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What are Fire Rated Downlights and Where do we Need them?

What are Fire Rated Downlights and Where do we Need them?

  2023-09-11         sparksdirect

You may have heard of fire rated downlights and may wonder, what are these, why do we need them, and where do we need them?

This article attempts to answer some of these questions, to the best of our ability.

There are many kinds of ceiling lights and one of the most popular is using downlights; these can be round or square, and the round ones are usually more popular.

A downlight, to be more precise, is a ceiling light that is inserted into the ceiling and all you see is the round or square face that rests on the ceiling.

It is not a surface-mounted light fitting or a flush fitting; it is inserted into the ceiling, and a hole needs to be cut out.

On our website we have a large range of downlights, but there's a particular category called, Fire Rated Downlights.

Read more to find out answers to the following questions:

What is a Fire Rated Downlight?

A fire rated downlight is not just a regular downlight; it is a downlight that helps slow the spread of fire from the floor below to the floor above.

Because downlights are inserted into the ceiling, the ceiling has to be cut; this hole reduces the fire protection of the ceiling.

Because of the potential fire hazard created by cutting a hole into the plasterboard ceiling (for example), the downlight used needs to be fire rated so that it would maintain the fire protection of the ceiling.

The plasterboard ceiling acts as a fire barrier, stopping the fire (at least for a while) from reaching the structure of the ceiling (which many times is wooden) and the floor above.

In the event of a fire, the downlight hole can allow the fire to go to the next floor or the structure of the house, unless a fire rated downlight is installed.

The fire rated downlights help seal off the hole and slow down the spread of the fire. Most of them are rated at 30, 60, or 90 minutes.

The fire rated downlights play an important role in fire safety, for they block the hole cut into the ceiling when the intumescent pad expands and blocks the way.

Where do I need a Fire Rated Downlight?

Where do we need to install a fire rated downlight?

According to the current regulations, they should be installed at least on the bottom floors, the floors that have occupants above them.

It is recommended by the Electrical Safety Council that all the ceilings should have fire rated downlights, but at least the floors that have occupants above them need to have them.

All electrical and installation work carried out at a commercial or residential property must adhere to the Building Regulations, where Part B covers Fire Safety (vol. 1 for domestic ceilings, vol 2 for buildings other than dwellings). 

How do Fire Rated Downlights Work?

How do Fire Rated Downlights Work?

You may wonder how do the fire rated downlights work to help prevent the spread of fire and minimise the risk of structural damage to the house.

A fire rated downlight has an intumescent material which melts or swells up to seal off the hole in which the downlight is installed, thus preventing the fire from spreading upward.

Because the hole in which the downlight is installed poses a fire risk, the fire-rated downlight protects the structure of the building.

A fire rated downlight doesn't block the way of the fire completely, but it delays the spread of the fire, allowing time for the occupants to leave and not allowing the fire to spread to the structure of the house or the floor above. 

Can I put Insulation over a Fire Rated Downlight?

In-between the floors, that is, above the ceiling and under the floor above, there is a thick layer of insulation.

p>The thermal insulation keeps the heat from rising through the ceiling and insulates it.

Most fire rated downlights cannot take thermal insulation above them, as it can create a potential fire hazard.

It is not possible to cut around the downlight into the insulation, since it goes against Part L of the Building Regulations.

There are such things as loft cups or insulation support boxes, and the EvoFire range of fire rated downlights from Integral LED together with the EFD pro downlights from Aurora Lighting allow the use of insulation above them. 

What are the Fire Ratings of the Fire Downlights?

Not all fire rated downlights have the same fire rating. Most of them are rated for 30, 60, and 90-minute ceiling types, while others are rated for 120 ceiling types.

A 30-minute ceiling is constructed from a 600mm joist centre with a single layer of 12.5mm thick plasterboard.

A 60-minute ceiling is constructed from a 600mm joist centre with a double layer plasterboard which is 15mm thick.

A 90-minute ceiling is constructed from a 450mm joist centre with a double layer plasterboard which is 150mm thick.

In terms of where to put the fire rated downlights, you need to have at least a 39 or 60-minute fire rated downlight on the ground floor, a 60 or 90 minutes on the next floor, and so on.

The fire rated downlights allow the upper floor dwellers to flee the fire before the fire spreads to their floor. 

Fire Rated vs. F-Mark

Fire Rated vs. F-Mark - Taro Round Fire Rated Fixed Downlight in Matt White

Some of the downlights have an F-Mark while others are fire rated: what is the difference?

The F-Mark refers to the fact that a downlight or a light fitting is suitable for mounting on normally flammable surfaces, such as wood, etc. It has nothing to do with fire rating.

Purchasing an F-mark downlight does not mean that you have a fire rated downlight. 

What if I don't want a Fire Rated Downlight?

Some customers like a particular design, finish, or aspect of a downlight, and that downlight is not fire-rated.

He needs a fire rated fitting, but he doesn't like how they look, so they want to buy the ones they like. In this situation, you can purchase a fire hood.

Fire hoods are to be installed above the downlight to protect from the risk of fire that comes with recessed downlights.

It is recommended that fire rated downlights are used, but a fire hood can also do the trick.

In all such decisions, however, it is best to follow the instructions of the electrician, who will have to sign off and make sure that any fire risk is covered. 

Are the Downlights a Fire Risk?

No one wants to think of the worst-case scenario, but when it comes to installing new downlights or changing the old ones, it's best to consider it.

Downlighters can be a fire risk, for especially the tungsten halogen lamps used can exceed 200 degrees Celsius, which is above the ignition temperature of many combustible materials.

If there is no adequate ventilation for safe heat dissipation, such downlighters cannot be covered with thermal insulation nor can they be installed too close to combustible materials.

Many of these problems are solved by LED lamps which do not overheat.

However, when it comes to fire rating, it is recommended to use fire rated downlights in all the ceilings in order to prevent the spread of fire through the ceiling.

Where can I buy Fire Rated Downlights?

Ultra Thin Fire Rated IP65 White Round Fixed Downlight

At Sparks we have a wide range of fire rated downlights by renown manufacturers such as Integral LED, Aurora Lighting, and Astro Lighting.

You can order the Aurora fire rated downlights, the Integral LED EvoFire, and the Astro Lighting fire rated recessed lights on our website.

For any further advice on the fire rated downlights, purchasing larger quantities of fire rated downlight fittings, and any other enquiries, do not hesitate to contact us.

Our trade counter sales persons have decades of experience in helping customers like you to decide what fire rated downlights to use, and at Sparks we boast of the best prices in the UK for such items. 

Regulations and Further Reading on Fire Rated Downlights

  • Why are downlighters a fire risk - Poorly installed downlighters (recessed luminaires) are the cause of a significant number of fires in homes every year. Read more via, the Electrical Safety Council. 
  • Downlight Safety - what are downlights and advice on safety while installing new downlights, via ESC. 
  • Fire safety: Approved Document B, Building regulation in England covering fire safety matters within and around buildings. Approved Document B (fire safety) volume 1: Dwellings, 2019 edition incorporating 2020 and 2022 amendments, and Approved Document B (fire safety) volume 2: Buildings other than dwellings, 2019 edition incorporating 2020 and 2022 amendments.