It is clear that UL 514a is strictly an electrical standard and has nothing to do with fire resistance ratings. The QCI Category was developed in the 1950s to cover a wide range of standard construction from that era. There have been many changes to materials used in construction assemblies and reference to UL 514a is confusing to owners and specifiers. The standard allows any metallic box to be used that has less than 16 square inches of opening space per 100 square feet of ceiling area within a fire rated assembly. This means that a 4” square metallic box is allowed to penetrate the ceiling membrane without any other method or certified UL 263 protection. Some luminaire manufacturers falsely claim to provide a fire-resistance rating based on the QCIT category allowance but have no independent UL 263 fire test data.
Besides this, the UL514a QCIT Category states: the box must be metallic, it can’t be or use plastic or aluminum, etc; and it must be connected by rigid steel conduit to make the electrical connections, which are no longer used in wood stud drywall construction. If there is anything but steel in the assembly, the QCIT category does not apply.
Many manufacturers rely on prescriptive designs of fire resistance rated building elements (ICC Chapter 7, Para 703.3). They rely on engineering analysis of building materials such as building and placing drywall enclosures around their fixtures. Although these materials can be effective in providing some fire control, each box is a work of the builder and is likely to not exactly replicate engineering analysis design. Fire rated drywall installation may also contain errors that can affect the assemblies hourly rating.
Clearly, the best method to achieve code compliance is to use a UL 263 tested and certified fire resistant light fixture component. Preferably, if the fire rated fixture is factory manufactured and quality controlled making special steps to achieve a rated fire barrier system are no longer necessary.
IntuLight, manufactured by PyroPhobic Systems, provides a UL 263 tested, certified and patented intumescent drop down fire protection, that is easy and efficient to install and easy to achieve compliance. The fire protection is built in and the rated recessed fixture is ready to install from the box with no additional on-site labor. IntuLight by PyroPhobic Systems is the new standard in easy to install fire rated lighting.