For as long as there have been fire alarm systems, a wired connection has traditionally been the go-to solution. While these wired solutions still dominate the installations, wireless systems are making significant headway in the fire alarm market.
Technology is really going to be the driver here. Right now radio and battery technologies have some limitations, but as technology evolves, solutions will improve. You’re going to see capabilities, performance and battery life increase. Eventually there will be little-to-no wiring needed.
Here are a few things to think about when considering wired or wireless systems:
Readily accessible applications: Wired is beneficial for new installations where the fire alarm system can be installed as the building is going up. The installer will usually have easy access to pull the wire and can simply run it through the new facility.
High-rises, airports, stadiums: Wired is still the best bet for applications that require emergency communication systems and mass notification, including applications that need speakers for voice alarms. If there are weather alerts or dangerous events, wired systems have been the traditional solution. However, wireless has a bright future for these applications.
Retrofit applications: Wireless is valuable when the end user has to replace a system or add on to an existing system. Wireless can make it easy to get a new system up and running without the wiring headaches.
Historic buildings: Wireless does not get in the way of beautiful, visually sensitive architecture. Instead of marring an historic building with fire alarm cables, wireless systems can protect locations where appearance is paramount.
Faster jobs/temporary structures: Wireless gives contractors the opportunity to quickly complete installations. Pulling wires can consume a large portion of time on a job. What’s more, the system can quickly be installed and removed from temporary structures. Materials are not wasted, and the end user does not have to deal with segments of wire that are tough to reuse.
Outdoor applications: Wireless is much more reliable when the system needs to go outside from building to building and the location is prone to lightning strikes or other destructive weather events. Wired systems are more readily damaged in these situations.
Have you seen a rise in the use of wireless fire alarm systems in your area? Are you planning to use a wireless system on an upcoming project? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.
About the Author
Jesse Otis is a Design Engineer in the Honeywell Fire Safety Americas Wireless Group. Jesse joined Honeywell in 2003 and has been the lead engineer for the Fire Systems Group for the SWIFT products which launched last October. Jesse holds a B.S. degree in electrical engineering and is working to finish his Masters degree from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Systems Engineering.