Fireworks Buyers Guide
We all love fireworks. Whether it’s standing around in the back garden watching your dad lighting a rocket, or a professional display on New Year’s Eve that lights up the night sky in a dazzling display of light and sound, fireworks have been a part of our lives for thousands of years. Today, we grab every chance we can to celebrate life, whether it’s a wedding, a birthday, a gender reveal party or a cultural event like the Chinese New Year or Diwali. From sparklers to ground-shaking mines, rockets and that most temperamental of fireworks, the Catherine Wheel, we simply cannot get enough of that ‘Ooo! Ahh!’ factor.
To help you make the most of your fireworks, we’ve put together a short buyer’s guide that’ll take you through the legal requirements, the types of fireworks on offer, and those all-important safety tips. And if you have any other questions or queries then don’t hesitate to get in touch with the team here at Ghengis, and we’ll be happy to help.
A brief history of fireworks
Around 2,000 years ago, an enterprising young Chinese monk called Li Tan worked out that packing gunpowder (another Chinese invention) into bamboo shoots produced a heck of a bang. This was used to frighten off evil spirits and quickly became a part of traditional celebrations. Adding different chemicals into the mix created different colours and sparks. The first real fireworks were rockets, and these aerial bursts of colour and noise have never lost their appeal, even 1500 years later.
However, it was the Italians who really went to town when it came to turning basic gunpowder in a tube into something that would dazzle party goers rather than blowing up their castles. They created aerial shells that could be launched by the basic rocket system and then burst, causing a cloud of bright colours. That mesmerising display is still as addictive for spectators today, and while there are still a few colours that are tricky to produce (such as dark green, for example), these days fireworks can paint the sky in a rainbow of colours and effects.
What celebrations are perfect for fireworks?
Any celebration can be made better by a firework party. Traditionally, they’re used for cultural celebrations such as Chinese New Year, Diwali and New Year’s Eve. In the UK they’re also used to mark the attempt at blowing up the King and Parliament by the Gunpowder Plotters in 1605. While Parliament and the King survived, things didn’t end quite as well for Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators.
Today, we love any opportunity to set off some fireworks. One of the more modern celebrations is a gender reveal party, where coloured pink or blue fireworks are used to announce the imminent arrival of a baby boy or girl. Birthday parties and wedding events are also the perfect excuse for a pyrotechnic display to entertain the family. In fact, any happy occasion is the perfect reason for opening a box of fireworks.
The legal stuff
There are a few things to remember when buying and using fireworks, and yes, there is a bit of legal red tape that you need to be aware of.
What type of fireworks can I buy?
Fireworks are divided into different categories:
- F1 – these are very basic, low-power fireworks like sparklers, ‘indoor fireworks’, party poppers and Christmas crackers. They’re generally safe for everyone to use as long as the proper safety protocols are used.
- F2 – These are garden fireworks that can be used in a small space of around 15-25ft. They’re relatively low power but still can be dangerous if thrown or misused.
- F3 – Category 3 or F3 fireworks have more flash powder in them so you’ll get bigger bangs, more sparkles, and greater height in designs like rockets. You’ll need a larger space, sometimes up to 80 feet to stay well clear of any big explosions.
- F4 – F4 or Category 4 fireworks are only available to licenced pyrotechnic professionals and are not for sale to the public.
At Ghengis, we sell all categories of fireworks, but please be aware that we will not sell F4 fireworks to anyone other than licenced professionals.
As of July 2010, all fireworks sold in the UK were covered by the Pyrotechnic Articles (Safety) Regulations. This made it a legal requirement from 2017 onwards that all fireworks, regardless of category, would have to have a CE mark. They also have to conform to British Safety Standards BS 7114 Part 2. To ensure that your fireworks meet those standards, always buy from a reputable source like Ghengis Fireworks.
When can you let off fireworks?
You can use fireworks all year round, but there are limits on when you can let them off. Firework displays must be finished by 11pm and you cannot let them off any earlier than 7am. On Bonfire night you can let off fireworks up to midnight, and on New Year, Diwali and the Chinese New Year you can light up the night sky right up until 1am.
What about insurance?
If you’re buying fireworks to let off on your own property, you don’t need a licence or insurance (unless you live in Northern Ireland, when you will need a local authority licence). However, if you’re charging an entry fee or putting on a public display then the very least you should have is public liability insurance. A compensation claim for an injury could wipe you out financially otherwise.
The different types of fireworks
Now we’ve been through the background info, let’s have a look at the different types of fireworks on offer. Bearing in mind what we mentioned earlier about the different categories available, the fireworks we’ll discuss here are limited to the F3 category and below, rather than F4 (professional use only).
You don’t need to spend hundreds or even thousands of pounds to create a spectacular display. Budget fireworks are designed to give you maximum bang for your buck, with plenty of wow factor thrown in. Look for cheap fireworks from reputable suppliers – avoid buying online unless you’re absolutely sure of the source. Even the cheapest fireworks must conform to CE and BS safety standards. So when they arrive, check that they have those all-important safety marks before you set them off.
Budget fireworks start at under a tenner for small but feisty rockets and Catherine Wheels that give you lots of whizz-bang and excitement. Keep looking out for special offers and you can easily put together a great display for under £100.
There are two main types of fireworks – aerial fireworks and ground-based fireworks. The latter includes things like ‘volcanoes’, Catherine Wheels and mines. The display they produce is usually low level (from ground level to 10-20ft high) and apart from mines, they’re also often ‘low noise’ options. They’re great fillers for a display and with the less powerful options, they’re also just the ticket if your garden space is limited. However, powerful mines such as Shock Wave or The Beast do live up to their reputation as being very, very loud, and can also produce some pretty spectacular aerial displays.
