A Guide to Fire Rated Downlights

If you are installing or replacing recessed lighting in a domestic or commercial property, then it's important to understand what you need to do to stay within the law. And how you can keep the building's occupants safe.

Downlights are increasingly popular in homes and workplaces but only some of the options are classed as fire rated downlights. Understanding what that means, and the classification system, can ensure that you choose the correct rating for your next project.

What are fire rated downlights?

Fire rated downlights are a legal requirement for any lighting that is either recessed or semi-recessed into a ceiling. This is because creating a hole in the ceiling compromises its fire retardancy. Plaster board ceilings offer a degree of resistance to fire, but this is reduced by the fact that holes have been cut into its surface.

Fitting the correct fire rated downlight "plugs" this gap and restores the fire-resistant surface. Therefore, if a fire did break out, its progress would be slowed.

Also, many fire rated downlights incorporate an intumescent pad. If this is exposed to heat, it expands, further interrupting the spread of fire.

Fire rated downlights can also be fitted with an additional safety feature - a fire hood. This serves to avoid accumulated dust and other debris interfering with the downlight's effectiveness in a fire.

You should also make sure that the downlights you purchase are fitted with a moisture seal. This stops condensation from penetrating the ceiling hole.

How the ratings work

Clearly, fire rated downlights cannot dampen or extinguish flames. Their purpose is to slow a fires progress across the ceiling. The effectiveness of these lighting components is measured in classifications of 30, 60 and 90 minutes. That indicates the timeframe you have before a fire would cause the ceiling to collapse.

Each rating is designed to be used in different circumstances and locations.

Testing these essential components is tricky, particularly a 30 minute downlight. That is clearly the minimum window of opportunity for building evacuation, so it must be 100% assured. Even the 60 and 90 minute classifications still require testing to ensure they pass the 30 minute mark for certain types of structures and fires.

When do you not need fire rated downlights?

There is no obligation to use fire rated downlights if you are fitting surface mounted ceiling lights (and therefore not cutting into the ceiling plaster board).

Which rating do you need?

The fire rating of a downlight must match the fire rating of the ceiling, in order to maintain its minimum period of fire resistance. Generally, downlights with the lower ratings, and therefore a shorter timeframe for fire resistance, are used on lower floors, where occupants have less distance to travel. Downlights with higher ratings are used on higher floors, to give people a longer time to evacuate the building. Fortunately, the majority of downlights are tested for up to 90 minutes of fire resistance, which is suitable for most buildings.

Browse our full range of fire rated downlights on the 4lite site If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact us!