Recessed lighting: a constant and expensive nuisance?

Your property queries answered

It is always advisable to have a qualified electrician review your installation to ensure there is no underlying issue such as a loose connection. Photograph: Thinkstock

It is always advisable to have a qualified electrician review your installation to ensure there is no underlying issue such as a loose connection. Photograph: Thinkstock

Thu, Jul 24, 2014, 01:00

Q I saw you had a query from a reader recently about recessed lighting and the problem of draughts. It was good to read that the risk of fire caused by recessed lighting is minimal. This was something I was concerned about.

My problem with these lights isn’t draughts, it’s just to do with performance. I’d be interested to hear if any readers have come across a house in which all the bulbs are functioning properly? If they have, I’d love to know their secret.

We moved into our new house 10 years ago and these lights have been a constant and expensive nuisance. They don’t seem to last very long and are difficult to replace. As soon as you have replaced one another seems to go. The bulbs themselves – they are the ones with the really user-unfriendly sharp points – are expensive but the matter is compounded by the fact they often share fuses which also need to be replaced. We have them in the kitchen, dining room, living room, hallway, upstairs landing and several bathrooms but many of these rooms or areas are poorly lit due to only half the lights working.

Are there other lights which work better? If not, what would be the cost of replacing these lights with non recessed lighting with the dimmer facility only required in the kitchen, living and dining room.

AYou don’t say what type of lamps you have. They may be a LV halogen lamp which have a life of 3- 4000 hours. (A typical yearly lamp on is approximately 3,000 hours.) These are not used much now as they are not good on energy efficiency.

It is always advisable to have a qualified electrician review your installation to ensure there is no underling issue such as: a loose connection; fluctuations in the incoming electrical supply; faulty switch or a faulty lamp holder; incorrect sizing of the lighting cabling; or, no moisture protection to downlighters in moisture producing areas;

Check if there is a risk of the fittings or transformers overheating – is there insulation over the fitting in the attic or within a floor above the ceiling reducing air circulation around the fitting? Please also note that overheating lamps or transformers are a potential fire hazard.

Check the transformers – spot lights generally need 12 to 24 volts depending on the fitting and a fault in the transformer could cause the full 240 volts to surge through and blow the bulb.If a transformer ‘blows’ it should trip the circuit breaker, but it’s worth checking that the breaker is correctly sized for the load. Also, some lamps can be wired up in multiples to the transformer, whilst others need individual transformers.

If being used with a dimmer,the fittings need to be dimmable; some are not.

Halogen bulbs are sensitive to vibration, and may blow quickly in a ceiling under a first floor bedroom for example.