UL revision causes stir

Thursday, July 1, 2004

ZEELAND, Mich. - A revision to UL Standard 1971, relating to signaling devices for the hearing impaired, intended to make horn strobe installation easier for the installer has had the opposite effect so far.

“There is a tremendous amount of confusion out there,” reports Scott Edwards, vice president of fire protection products at Gentex Corp. Previously, the devices listed three current draws to gauge the amount of current to use during installation: average, peak and end rush. Now the devices just list peak current, with the intent of simplifying installation from the device to the panel.

The change does not affect the manufacture of horn strobes and their operation, however. Horn strobes are used to alert people of the danger of fire, by sending out flashes of light and bursts of sound. They are equally effective for those persons with hearing and sight problems.

The confusion is unwarranted, said Edwards. The devices have remained the same, yet the company has received a string of calls from installers in the field - the very people the revision was meant to help. Edwards served as chairman of National Electrical Manufacturers Association in 1996, when these revisions were first introduced.

”Those poor guys out there in the field right now, they are going to be scratching their heads when all this new stuff starts coming out. And we’re inundated with phone calls now, and we haven’t even changed our product,” according to Edwards.

Rein Haus, director of product management at Wheelock Inc., said the company has not had an influx of calls yet. However, the company has sent sales representatives into the field to discuss the changes and is in the process of rewriting its literature to reflect the changes. “There is interest out there about what it means,” he said.

UL 1971 relates to devices installed in commercial settings, and those used in accordance with the National Fire Alarm Code, NFPA 72. Most, if not all, states are affected by this revision. A similar standard change, in fact, will affect the panel side of installation, but not until October 2005, according to Edwards.

“The message I think the industry would like to get across is that we’re trying to make sure everyone is looking at the same numbers and comparing apples to apples,” said Scott Chamberlain, engineering manager at Gentex.