Hello? Your Customer’s Building is Calling

Many electrical contractors speak of the glory days when new construction was booming and there was plenty of work to go around. Those of us who have been in this industry for a while know there is always a cyclical nature to the construction industry. The key to riding through these ebbs and flows lies in finding ways to produce continuous growth and, at the same time, closely manage your monthly cash flow.

During a new construction project, once all systems are inspected and turned over to the owner, the electrical contractor’s minimum responsibilities are to warranty the installation for the next 12 months. In the meantime, they start hunting for a new project. But what happens to the building’s systems going forward? If you’re not offering ongoing testing and inspection services, you’re leaving a lot of money on the table.

Our Unique Industry
The fire alarm market may not be exactly “inflation-proof,” but it does lead the industry with multiple ways to offer growth. The fire alarm field even offers a healthy profit margin in the face of a slow construction cycle.

Our industry is also the most proactive in ensuring that systems are maintained and operating at peak performance, well in advance of a breakdown. Various legislation and codes, including NFPA 72, ensure that all systems are monitored, inspected and tested on a regular basis. Again, this is not an option on the part of the owner: It’s the law.

The Key to Continual Profits
For all fire alarm customers, testing and inspection is required annually, quarterly or even monthly – depending on the use of the facility and the local ordinances. Can you think of another system that requires the contractor to come back to the building periodically to ensure equipment performance? For an electrical contractor, no other system reaches out and says, “Come fix me.” The owner is required to invest in that recurring service.

As a well-qualified electrical professional, you have an opportunity to earn significant income by providing testing and inspection services to your existing customers. Plus, you can earn a wealth of other opportunities from these visits. This ongoing relationship is a true collaborative effort between you and your customer, leading to a stronger, more constant customer base.

Additional Sources of Revenue
Not only are you paid for testing and inspection visits; each one could potentially lead to additional work. For example, as you arrive for your fire alarm inspection, you notice that the parking lot lights are on at 10 am. Being well versed in energy efficient lighting, you could take this opportunity to tell your customer about the savings and rebates available for LED lighting. Have you discussed back-up generators with them? Do they need any repairs done while you’re there? The opportunities are everywhere.

Fire alarm monitoring service offers another potential source of revenue for electrical contractors. Most commercial fire alarm systems in the U.S. are required to be monitored 24 hours a day. They are connected either by traditional telephone lines, IP or cellular. Monitoring service is typically provided by the installing contractor, who simply sub-contracts to a third party (a UL-listed monitoring company) and then charges the building owner appropriately. These fees can typically be $35 to $75 per month and offer a 50 to 80 percent margin. Since this is an automatic service, if a device in the building is not responding, who do they call? You.

As you can see, the opportunities for recurring revenue are there. So, the next time you’re talking about the good old days of non-stop construction and you have several employees doing busy work in the shop, remember this: Your customer’s building is calling. Is there anyone home?

About the Author
Steve McCurdy is Director of Business Development at Fire-Lite Alarms by Honeywell.​

 

Connecting Fire Alarm Panels the Easy Way

How Much Can You Save With Lite-Connect?

Recently, Fire-Lite announced a new way of connecting multiple buildings for consolidated central station communications, called Lite-ConnecPicture1t. This new module utilizes fiber-optic technology to connect Fire-Lite fire alarm control panels together, allowing a “main” panel to become the communicator for the complete system.

A common way of combining the central station communications is by running a Signaling Line Circuit (SLC) and addressable modules from a main panel to remote building. By running copper wires underground, the potential for ground faults and costly repairs increases due to lightning strikes. A single strike could result in hundreds of dollars in repair labor as well as possible down time in the monitoring of the remote buildings.

Benefits for Facility Managers and Building Owners:
Do you have fire alarm panels connected together via underground copper? As facility manager or building owner, how much are you spending on repairing/replacing fire alarm panels due to lightning strikes? In addition to keeping the building and its occupants are safe and monitored, did you know that you could be missing out on some easy savings on the monitoring costs? Who wouldn’t want to save a few bucks?!

If your buildings already have a Fire-Lite system in them ask your service company about Lite-Connect and if it would reduce the costs you pay for monitoring! Need someone in the area? Contact your Regional Sales Manager for a distributor/installer near you.

Learn more about Lite-Connect by watching a 3 minute video along with documentation on www.firelite.com.

 

About the Author
Elizabeth Richards is the Manager of Communications for Fire-Lite Alarms, Honeywell Power and Silent Knight. Liz joined Honeywell Fire Systems in 2003 and is responsible for the communications, collateral, messaging, and events for all three brands.

 

Basic Fiber Specifications (Under 130 words)

Fiber optic cable is used in many industries, like Telecommunications, Video, Fire Alarm, etc. As it becomes more prevalent in Fire Alarm, here are some basic concepts that you need to know.

When determining what type of fiber is needed for an application, you need to know:

  • Fiber type (single mode or multi-mode)
  • Fiber size (e.g., 62.5/125)
  • Fiber connector type (LC, ST)
  • Number of strands for each segment (simplex or duplex)

These specifications will be provided by the manufacturer of the product that you are installing and can be compared with what is available from fiber manufacturers.

