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Insulation keeps your home cool in summer and warm in winter. It can significantly reduce your heating and cooling costs, while minimising your property’s environmental footprint. However, if insulation is incorrectly installed, it can be extremely dangerous.

In Australia, many National Codes of Practice and Australian Standards cover ceiling installations.

Licensing of Insulation

Since insulation can cause fires and injuries including electrocution, you should only engage a reputable, professional insulation contractor.

While a licence is not required in Australia to fit insulation, installers must follow other requirements and laws. These vary between states and territories. The Australian Government stipulates that wherever you live, insulation should be installed in accordance with the Building Code of Australia and relevant Australian Standards. There should be enough space around appliances and wires, and the insulation should have a minimum R-value, to stop too much heat entering and leaving the space.

Other safety tips include covering down lights, as they can heat up and cause fires. Read more about insulation licensing for your area, in our state and territory overviews below.

Insulation – NSW

Due to several house fires occurring in New South Wales, caused by thermal ceiling insulation, WorkCover and NSW Fair Trading have published recommendations for choosing contractors.

Most of the house fires have been caused by the insulation being placed too closely to electrical equipment and lighting. As a result, Fair Trading recommends hiring a licenced electrician to safely check the insulation installation. They will also ensure the electrics are kept away from insulation and timber structures, and that it is installed to satisfy Australian Standard AS/NZS3000 (The Wiring Rules).

You should also check that the insulation contactor has:

  • A business licence to operate in Australia
  • Insurances, including workers compensation and public liability
  • A relevant qualification
  • Experience installing insulation

You may also contact Fair Trading to check that the company hasn’t had any legal action taken out against it, and that the electrician or builder is licenced to operate in NSW.

Insulation – Victoria

Like New South Wales, a licence is not needed to install insulation in Victoria. However, given the health and safety risks it poses, you should always hire a professional installer.

Sustainability Victoria recommends the following:

  • Have a clearance of at least 50mm above incandescent lights and 100mm between insulation and the side of timber joists
  • Keep at least 200mm between insulation and recessed halogen lights or timber joists
  • Keep foil insulation well away from electrical wiring
  • Always wear protective clothing, including a mask and gloves to avoid irritation and injury
  • Ensure bulk ceiling insulation has a minimum R value of R3.5

You should check the installer is qualified to work with insulation, and has a sound knowledge of the clearances between insulation and lighting, vents and exhaust fans.

Insulation – Queensland

In Queensland, insulation installers must take specific electrical safety actions. These measures are documented in the Electrical Safety Regulation 2002. The regulations are in place to protect installers and, homeowners – and failing to comply can result in penalties.

While a licence is not necessary to install insulation in Queensland, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland stipulates that you must hire a licenced electrical contractor to install electrically conductive ceiling insulation – that is, insulation that can conduct electricity.

The body also recommends several safety tips including following:

  • Risk management steps set out in the Risk Management Code of Practice 2007
  • The manufacturer’s recommendations
  • The Electrical Safety Regulation 2002
  • Clause of the Wiring Rules
  • Australian Standard 3999-1992

There are many other regulations and safety steps the contractor should follow, as set out by Workplace Health and Safety Queensland.

Insulation – SA

In South Australia, insulation installers must have a licence. In fact, all builders in the state must have a licence to install insulation.

The South Australian Government advises residents to:

  • Check the installer has a South Australian builder’s licence, permitting them to install insulation
  • Visit the Consumer and Business Services’ licensing public register to check the installer is licenced

You should also inform your installer if the roof has halogen down lights, heating lamps, electrical wiring from pre-1986, a gas or combustion heater with a roof flu, or any electrical equipment such as exhaust fans.

Electrical contractors in South Australia must also provide you with an electrical certificate of compliance, before they begin work. That way you can be sure the equipment meets safety requirements.

Insulation – WA

As in other states, a licence is not needed to install insulation in Western Australia. However, given the health and safety risks, it is important to follow the advice set out by the WA Department of Commerce.

It advises:

  • Hiring a licenced electrician for electrical work
  • Contacting EnergySafety on (08) 9422 5282 to check the electrician’s licence
  • Getting several written quotes
  • Checking terms and conditions
  • Setting a start and completion date for the installation

It is also crucial that the installer will follow Australian Standards, comply with the minimum R-value regulations, adhere to your local council’s regulations, and inspect down lights and other structures and equipment to ensure there is no fire risk.

Insulation – Tasmania

In Tasmania, insulation installers do not need to be licenced. However, as with all other states, there are Australian Standards and the National Codes of Practice to adhere to. Some regulations depend on the type of installation being installed – so check with the contractor, or ask your local council for advice.

It is also a good idea to ask the contractor for references. If asked, they must also show copies of any certification, qualification and business information such as their ABN and contact details.

Insulation – ACT

The ACT Government’s ActSmart website reports that about half the energy used in Canberra residences is for heating and cooling. Effective insulation can save ACT residents up to $100 a year.

While a licence is not required in the ACT to install insulation, there are several key criteria to follow. The contractor installing loose-fill or batt insulation must adhere to fire safety standards and rules.

It is also recommended that a licenced electrician replaces wiring. Doing so ensures that the wiring is covered safely by the insulation and reduces the risk of fire. The electrician should also check:

  • That the insulation does not cover any recessed lighting
  • That the recessed lighting transformers are not covered
  • That barriers are placed around lights to prevent insulation moving

Above all, the contractor must follow the Wiring Rules to ensure insulation is installed with the appropriate clearances, to avoid fires. The wiring must also be compliant with AS/NZ 3008.

Insulation - Northern Territory

In the Northern Territory, no licence is needed to install insulation in homes. However, NT WorkSafe sets out several steps to installers and homeowners to ensure insulation is installed correctly and safely. This advice includes:

  • Understanding the dangers linked to conductive foil insulation
  • Following the AS/NZS 3000:2007 Wiring Rules
  • Ensuring insulation complies with Australian Standard AS 3999-1992
  • Meeting relevant electricity regulations

As a result, it is wise to hire a licenced electrician to check there is no fire risk due to insulation installation. You can ask the electrician when requesting a quote if they are licenced and qualified to work with insulation.

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