standard and is not intended to be a luminaires design standard. The safety of the completed installation ultimately rests with the contractor whose responsibility it is to ensure all materials used are thermally compatible. The safest way of achieving this is to follow the Luminaires Manufacturer’s instructions. Luminaires tested to this Standard will be safe at all times even if their operating environment is inadvertently changed. Under abnormal conditions the luminaries, lamp or both may exhibit unusual characteristics such as intermittent switching or short life……...but will remain safe.
Do I have to install a down light that can be covered with insulation?
No, there is no requirement in the standard that states that a downlight has to be covered with insulation. As long as it has been tested and rated and carries either a CA135 or CA80 classification then you can abut to the fitting only, leaving the top of the fitting exposed.
What are the new classifications I should be looking for?
Downlight classifications as described AS/NZS60598.2.2 Amendment A
Does every fitting have to be fitted with a thermal cut-out?
No, a thermal cut-out is not the only means of compliance, however they are an economical and reliable item frequently employed at the manufacturer’s discretion and primarily used to ensure a fitting achieves one of the above listed classifications.
Some insulation providers have recommended using only fittings with thermal cut outs; this would appear to be a misguided recommendation. A classification as above is not dependant on the use of a thermal cut-out.
What happens if I cover a CA ‘abutted only’ rated down light?
Provided that the lamp in use complies with the manufacturer’s recommendations, a safe situation will be maintained. Under the new standard all fittings are tested under abnormal conditions which assume the fittings may at some point be inadvertently covered fully with insulation or other material or an incorrect lamp fitted.
Covering such newly rated fittings, (although not hazardous to the installation) may however result in implications for the fitting itself. It is likely that short lamp life will be noted and nuisance tripping may occur if the fitting has a thermal cut-out or the fitting may fail completely, but in a safe mode.
High wattage LED’s (for example) may operate at higher than designed temperatures which may then shorten the rated lamp life of the fitting (speak to the fitting manufacturer for more detail in this instance).
What do I need to know about the Insulation in the Installation?
The majority of the market appears to be held by mineral glass fibre types; however insulation comprised of other materials such as polyester and natural fibre is available. These materials generally have a lower ignition temperature than glass fibre and they should be used only if the supplier’s performance specification indicates they are safe to use with the down lights of your choice.
It has long been recognized internationally that 90degC has been a threshold below which building materials should not go with regard to ignition temperature. If in any doubt about the materials involved you should check and confirm with either the manufacturer of the insulation product or of the fitting itself, to ensure their product can be installed in accordance with the new standard.
You need to check the insulation manufacturer’s instructions to ensure their product is safe when installed alongside fittings approved to the new classifications.
In summary what does this mean for down light installations?
If it is to be used for a domestic installation check the classifications of the downlight to ensure it has been tested to comply with one of those listed above.
The risks of covering a CA rated downlight under the new standard are that it may shorten the life of the lamp and/or fitting but if it fails it will fail safely. If a thermal cut-out has been fitted it may cause the fitting to switch off automatically.
Check that the insulation present on the job is certified by the manufacturer of the insulation to be installed alongside the fitting classification you are using.
It is important to note that a CA rated down light under the old standard may no longer comply with the CA135 and CA80 requirements of the new standard. You must look for the new CA135 or CA80 label as shown above to be sure it complies with the new standard.
Whilst the Electrical and Lighting Industry are required by law to operate within strict and known safety limits, the Insulation Industry has no such restrictions placed upon it. This Standard has been produced in order to ensure domestic down lights are safe under all foreseen circumstances. The insulation industry is encouraged to introduce systems that will identify with certainty the ignition temperatures of its materials for the guidance of all installers.