Visit our website for information on Fire-Lite Alarms’ Lite-Connect fiber solution as well as viewing the on-demand recording of our webinar introducing Lite-Connect.

 

About the Author
Richard Conner is the Director of Marketing for Fire-Lite Alarms, Silent Knight and Honeywell Power. Richard joined Honeywell in 2002 and has over 15 years of experience in the fire alarm industry in Marketing, Engineering, and Product Support positions. Richard is responsible for developing brand strategy and marketing programs for all brands.

Hot Trends: Fiber for Fire

I’ve noticed more and more requests of customers looking for a fiber solution to interconnect multiple facilities on a single campus.
To expand, I will give you an example of an apartment complex that we recently worked with. Like many multiple-facility campuses, there is an interest in having a single fire alarm panel with the field components (Smoke Detectors, Horn Strobes, Strobes, Pull Stations etc.) for all buildings tied into one “master panel”. The reason for this is to keep it as one single monitored account.

In the apartment complex example, the customer has (15) buildings throughout the campus. The customer wants to avoid monitoring and phone line costs for each of the (15) individual sites. The solution is to go with a larger fire alarm panel, which will handle all the devices for each of the (15) buildings. This is completed by wiring underground to each of the (15) buildings to be controlled by the single fire alarm panel, thus, keeping the property as one single monitored account.

This has been going on for years. The only problem is that the majority of fire alarm panels require copper as the main source of connectivity from the panel to the field components in each of the individual facilities. Copper is very prone to lightning strikes, which causes “ground faults”. Ground faults can cease operation to any devices connected to the copper wire in which the ground fault occurred, meaning at any given time an entire building can be without fire protection until the ground fault is repaired. This forces the customer to schedule costly service calls for repairing the ground faults, which are often not easy to repair. Locating a ground fault between buildings can be tricky and when you do find it, you have to dig the wire up and repair that section or re-run the wire from the panel to the individual building in which the ground fault occurred. This is extremely common and costly for customers.

A solution is to use fiber as the mode of connectivity between the main panel and the individual buildings. Fiber, which is made of glass, cannot be affected by lightning meaning a ground fault cannot occur when fiber is used. Of course, running fiber is more costly on the front end, but it does avoid service calls and system troubles due to ground faults.

There are only a few manufacturers on the market that make panels that will work with Fiber, but because of the growing command, my guess is that more and more manufacturers will introduce a panel conducive to fiber.

In terms of the number of customer requests for fiber I’ve seen recently, this can certainly be considered a hot trend within our industry.

 

For information about Fire-Lite’s fiber solution, Lite-Connect, visit www.firelite.com

 

About the Author
Justin MacDaniel is a Commercial Sales Consultant for ASG Security with 5 years of experience selling Honeywell Fire and Life Safety Systems.

 

ECC Programming in Under 200 Words

What is needed to program the new ECC-50/100? 

There is no separate programming utility needed for the new audio panel. The ECC-50/100 uses a web browser base programming method with an Ethernet cable.  We strongly recommend using Mozilla Firefox * for your browser, but if necessary, Microsoft Internet Explorer can be used.

The connection is made through an Ethernet patch cable that will plug in from your computer to the ECC-50/100 LAN connection.  The ECC-50/100 has a default TCP/IP address of 169.254.3.3.  You must place your computer IP address in the same network scheme (IE 169.254.3.5), but not the same exact address.  This is done under you Network LAN connection settings.

When the network settings are changed you simply open your web browser and enter the default address of the ECC-50/100 in the title bar.  This will bring up the Audio System Programming Option screen.

 For more information, visit Fire-Lite’s YouTube Video Channel:ECC 50-100 Connection to Laptop Image

 

Why don’t I hear the message playing when I trigger the ECC-50/100?

The ECC panel is a Mass Notification / Fire Evacuation panel and it’s operation depends on how you program it.  The ECC-50/100 out of the box does not have the messages turned ON.  You will need to program the message ON under the Message Button Options. For further instruction on programming the please refer to the manual at following link: http://www.firelite.com/CatalogDocuments/LS10001-000FL-E.pdf

This 3 minute video is a great tutorial on programming and recording ECC messages:

ECC 50-100 Custom Message Recording Image

 

*The reason why we recommend Mozilla Firefox is that we have seen issues with various versions of Internet Explorer where it does not truly save the programming information you are changing to the ECC. Visit https://www.mozilla.org/en-US/ to get the latest version of Firefox

 

About the Author
Jason Knowlton is a NICET Level II Technical Support Team Leader for Honeywell Fire Systems. He has over 12 years of experience in technical support of fire alarm systems and is the technical lead for all IP based Honeywell fire products and solutions.

Detector Placement Gone Seriously Wrong

I’ve noticed a lot of talk on LinkedIn groups and other social forums recently about common smoke detector location issues, most related to device placement within condos, apartment complexes, dormitories and other commercial facilities where people live and sleep.

