Types of Fire Alarm Systems
No two alarm systems are the same, just as no two applications are the same. All fire alarm systems are tailored to the specific business and building type to ensure maximum efficiency and response. A casino or a resort has a different alarm setup than a grocery store or a retailer because the needs and specifications of each of those businesses are different.
Each fire alarm system is customized to meet the needs of the business that it services.
There are also different levels of planning that go into different systems depending on the layout and structure of the building. Proper planning makes sure that the system will not only perform to your needs and standards, but that it also meets all the necessary building codes and laws of your area. This level of customization and focus that sets a fire alarm system apart from basic smoke detectors.
Analogue-addressable fire alarm systems
This type of fire alarm system provides details on individual detectors as opposed to zones the way a conventional system does. Analogue-addressable alarm systems are designed for complex network systems and large commercial properties. While they are more expensive than conventional systems, they offer higher levels of control, flexibility, and identification speed.
These systems, with different types of initiating devices wired in one or more single loops around the building, also do not require as much cabling. Each call point/detector has its own unique address, so when information is sent to the fire control panel, the exact location of the fire, heat, or smoke can be pinpointed.
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Aspirating smoke detection systems
While this is technically a detection solution rather than an alarm system, aspirating smoke detection systems can be incredibly effective, as their high sensitivity allows them to detect even the smallest fires. These systems utilize a fan in conjunction with sampling holes and pipes to draw in air from around the building and pass that air through a precision detector. If it detects any smoke particles, it generates a warning signal.
Aspirating systems are useful where an early warning is needed; they can even detect cool smoke that does not rise. However, they are expensive to both install and maintain.
Conventional fire alarm systems
Also known as four-wire systems, conventional fire alarm systems are less expensive than others and are commonly found in smaller properties, such as restaurants and shops.
Unlike analogue-addressable systems, these systems are divided into zones, with multiple call points/detectors per zone. When a detector is activated, the control panel is able to identify the zone the detector is in. To pinpoint the exact area of distress, however, the zone must be manually searched.
Hybrid fire alarm systems
These systems are a combination of the addressable loops found in analogue-addressable systems and the hardwired zones of conventional systems. Depending on the setting, hybrid systems can be a better fit than either analogue-addressable or conventional fire alarm systems.
Two-wire fire alarm systems
Meant for smaller areas, two-wire fire alarm systems are based on conventional system technology, but use a single circuit per zone to power both the detectors and alarms (sirens, strobes, etc.).
While the initial purchase price is higher than conventional systems, two-wire systems offer a lower installation cost, faster response time, and increased flexibility. They also offer additional functions, such as detector recognition, fault conditions, and isolation.
Wireless fire alarm systems
These systems offer just as much protection as any wired fire alarm solution and are ideal in situations where cables and wiring would be prohibited or difficult to install or maintain. Wireless fire alarm systems cost more up front, but installation costs are low. And with no cables to worry about, you eliminate the cost and hassle of long-term cable repairs and testing.
What to Look for in a Dealer
Whether you choose to purchase your fire alarm system through a large, corporate dealer or an independent reseller, there are certain things you should look for in a dealer.
Your dealer must be certified and should offer all-inclusive services as well as an on-site assessment.
First, your dealer must be certified by the National Institute for Certification of Engineering Technologies (NICET), which ensures the dealer is fully licensed to install systems in your area and has a complete understanding of all installation and safety requirements. It is also a good idea to look for a company that offers all-inclusive services (i.e. assessment, installation, and monitoring), since they may offer better rates through a package deal.
Never choose a dealer that offers you a quote right away. Experienced and reputable companies provide an on-site assessment or review the building’s blueprints before giving any quotes to provide the most accurate pricing for the system that meets your needs.
What Will I Pay for a Fire Alarm System?
The cost of your fire alarm system depends on several factors, such as local building codes, the complexity of the installation, and the size of your building. A general rule of thumb is that systems are more expensive to install in older buildings than they are in newer ones.
- A basic system that detects heat and smoke and includes alarms (both audio and visual) costs around $1 to $2 per square foot.
- A complex system for a larger building costs approximately $3 to $6 per square foot.
- If you add a sprinkler system, the price could go up to $6 to $12 or more per square foot.
If you add a sprinkler system, the price could go up to $6 to $12 or more per square foot.
You should also consider the miscellaneous costs associated with a new fire alarm system, such as any added features, extended warranties, or permit fees.