Home thermal insulation is a way of improving home energy efficiency. Incorrect installation of thermal insulation around electrical wiring and other electrical installations can cause fires and serious electrical accidents.

Safety considerations and fire risks

When insulation is placed too close to downlights, ceiling fans or electrical fittings like transformers or security alarms there are fire and safety risks.

When any of the following items are in a roof space, appropriate precautions must be taken:

  • halogen downlights
  • electrical wiring installed before 1986
  • gas or combustion heater with a flue going through the roof
  • high intensity heating lamps
  • electrical items such as exhaust fans or water heaters.

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.

Blow-in insulation is safe if installed correctly. However, if not secured, this type of insulation can move 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 have included mandatory requirements for electrical contractors to allow for the de-rating of electrical wiring due to their proximity to thermal 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.

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 that don't 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 AS 3999 Thermal insulation of dwellings – bulk insulation – installation requirements.

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 required to provide the homeowner with an electrical certificate of compliance before energising the electrical installation. This is to certify that the electrical equipment has been installed in compliance with the safety and technical requirements.

For more information and advice on home insulation electrical safety contact the Office of the Technical Regulator.

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Page last updated 19 September 2018

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