Is the following issue a new trend or a re-occurring issue that has always been around?

Detectors are only required in the sleeping area/space – WHAT???

Yep, I’ve heard more stories lately where system designs have only called for detectors to be placed in the bedroom areas where people sleep. I guess that means you’re out of luck if a fire occurs in the living room? If you know anything about NFPA 72, then you know detectors are to be placed inside every sleeping room, outside of every bedroom and on every floor – at the very minimum. This is detailed in Chapter 29 of NFPA 72 2013 Edition, specifically 29.5.1.1 and further detail for certain configurations and size of space are addressed in 29.5.1.2 – 29.5.1.3.2

Plug-in Detectors are okay for the rest of the unit, as long as you have one system-connected detector in the bedroom – Not Exactly.

Okay, I think this means if a full blown fire is happening in your dorm room or townhouse and that one system-connected detector goes into alarm, the fire trucks will roll your way. However, we all know this is not a reliable or responsible way to protect any living space. Case-in-point, how many times has the resident unplugged the detector because of that annoying low-battery beep or to stop it from going into alarm every time they make sauce?

Although having a single system-connected device is better than none at all, such a configuration sets you up with a single point of failure. If a fire elsewhere in the building compromises the panel or the wiring to that one system-connected detector, it could be some time before enough smoke makes its way into that particular unit to set off one of the single station alarm devices. At that point, all egress pathways may be blocked or compromised by fire and smoke, trapping the occupant in the unit.

There’s been so much emphasis put on protecting people when sleeping, that we’ve started to overlook the obvious. In addition, I think the growing concern over nuisance alarms, particularly for commercial residential facilities, has caused us to focus more on protecting sleeping quarters – there’s no stove or toaster in there to set off the detector falsely.

Seriously, have you seen this in your area?

 

About the Author
Beth Welch is the Manager of Public Relations for Honeywell Fire Systems. For a decade, she has strived to raise awareness of new technologies, industry trends and information, for the benefit of engineers, integrators and end users.

Taking a Conventional Approach in Growing your Fire Business

Conventional Fire alarm panels have been used to provide reliable fire protection for many years on installations of varying sizes. Since the introduction of addressable systems, fire alarm systems can be typically installed and serviced faster while the overall wiring costs can be significantly reduced. Some larger installers in the fire industry consider conventional fire alarm systems to be legacy technology. There even has been speculation that the technology will eventually be discontinued due to the vast benefits offered by addressable systems. The truth of the matter is that even though conventional fire alarm systems in the United States are not used as frequently as they have been in the past for larger jobs, there are still many smaller applications and retrofit jobs where it makes sense to use a conventional fire alarm panel over an addressable.

So what are some of the typical applications that Conventional Fire Alarm Panels are used in?
Conventional Systems are most commonly used in retrofit jobs where an existing legacy panel might need to be swapped out. In many cases if the occupancy size of the building is staying the same and there are no future plans for expansion, the panel will be replaced with another conventional panel. This is typically the simplest approach rather than changing out all the devices, upgrading the buildings wiring and fully bringing an existing building up to the latest code. In many cases if an existing retrofit job goes out to bid, it is very common for installers to bid on it with another conventional panel. In many cases, a high percentage of retrofit jobs that have a legacy conventional panel installed will be replaced with another conventional panel to keep the labor and material costs down.

Other applications where conventional fire alarm systems are typically used are in sprinkler monitoring installations. Using zoned panels for monitoring flow and tamper switches can be a simple and cost effective solution for monitoring sprinklers. By connecting Initiating device circuits to each sprinkler switch, a building’s sprinkler system can be monitored by a central station to provide remote annunciation of an alarm, trouble or supervisory event. Conventional panels for sprinkler systems are typically used for monitoring sprinkler systems that contain one or two risers that are centrally located to the panel. This helps limit the amount of wiring used and eliminates the need for adding modules that would be otherwise be required when using an addressable system.

Although Conventional Fire Alarm Systems are based on older Fire Alarm technology and many installers are now using addressable systems for larger systems, there is still a need for Conventional systems in retrofit applications and smaller sprinkler monitoring jobs. Fire-Lite Alarms manufactures its own line of Conventional Fire Alarm Systems that offer addressable like features. The MS-5UD/MS-10UD are fully programmable fire panels with a built-in keypad and 80 character LCD display. They include a built-in Digital Alarm Communicator Transmitter (DACT) and a Remote annunciator bus that can support up to eight devices. Both panels offer ample Notification Appliance Circuit (NAC) power and built in synchronization. By adding many of these value added features, installers are able to get there systems installed faster and add more Notifications devices for buildings that require full evacuation. Fire-Lite Alarm’s Conventional Fire product line combines simplicity and enhanced capabilities into their products to help installers provide a cost effective solution and win most jobs with ease.

For more information visit our website: www.firelite.com

 

About the Author
Ken Gentile is a Product Manager for Fire-Lite Alarms and Honeywell Power. Using his more than 15 years of marketing and engineering experience, Ken’s primary focus lies in the development of new products.