In our current economic climate, we’re expected to deliver more but often with less resources. Life safety systems, such as BS 5839-1 fire detection systems, are designed to specific regulations and should never be compromised. That doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t reduce your costs.
Opting for cheaper products is a rooky mistake. A low-cost fire detection system has been built down to a price rather than to a high quality and does the bare minimum to comply to standards. If you instead invest in a quality fire detection system – which is indeed more expensive in terms of capital outlay – it could actually save you time and money, and not just in the long run. There are three key reasons for this:
Time is money
A good quality fire detection system has seen considerable research and development behind it, and customer response which feeds back into the design of the product, making for a system that is quicker and easier to install.
Control panels of good quality incorporate installation-friendly features such as Auto-learn, Loop Detection and On-board Scope facilities and many can be accessed remotely for quick and convenient diagnostics. For sites that are remote or where access may be an issue, this can prove extremely useful and save a potentially costly trip to site.
System expansion with quality fire detection systems is also hassle free. Different manufacturers have different approaches, but one of the most effective ways to expand a system with minimal work is by using a panel that allows a peer-to-peer network. Panels that use this can easily expand the system to enable the panel to communicate with any other compatible fire panel, remote terminal or network peripheral.
Fire detection systems of good quality also tend to feature innovative individual devices, which you won’t find in ranges at the bottom end of the market. A smoke sensor with a built-in sounder, for example, saves the cost of buying two separate products. When you are dealing with a large system, this becomes a significant saving. Of course, this solution has the added bonus of being more aesthetically pleasing.
Fit and forget
All commercial analogue addressable fire detection systems are based on a transmission protocol to enable the devices and panels on the system to communicate with each other. There are a number of different protocols used by manufacturers and all are most definitely not equal. The traditional protocol type commonly used in the fire industry is square wave-pulse based, but this comes with a number of issues including susceptibility to noise and interference, plus limited information capacity.
Better quality protocols, such as the Sine Wave, Frequency Shift Key (FSK) protocol overcome many of these issues. Quality protocols are flexible, highly resistant to external noise, have large capacity for information at very high speeds, are unaffected by the number of devices on the loop and allow for more inputs/outputs, more controllable features and more type codes for devices.
A quality fire detection system will also use sophisticated detection algorithms, combining extremely reliable fire detection together with a very high degree of protection against false alarms. False alarms are a serious pain point, costing you time and money, and work disruption.
However, when it comes to steamy environments, such as a bathroom, even a good quality sensor or multi sensor may false alarm. Investing in a dual optical detector is worth considering. A single sensor (optical) alarm, it uses both standard IR light plus a blue LED to provide a more accurate measurement of particles within the chamber. It reduces false alarms caused by steam, but the detector remains highly sensitive to combustion products to generate an alarm.
Lastly, it may not seem that significant – until it’s too late, that is – but going down the quality route is far more likely to mean you are provided with a good level of technical support. A cheap product generally comes with little or no support – in other words, you’re on your own.
Lee James is general manager – product marketing at Nittan Europe Ltd
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