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


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.

A possible solution is LED lighting which is more energy efficient and has a longer life span (20,000 to 50,000 hours depending on who you talk to). LED is fast replacing the other forms but they are not quite there in terms of payback. It is very close and is improving all the time. The LEDs generate a fair bit of heat and the larger ones have built in fans in the fittings. They will last over 10 years so the big advantage at the moment is on maintenance. Be careful to buy a quality fitting as there are a lot of cheap unbranded alternatives out there which are not as good.

If the issue is a power supply or overheating you may have no alternative but to fit surface mounted incandescent or fluorescent fittings which may involve an element of rewiring.

It would be best to consult your local electrician on the costs involved.

Pat McGovern is on the Building Surveying Professional Group of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland

Q I own a house that was formerly a Dublin City Council property. I believe the purchase was based on a 100-year leaseholding. Should I go to the council and buy the leasehold outright? How much might that cost and how do I go about it?


A In the late 1930s and early 1940s Dublin Corporation (now Dublin City Council) began the process of tenement clearance in the city centre by commencing the construction of large housing developments in the new outer suburbs of the city. Many of these houses are now in private ownership held under leases granted by the council.

Whether the owner, in this instance yourself, needs to buy out the freehold of the lease at present depends on their future plans for the property. For example, if you are intent on remortgaging the property, to obtain a loan to pay for improvement works, or to sell the house to someone who will need a mortgage to pay for it, you should bear in mind that mortgage providers may require that at least 70 years remain on the lease before they will accept the property as security for the loan. Some owners dislike their house being subject to a ground rent and may wish to purchase the freehold on principle.

The purchase price for acquiring the freehold to the lease will depend on the type of lease you have and when it was granted. In this regard, you should contact the Law Department in Dublin City Council for further assistance. In addition, you should be aware that Land Registry fees will be payable.

Paul Dunne is chair of the Quantity Surveying Professional Group of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland

Q I have a lawn in the front of my house that is on the side of the road. Although the piece of land in question is registered in my name on the deed map, I understand however that as it is adjacent to the public road, it’s in charge of the local county council. My neighbour (who lives half a mile away) has started cutting this area of grass, much to my annoyance. Where do I stand in terms of the law and who can I register a complaint with?

A The lawn you refer to appears to be a roadside margin and therefore is likely to form part of the public road. As such it would be in the charge (“in charge”) of the council. It is possible that your neighbour is being public-spirited but it is somewhat unusual to select this particular grass area so far from his or her home.

You should get formal confirmation that this specific area is ‘in charge’ and is part of the public right of way. Do not take it for granted that it is ‘in charge’, on the basis that it is outside your boundary fence. If it is ‘in charge’ your neighbour is merely doing the council’s maintenance work. However, if not, then your neighbour is maintaining a piece of your property and this, in time, may have significant adverse implications for you.

Property titles are usually registered to the centre of the adjoining public road unless the council has formally acquired the title in the land on which the road is constructed. This means, that in the event of this part of the road being permanently closed as a public right of way, the registered portions revert back to the respective adjoining registered owners.

If the area is ‘in charge’ you have limited grounds for complaint irrespective of its registered status. The council may not object to public-spirited citizens maintaining grass areas. Therefore you could, if there is a residents association, make a suitable proposal through it for maintenance of such areas.

Your best course of action is to approach your neighbour in a friendly manner and explain that you feel responsible for this area of grass as it is outside your house and you would like to maintain it, especially as it is within your registered title. If it is confirmed that the area in question is not ‘in charge’, this course of action is not just desirable, it is essential.

You may find that if you are seen to maintain it adequately your neighbour will lose interest or feel it unnecessary to be involved.

Patrick Shine is a Chartered Geomatics Surveyor, a Chartered Civil Engineer and a member of SCSI,


Send your queries to or to Property Clinic, The Irish Times, 24-28 Tara Street, Dublin 2. This column is a readers’ service. Advice given is general and individual advice should always be sought