Using Wireless Smoke Detectors With Fire Alarm Systems


The newest development coming out of the various fire alarm manufacturers is wireless smoke detectors and control/monitor devices.  These UL 268 and UL 864 approved devices can be programmed to act like a stand alone, battery powered smoke detector with the added benefit of being supervised for proper operation and without having to replace the batteries every year.  This is especially useful in residential, retrofit and architecturally sensitive applications, but can you use them with the current fire alarm system installed?  If the wireless devices are from the same manufacturer as the fire alarm system and the system model is both current (not discontinued) and addressable, the answer is probably yes.  The fire alarm system firmware will probably have to be upgraded to communicate with these devices, so if wireless devices are proposed, ensure the panel can be upgraded to accommodate them.  An inquiry to the fire department or other authority having jurisdiction should also be made to be sure these devices are acceptable for use in your community.

Once it’s been established that wireless devices can be used, a cost evaluation should be performed.  While it may initially seem to be less expensive to install wireless devices, the devices themselves cost more than standard addressable devices.  Additionally, these devices will need to communicate with a receiver that will be hard-wired to the fire alarm panel, so the wire & intrusiveness that is saved is for the detector/module connection.  Wiring must still be run to connect the wireless receivers (usually one per floor) and audio/visual devices to the fire alarm system.  However, an experienced fire alarm designer will help minimize this impact.

In the end, rather than be turned off by the initial cost of wireless devices, the property owner should consider all their options with the designer of record to determine whether the short term benefits of a less intrusive installation and a shorter installation time frame (i.e. less labor), as well as the long term benefits in terms of cost recovery through less maintenance, longer operational life of the detectors, property insurance premium reductions and tenant appeal make installing wireless devices a profitable decision.

The Gamewell-FCI line of SWIFT wireless products can easily accommodate any type of wireless application desired.  Feel free to contact Affiliated Fire Systems for more information on whether these wireless devices make sense for your application.


About Gene Rowe

Gene Rowe serves as the Director of Business Development for Affiliated Customer Service. He brings twenty three years of fire alarm and emergency voice systems experience to the table with both an operational and marketing viewpoint. A US Army veteran, NICET certified, an executive board member of the IL-AFAA and a member of the NFPA, he began his career establishing operational expertise as a technician, developed graphic skills with CAD design as a general engineer, gained a ‘big picture’ mindset by moving to project management and finally a marketing perspective directing business development efforts. By interfacing with a broad range of diverse organizations such as the AFAA, CAA, AIA, CEA and the IFIA, he combines concerns of the owner, designer of record, contractor, distributor and approving authority to bring a unique perspective to Affiliated.

An avid marathon runner, he resides in west suburban Chicago with his wife and two sons. He's served the community as a Cub Scout Leader, as well as coaching multiple levels of travel and park district basketball and baseball teams. Professionally, he serves as the Treasurer and is on the Board of Directors for the Illinois chapter of the Automatic Fire Alarm Association (IL-AFAA).

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