If you are upgrading the lighting anywhere in your home to downlights you may have been asked this age old question.....”do you want fire rated or non-fire rated downlights?” To the average home owner this question will be pretty meaningless apart from the fact that fire rated sounds better than non-fire rated possibly.
However, the difference between the two is stark and in fact opting for the wrong type of downlight could cost a life – this is why it is important to beware of the difference between the two before answering the question.
What is a fire rated downlight?
In basic terms a fire rated downlight seals off the hole that is cut into your ceiling when having downlights installed. An intumescent pad swells up when reaching certain temperatures which blocks the spread of fire. Without this protection in place, the fire simply comes through the hole and ignites quicker than ever as there is no fire protection in place.
When downlights are installed, a hole is cut into your ceiling. Ceilings are a natural fire barrier – but they must be intact for this barrier to be effective. Cutting a hole into your ceiling is like an open door inviting the fire to spread quickly to the floor below. Fitting a fire rated downlight effectively seals this hole for varying lengths of time to prevent the fire spreading.
The rule of thumb is: The ceiling must be returned to the same level of integrity as it was before the downlights were installed. Your fire safety should not be compromised by having downlights installed.
Listen up all you users of non-fire rated downlights!
If the rooms above are habited then it is very highly recommended that you only use fire rated downlights. When we mean habited rooms this is any room which is accessible by people – so it could be anything from the flat above yours to the attic which is only accessed now and then.
If are installing downlights in a one storey building then fire rated downlights are not such a necessity – but to be honest, why take the risk? If a fire breaks out, vital time could be lost and could be the difference between escaping the fire or being burnt to a crisp. The electrical safety charity, Electrical Safety First campaign for all downlight installations to be fire rated.
If you currently have non-fire rated downlights installed (an electrician can advise on this) they can be converted to fire rated by fitting a fire hood or loft cap. However, when the cost of converting is compared with the cost of fitting the latest technology, it may make sense to replace the whole light fitting.
What does 'fire rated' actually mean?
Having opted for fire rated downlights – you will then see that the downlight will protect you from fire for varying lengths of time mainly 30, 60 or 90 minutes. Which rating you opt for will depend on the type of building they will be installed in - in particular, how many floors the building has and the type of structure the downlights are being installed in. As a simple example, if the downlights are being installed in the ceiling in the bottom floor of house, then 30 or 60 minutes would normally be recommended. The top floor of a block of flats would need considerably longer ratings of 90 or even 120 minutes of fire rating.
The Aurora clearance range of downlights offers all the features you would expect from a fire rated downlight. However, it is not just the fire that Aurora lighting consider, it is the prevention of fire in the first place. Heat build up from downlights can lead to house fire, however the increased ventilation slots allow heat to be effectively dissipated.
Another common problem with downlights is insulation. Increased insulation in loft spaces has lead to spotlights overheating when insulation has been laid incorrectly around downlight fittings leading to overheating and fire. A fitted insulation cap on Aurora clearance spotlights allows the spotlight to the IC rated meaning it can be covered with insulation material if necessary without performance being affected.
A qualified and registered electrician would recommend the most suitable fire rated downlight for your particular needs.
Look out for lamp flexibility
Although fire safety consideration should be top of the list in any spotlight fitting selection, buyers also need to look for lamp flexibility. Naturally at Aurora clearance many of the fire rated downlights can be fitted with the latest LED lamps, however householders who are looking for a cheaper solution can also fit any bulb technology they desire – for example halogen or CFL. Long or standard length lamps can be fitted. The Aurora Aone lamp is a good starting choice and provides excellent all round light quality.
The idea is user friendly for both the electrician and the user. Complicated products simply push up installation prices, something that home owners and specifiers want to avoid.
Finally don't forget the certification!
The fitting of downlights is governed by Part P building regulations. Whoever is installing your downlight must work to these regulations and provide a Part P certificate on completion of the work. If no Part P certificate is supplied not only is the work illegal but crucially you could be putting you and your family at risk of electrical shock, injury or even house fire – the situation you are trying to avoid!
Fire rated downlights will only be effective if they are installed correctly meeting the latest electrical regulations and used in line with manufacturers instructions.
For more information and to purchase fire rated downlights, please visit the Aurora clearance website