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Lighting the way to safety

Downlighters are now a popular form of home lighting but they can be a fire risk if incorrectly fitted or used with the wrong lamp or bulb.

Downlighters are now a popular form of home lighting but they can be a fire risk if incorrectly fitted or used with the wrong lamp or bulb

According to the Electrical Safety Council (ESC), downlighter lamps all look very similar but using the wrong type can cause overheating and ultimately fire, so it’s important to make the right choice.

Based on its own independent research – and anecdotal evidence of domestic fires arising from misuse of downlighters, from a number of Fire and Rescue Services (FRS) – the Electrical Safety Council has launched a new consumer safety video on this form of lighting.

The video – Downlighter Safety – offers a safety checklist for homes with downlighters and tips on how to keep them safe to use.

“After gathering information from various fire and rescue services, we also undertook independent laboratory tests on a small sample of downlighter lamps, a number of which had safety issues,” explains Martyn Allen, Head of Technical Development at the ESC. “However, we also realised that consumers needed to know more about how to select and maintain their downlighters, to ensure they kept their families and homes safe from fire.”

The ESC was initially contacted by Surrey FRS regarding downlighters and their links to a significant number of fires in homes. One of these was a serious fire in a block of 27 flats. The fire was caused by a loose connection to a down lighter but the investigation also found that many other downlighters in the building were potentially unsafe. Another example was a roof fire where the cause of the fire was a downlighter that had been covered by Christmas decorations in the loft.

“There is no doubt that there is a need for this sort of information”, adds Nick Carey of the London Fire Brigade, who specialises in the electrical causes of fire. “In my experience as a fire investigator, I know that it is not just the installation of downlighters that can cause problems. Using the right replacement lamps and the use of space above the lights, for example, can also impact on fire safety. I am glad to see the ESC make this safety information so readily available to consumers.”

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