The original firework, rockets are exactly what they say. These tubes are filled with high explosive powder and whoosh up into the sky, where they produce one of the most dazzling displays of all fireworks. It’s no surprise that you’ll see them in every display. For the public, a 1.3g big rocket has to be the one to go for. These big rockets pack a big punch, producing a huge plume of stars and one heck of a bang.
You can balance these big rockets with smaller, less powerful ones to create a multi-tiered effect. If you’re planning on using rockets in your display (and why wouldn’t you?) our top tip is to use properly designed rocket tubes to support them before lighting. Small rocket tubes are ideal for smaller rockets like the Halo rocket or the Sky Hawk. Whatever you do, don’t use a milk bottle!
We touched briefly on mines earlier on. These are great if you love it loud, VERY loud. Mines are often used as the finale or opening to a display. You can choose from fountain start mines, which begin with a fountain effect before detonating, or mortar mines, which do exactly as you’d expect, go BANG! and shock the pants off everyone. Double effect mines pack in multiple effects and last longer. They’re great value and really add some clout to your show.
Compound fireworks have a single fuse linking several fireworks into one display. You simply light the firework and let it do its thing. They’re great for forming the centre of a display and are real value for money. If you want maximum effect but on a budget, compound fireworks are a top choice. They’re also sometimes known as ‘single ignition’ fireworks. Because you only have to light one touchpaper, they’re generally safer than a collection of individual fireworks that all have to be lit separately.
Go big or go home – Loud Fireworks
At Ghengis, we have a reputation for being loud. That’s LOUD. In fact, we sell some of the loudest fireworks in the UK. These beasts are ideal for the finale of a show, and often fall into the ‘Mine’ category. Fireworks like the Beast have more powder (in the Beast’s case, no less than 800g), creating a much bigger explosion. If you’re going to use a loud firework, make sure everyone is standing well back, and that you follow the correct safety procedure.
Are ‘silent fireworks’ really a thing?
You may have seen the term ‘silent fireworks’ in the media. Let’s dispel that myth straight away – there is no such thing as a silent firework. You do, however, have the option of ‘quiet’ fireworks. These have a low noise level when compared to big rockets, mines, or compound fireworks. If you are not keen on very loud noises, look for those that are marked with a low noise level such as Silver Rain, or Catherine Wheels like Destiny and Penny Farthing.
Thinking of the neighbours
You may love your fireworks, but do your neighbours? If you’re going to celebrate your garden then it’s common courtesy to let your neighbours know when it’s happening, and for how long. Remember that you cannot let off fireworks after 11pm or before 7am (except at certain times of the year). Ensure that your fireworks are well away from both your own property and that of your neighbours, and that any hot debris is not going to fall on flammable property like garden sheds.
Pets and animals
We adore the noise and flashes of fireworks, but our pets and farm animals hate them. If you or your neighbours have animals then take into consideration how your firework party will affect them. As tempting as it may be to have lots of big bangs, it may be more considerate to go for low and medium noise level fireworks, and keep your display short.
Autistic, noise-averse children and PTSD sufferers
Pets and animals are not the only ones who may find fireworks distressing. Autistic and noise-averse children may really struggle to understand what all the fuss is about, and the multiple bangs can cause considerable upset. Rather than going for loud bangs, think about category 1 and 2 fireworks instead, with much lower noise levels. Our Armed Forces heroes may also find fireworks extremely triggering, especially if they have been diagnosed with PTSD. Again, consider going for quiet fireworks, or even finding another way to celebrate that won’t cause distress.
Safety, safety, safety
Finally, the most important aspect of buying fireworks – safety. Sadly, despite the warnings, fireworks can still be misused. In extreme cases, they can cause serious injury or even death. Remember that these are explosives, and should be treated with the utmost respect.
Our top ten safety tips should be followed whenever you’re using fireworks. These should help you to enjoy your fireworks without injury:
- Plan your firework display with safety in mind to make it more enjoyable.
- Always use one firework at a time and keep all fireworks in a sealed damp-proof box.
- Read and follow all instructions via torchlight if required on each firework before using them.
- Light a single firework at a time with a taper (Portfire) at arm’s length then stand well back.
- Keep all naked flames, cigarettes, away from fireworks.
- Once lit you should never return to any firework.
- Never throw fireworks or fire them at animals and people and don’t put fireworks in your pockets.
- Position any rockets at a slight angle in the opposite direction of any spectators.
- Never use petrol or paraffin on a bonfire.
- Always check that the Bonfire or smaller fires are correctly extinguished, and all surroundings have been made safe before leaving.
Also remember that even category 1 sparklers can cause serious injury, so never give anyone under the age of five a sparkler. Always make sure you’re wearing gloves, and hold sparklers at arm’s length, well away from your face. When it’s finished, put it into a bucket of cold water (the sparkler, not the child!).
Ghengis Fireworks – your buying experts
When you’re ready to buy your fireworks, we’re here to help. With a fabulous selection of category 2 and 3 offerings and some of the loudest fireworks in the UK, we specialise in making your celebrations brighter, louder, and more memorable. We love our fireworks, and we know you do too. So as always, if you have any questions about any aspect of buying fireworks, call us and chat with one of our team. We’ll be happy to answer any queries, provide you with no-nonsense advice, and all the tips you need to enjoy fireworks safely.