To get started on the topic of smoke control dampers (or 'smoke dampers', as they are sometimes called), let’s first explore exactly what they are and why they play an important role in keeping buildings and people safe.
In basic HVAC terminology, a damper is a mechanism that allows air to flow when it is open and limits airflow when it is closed.
A smoke and fire damper is a device that permits the flow of air when it is open, but when it is closed, it not only limits airflow but also blocks the passage of smoke and fire. On activation, whether automatically by a detection system, or physically through the effect of heat on a thermal device, these dampers close to prevent the passage of fire and smoke. They only re-open when manually reset.
Smoke Control Dampers permit the flow of smoke into or through a smoke control system when open, but may also close to prevent fire spread. Therefore, they may open or close at different times depending on the smoke control strategy for the building.
Smoke control dampers are crucial components of fire protection systems, particularly when it comes to preserving a building's fire safety strategy.
They offer direct fire resistance when closed and are tested to maintain their opening area under heat conditions when open. These dampers are invaluable in safeguarding the structural integrity of a building and preventing the occupants from harm in the event of a fire.
Smoke control damper standards
CE labelling requires all smoke control dampers to adhere to the Product Standards EN 15650 and BS EN 12101-8. These standards ensure that the product is uniform and delivered to the same specification and standard as tested. Any deviation or modification from the installation instructions in the manual necessitates a new test or approval from the Local Building Control for the dampers.
It is crucial to verify with the manufacturer whether the smoke dampers you intend to install are certified to BS EN 12101-8. Many smoke dampers available in the market do not currently comply with this standard. Failure to do so may result in a non-compliant building that will require you to install compliant dampers retroactively. This can be an expensive undertaking, particularly since smoke dampers are frequently hidden in ducts and walls.
Types of smoke dampers
Whilst all smoke control dampers effectively operate in the same way, there are different aesthetics that could be more suited to particular projects.
Standard grille dampers:
The most commonly used smoke control dampers are the louvred 'damper and grille' type, similar to the one seen in the picture below. These dampers tend to be cheaper and, as mentioned previously, need to comply to BS EN 12101-8.
They are best used for projects where design details are not as important (such as lower end commercial or residential developments or industrial buildings and usually do not offer insulation as one of the characteristics).
A good example of a compliant grille damper is the Colt Defender D smoke control damper.
For full product details, please contact us.
Less commonly specified are the more discreet, 'hidden damper' category. As the name implies, these dampers have been designed to blend into the building in a more visually-appealing way. Naturally, these dampers are therefore better suited to projects where building designers want to go the extra mile with ensuring the perfect design finish.
Examples of projects where 'hidden dampers' might be specified are in high-end commercial or residential projects, such as hotels, apartments or offices.
The Colt Defender F2 is the most discreet smoke control damper on the market that is fully certified to BS EN 12101-8. You can learn more about it here: https://www.coltinfo.co.uk/colt-product-library/lobby-ventilators/defender-f2.html
As dampers form part of a building's smoke control system, they are required to be inspected, tested and maintained by competent individuals at regular intervals throughout the year. This is a requirements of the RRO (Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Act 2005).
To learn more about the full maintenance requirements for smoke dampers, read our blog.