When we have customers call regarding downlights for thier your home or offices, one of the main questions we are asked is "do I need Fire rated standard downlights? Our response to this qustion will be to advise that when a hole is cut into a ceiling to install your downlights the hole itself could become a potential fire hazard. As an example Plaster board ceilings have a natural ability to act as a fire barrier within the building where people maybe living or occupying the floor above. The ceiling below must be fire rated so as to reduce the speard of fire. The specially developed Fire rated downlights are designed to restore the fire integrity of a ceiling.
Fire rated Downlights can be a complicated and worrying issue, here we will try and give some general advice on the regulations We strongly recommend that for full details on the current regulations that you seek the advice of a qualified electrician or building regulations office before commencing any installation.
Most properties have what is considered as a fire rated ceiling, this rating calculates the amount of time that the ceiling material can hold back a fire before it spreads up to the next floor or void. Buy installing any type of recessed lighting and cutting a hole into the ceiling material you can compromise the ceilings fire rating. The average fire rating for a ceiling is 60 minutes. Cutting into the ceiling material causes a gap between the Downlight and the ceiling material that could compromise the fire rating allowing heat, smoke and flames to enter and allow the fire to spread rapidly to the area above.
The current building regulations state that any residential property with an upper floor height of up to eighteen meters above the ground should have fire rated ceilings that are resistant to fire for up to 60 minutes with properties with a top floor up to thirty meters above ground being ninety minute rated. Fire rated downlights have a protective cover that prevents heat and flames being transferred through the fitting and up into the ceiling void. In the event of a fire the intumescent material in a fire rated fitting reacts and swells to seal off the gaps around the fitting caused by its installation thus replacing the ceiling integrity.
We would recommend that all Downlights installed be fire rated to protect people on the upper floors. They Slow the spread of fire makeing exiting the building easier. They can help further reduces risk of harm from falling debris. You are able to can use a standard downlight with a fire hood fitted in the void above, but this option can often be more expensive than a purpose made fire rated downlight. The Electrical Safety Council (ESC) recommends that fire rated options should be used in all buildings even though fire rated downlights arenít legally needed under a roof void such as an empty loft space.
We recommend that you always seek the advice of a qualified electrician or local building regulations office with reference to installing any downlights The Building Regulations 1991 Approved Document B Fire Safety 2000 Edition Section 11.2 (applicable in England and Wales) Can be used as a good reference point if you require any further information. In other parts of the UK The Building Standards (Scotland) Regulations 1990, Amendment 5, 1999, Technical Standard Part D or The Building Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2000, Technical Booklet E would apply. All recessed Downlights should be fitted with a fire protection cover to BS476 standards. BS 476-10 describes the general principles and application of the methods in the series of standards for fire testing.