Let there be light! One of the essentials of any modern home is lighting, but what you may not have realised is that just like everything else, there are regulations for lighting products in new homes. With energy efficiency being a major factor in many of the recent changes to the National Construction Code of Australia, many of the lighting regulations revolve around how energy-efficient your fixtures are along with installation and safety guidelines. Let’s shed some light on what these regulations and standards are, how they may affect your next build, and how to ensure you’re compliant.
What are the Australian lighting standards for homes?
What are the energy-efficient lighting standards?
One of the biggest goals of the recent National Construction Code is to ensure that all new homes have a minimum NaTHERs star rating of 6. When it comes to lighting this means reducing energy consumption as much as possible is the name of the game.
According to the J7 Section of the NCC, lights need to meet the following standards.
Bulbs cannot exceed the following watts per square metre:
- 5w/m2 inside a house, apartment
- 4w/m2 for outside areas like a balcony or verandah
- 3w/m2 for class 10 buildings such as a garage or shed.
Which light bulbs are most energy efficient?
Light bulb technology has come a long way over the decades, with a lot of older styles of light bulb being phased out in favour of more energy-efficient lighting choices. While CLF lights are more efficient than traditional lights, they still pale in comparison to LED lamps which are more eco-friendly and have a longer lifespan.
What are the safety Standards for electrical installations?
Lighting fixtures need to be installed by a qualified electrician or electrical contractor. This includes any new light fittings, dimmers, repairs, and safety checks. Be sure whoever you’re hiring is qualified to perform the task and that they have current, up-to-date knowledge regarding current regulations.
By law, electrical contractors aren’t allowed to install non-compliance and should refuse to do so, even if their client requests this. Strict regulations about who can install or perform any electrical work are essential for safety reasons.
Indoor Lighting requirements
Room lighting requirements vary depending on what you’re planning to use the room for.
- For a hallway or any area where you just need basic lighting, 100-300 lux should suffice.
- If you need enough light to read, 500-800 lux
- For specific detailed tasks, you can up the lighting to 800 to 1,700 lux
If the above is a little confusing, maybe this will help provide some context. The sun on a bright clear day provides about 10,000 lux. The light you receive right next to a window of your house on this same day is around 1,000 lux. However, as you move away from the window towards the centre of the room, the lux will drop to around 500 lux or lower, though this depends on the design of your room.
You may wonder why not have maximum lux in every room. There’s a good reason for ambient lighting beyond energy costs. To prepare our bodies for sleep, light needs to be at lower lux to help lull our brains into sleep. Too much bright light (including from phone and laptop screens) too close to bedtime can disrupt this pattern and make it difficult to fall asleep.
In rooms that serve multiple purposes (your kid’s bedroom may double as their study) having different lights (a lower lux for the entire room, but brighter lamps) can help strike the right balance.
When you purchase bulbs, you’ll notice they come in different colours or tones. These are as follows:
Warm White: A softer, more relaxing light, best suited for bedroom and living areas.
Cool White: A neutral light, ideal for kitchens, studies and areas where tasks are performed.
Daylight: The harshest light, sometimes used in bathrooms and laundries.
Outdoor Lighting requirements
When it comes to exterior artificial lighting attached to or directed at the facade of a building, it must be controlled by a daylight sensor or a time switch capable of switching on and off the power to the light.
When the total lighting load exceeds 100 W, outdoor lights must use LED luminaires for 90% of the total lighting load; or be controlled by a motion detector.
Bathroom and Wet Area Lighting requirements
Electricity and water can obviously be a dangerous mix, so you must have the right light fitting for your bathroom (or any wet area in your home). First, it’s important to understand that your bathroom has different areas or zones determined by how much water will be there. The zones are:
Zone 0: This is basically anywhere within the bath or shower itself. Most people don’t install lighting in this area, but if you were to go down this path, you’d want a light that has been specifically designed to work underwater.
Zone 1 &2: 600mm radius outside Zone 1 of bath and shower AND 150mm outside the vanity basin and a 400mm vertical projection above it. For this zone, you’ll want lights that are sealed.
Zone 3: This is 2.4M outside ZONE 2 and up to 2.5M above the floor. Any light is suitable for this zone (providing it meets other NCC guidelines). However, it’s recommended you use sealed light fittings to avoid any potential issues with moisture.
For basins, the two key zones are anything within 400m vertically from the basin and 150mm outside it.
Our tips to help ensure you build with compliance
Choosing Lighting Fixtures
The key to choosing lighting fixtures is ensuring you’re choosing products that comply while still being able to perform the task. Unfortunately, not all bulbs and light fittings are created equal. While LED lights are more expensive than CLF bulbs, they have a lower energy consumption and a longer lifespan.
Not all LED bulbs can be dimmed, so you must check this before purchasing a bulb if your light fitting has a dimmer installed.
When choosing the placement of your lighting, you want to illuminate the room without leaving any dark areas. It’s one of those things that when done well, you hardly notice, but when done poorly, everyone will notice it. In most rooms, you want to find the central spot and install the light there to provide the best illumination.
A general rule of thumb for lighting placement is each ceiling light should be spaced apart an equal distance of half your ceiling height. For example, if your ceiling height is 2.4 metres, your lighting fixtures should be installed 1-1.2 metres apart.
Working with Professionals
You can never be too careful when it comes to electrical safety, especially when you have a family to think about. Therefore, your choice of an electrician or electrical contractor is one to take seriously. Here are a few tips when choosing an electrician:
- Be sure they’re qualified to perform the job.
- Experience and expertise: A proven track record shows your contractor knows what they’re doing and that you’re in safe hands.
- Make sure they’re insured. There are inherent risks when it comes to working with electricity so your electrician must have adequate insurance.
- Be sure quotes and pricing are transparent. If you need someone for a large project – for example, fitting the lights for a new home – it’s worth getting quotes from at least three different contractors so you can see compare and get the best deal for you.
How to stay updated with lighting standard changes?
The best way to stay up to date with lighting standard changes is to check in with the National Construction Code of Australia. This building code will outline any energy efficiency requirements your home needs to meet.
Tips for being efficient with your lighting.
- Turn off your lights when you leave the room.
- Smart technology can help monitor your energy consumption and operate your lights away from home.
- Installing LED lighting with control devices such as sensors, dimmers, and timers can help reduce unnecessary light usage.
- If you have small children, teach them good habits now and they’ll soon become second nature down the line (we all remember our own parents telling us to turn the lights off when we weren’t using them).
- Talk to your electrician about ways to reduce your energy consumption.
Talk to Buildi about your next building project.
Lighting is just one of the many factors you’ll need to consider when building your new home. Luckily, Buildi is here to help! We know the building industry inside and out and can help guide you through your building journey. We’ll help save you time, stress, and money and all the common mistakes homeowners often make along the way. Why not book a free, impartial consultation and find out how we can help you?