Purpose: In this study, the insulation fire ratings of lightweight foamed concrete, autoclaved aerated concrete and lightweight aggregate concrete were investigated using finite element modelling. Design/methodology/approach: Lightweight aggregate concrete containing various aggregate types, i.e. expanded slag, pumice, expanded clay and expanded shale were studied under standard fire and hydro–carbon fire situations using validated finite element models. Results were used to derive empirical equations for determining the insulation fire ratings of lightweight concrete wall panels. Findings: It was observed that autoclaved aerated concrete and foamed lightweight concrete have better insulation fire ratings compared with lightweight aggregate concrete. Depending on the insulation fire rating requirement of 15%–30% of material saving could be achieved when lightweight aggregate concrete wall panels are replaced with the autoclaved aerated or foamed concrete wall panels. Lightweight aggregate concrete fire performance depends on the type of lightweight aggregate. Lightweight concrete with pumice aggregate showed better fire performance among the normal lightweight aggregate concretes. Material saving of 9%–14% could be obtained when pumice aggregate is used as the lightweight aggregate material. Hydrocarbon fire has shown aggressive effect during the first two hours of fire exposure; hence, wall panels with lesser thickness were adversely affected. Originality/value: Finding of this study could be used to determine the optimum lightweight concrete wall type and the optimum thickness requirement of the wall panels for a required application.