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Fire Shutters vs Fire Curtains

Updated: Nov 8, 2022

Fire shutters and fire curtains are often confused. However, the two products have a number of significant differences. Fire shutters are more traditional, industrial-looking systems that are made from metal. Fire curtains are more modern and technologically advanced systems that are made from fire-resistant fabric.

Fire Shutters

Fire Shutters

Fire Curtains

Fire Curtains

1. Appearance

When it comes to appearance, fire curtains offer a more minimalist, clean, and modern aesthetic compared to fire shutters. Fire curtains blend more seamlessly with modern spaces, have neat lines, and are architecturally pleasing. The more traditional fire shutters have an industrial appearance that is chunkier and more obtrusive.

Fire curtains are architecturally designed with hidden fixings. They also offer a flat bar option for seamless closing onto the ceiling. Fire shutters are industrially designed, and have chunky detailing and visible fixings.

When not in use, fire curtains are stored in a slimline headbox which measures about 190mm by 190mm. This means the fire curtain box is easily hidden from sight and undisruptive in everyday, normal functions. Fire shutters, on the other hand, require a motor and gearbox overclad with a large and unsightly 800mm by 600mm metal box. Even when not in use, the fire shutter box is obtrusive and obvious.

2. Installation

Fire curtains are 70% lighter than metal shutters and therefore require no heavy lifting equipment and are easily transported around the site. Furthermore, they require no structural engineering and offer a lightweight opening structure.

In comparison, fire shutters are extremely heavy units that often weigh between 800 kg to 2000 kg. As such, heavy lifting equipment and a serious SWMS is required to move fire shutters around the site and during installation. A structural engineer is required to design the opening on fire shutters.

3. Operation

Fire curtains are technologically superior to fire shutters. Fire shutters operate via a simple motor and gearbox assembly. This basic mechanism does not allow for programming for complex performance. On the other hand, they allow you to program multiple deployment and retraction settings that are critical in the design of complex egress pathways.

In terms of power requirements, they require a simple plug-and-play into 240v general power outlets. In comparison, fire shutters usually require 3-phase 415v direct wiring.

4. Safety

Fire curtains descend powered by a motor that is supported by battery backup. Fire shutters descend using a free-fall gravity mechanism which is aided by speed control governors. Because of the weight of the shutter, controlled and safe descent is not always possible. This poses a significant safety hazard if the shutter closes on the occupants below. Conversely, the lightweight fire curtain provides a minimal safety hazard if closing onto occupants below.

5. Performance

Test data shows that fire curtains offer high performance in compliance with NCC insulation requirements without the use of sprinklers. In contrast, fire shutters require drenching sprinklers to achieve insulation performance. Without sprinklers, the metal shutter becomes a large heater in the event of a fire.

They are tested for air leakage and comply with AS1530.7: 2006 for smoke containment. Due to their general construction, metal fire shutters do not provide smoke leakage data

Conclusion: fire curtains are the superior choice, offering a safe, lightweight, attractive, and high-performing solution.

Fire Curtains

Different Types

Fire curtains can be manufactured in a range of styles and capabilities to suit the specific application. At Australian Fire Control, we supply a range of fire curtains that have been rigorously tested and assessed to meet Australian standards. Suitable for both large and small openings, our fire curtain range includes vertical, horizontal, accordion, and boundary curtains.

1. Vertical Fire Curtains

Vertical fire curtains are ideal for large, open building designs where otherwise permanent fire-rated partitions would be required. The assembly consists of a fire-resistant fiberglass fabric wound over a roller and encased in a compact headbox that is typically installed above the ceiling.

In the case of a fire, the vertical fire curtain will be activated by a general fire alarm or local detector. The curtain will descend from the overhead box and form a physical barrier to help stop the spread of fire and smoke. At AFC, our vertical fire curtains have been designed to descend without the need for power.​​

2. Horizontal Fire Curtains

Horizontal fire curtains are ideal for applications that require a horizontally deploying curtain. They are manufactured from woven fiberglass, wire-reinforced fabric with individual panels stitched and hemmed using stainless steel thread. The fabric is wound on a roller which is installed inside a steel headbox along with the motor. The headbox is small, compact, and discrete.

When signaled by a fire alarm or local detector, the horizontal fire curtain is deployed, creating a physical barrier for fire and smoke. Slim steel side guides help prevent derailment of the system and in the case of a power outage, the system is operated by a backup power system.

3. Accordion Fire Curtains

Accordion fire curtains have been expertly designed to offer maximum performance in applications that have limited space. Unlike traditional vertical fire curtains, accordion fire curtains do not rely on column support, and in some cases, there is also no need for side guards.

The assembly consists of a fire-resistant fabric stacked inside a compact and discreet headbox. In its holding position, the accordion fire curtain and headbox are virtually invisible. When it receives a signal from a fire alarm or local detector, the curtain descends at a controlled speed and provides resistance for up to 180 minutes.

4. Boundary Fire Curtains

Boundary curtains are fusible link fire curtains that require no electrics to operate. They are ideal for smaller openings and have an ultra-slim and unobtrusive design. Boundary fire curtains can also be retrofitted over existing windows if required.

Where To Buy?

For a wide range of high-quality products, get in touch with the team at Australian Fire Control. We offer quality products, professional passive fire protection services, and on-time delivery every time.

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