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Should your access panel be airtight?

21st July 2022

When looking to install access panels into any property, there are a multitude of different ratings and protections that need to be considered when selecting the correct access panel. For example, does the building regulations require any components installed to be fire-rated, or have a sufficient acoustic rating? In most cases, building regulators will require some sort of rating to be attached to access panels.

What is an air-tight rating?

An air-tight rating is a certification that an access panel can be granted based on a specific level of testing. The ratings usually rank from 1 through to 4, with 4 being the highest level.

Access panels with airtight ratings can be excellent cost-effective solutions for use in projects that need to meet low air and heat measurements. Airtight panels are most commonly found in buildings that serve a commercial purpose, as they will be tested and designed to deliver minimal air-leakage. They can sometimes be found in domestic properties that have basements or loft areas, as they provide additional insulation.

Interestingly, in most circumstances, if an access panel has an air-tight rating, there is a very high chance that the panel will also have a smoke rating. This is down to the fact that the testing environments and measurements are very similar for both ratings.

Air-tight test

When testing an access panel to see if it is eligible for an airtight rating, it will be assessed for leakage levels in both positive and negative air pressure conditions. For reliability, the tests often happen at ambient temperatures in order to match the environment that the panels will likely be installed in. From that point, the panels are monitored for the level of air leakage that is passed through the access panel. Depending on the results recorded from the testing, the panel will then receive a rating based on how much air leakage was recorded.

Smoke test

For an access panel to receive a smoke rating, it is tested in 2 different ways. The first being a cold smoke test, which, similarly to an airtight test, is conducted at an ambient temperature. The other test alternative is a hot smoke test, which is designed to measure the level of air leakage at 200 degrees.

Unlike an airtight test, smoke testing on an access panel can only receive a pass or fail rating, which is based on the measurement of allowed leakage.

Where can air-tight access panels be used?

Access panels that have an air-tight rating attached to them are often used to cover systems that keep the skeleton of the building running, including plumbing, gas pipes, and electrical wires. These systems can often be quite noisy and disruptive, so utilising an access panel that has been designed to deliver minimum air-leakage can also work well to dampen any noise pollution from the systems the panels cover.

We would always recommend that access panels have some form of air-tight rating attached to them, as it is better to be covered against air leakage than not.

At Rapid Access, our access panel range cover a wide range of panels with an assortment of different ratings, from fire-ratings to airtight panels. If you require more information about any of our products or services, why not fill in our enquiry form, or contact us by calling 024 7632 8811, or by emailing [email protected].

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