Wireless detectors expand options, gain acceptance

Thursday, July 1, 2004

Whether it’s for a smaller commercial application, or a residential one, the use of wireless components for smoke and heat detection have expanded installation options, especially in retrofit situations.

One of the barriers to wireless systems, noted Paul Martin, director of marketing for commercial products at Honeywell Security & Custom Electronics, has been a wariness by AHJs. “The barrier has been at the local level,” Martin explained. “The perception is it isn’t as good (a system) as hardwired.”

Tom Hauder, product marketing manager of fire at Bosch Security Systems, agreed AHJs are sometimes reluctant to accept a wireless solution, especially for commercial applications.

But the thinking on wireless has begun to change. “It’s starting to be more accepted by AHJs” in part because of the cost of retrofits in communities that are mandating fire alarm systems, Martin said. “We’re seeing more wireless devices for fire so it isn’t a big cost to get up to code.”

Martin said many components in a fire alarm system are now wireless, including smoke and heat detectors as well as transmitters that can tie pull-stations or waterflow switches back to the panel.

Wireless has applications in retrofits, especially in historical buildings that limit or forbid the placement of wires. But Martin said even new construction can be an opportunity for wireless detectors in situations where it’s difficult to run wires.

“Then wireless fire becomes a good option,” he said.

“Wireless comes into its own in a finished house,” added Bosch’s Hauder. “It makes sense for retrofits.”

Ed Bonifas, vice president-sales for Alarm Detection Systems, an independent alarm dealer in Aurora, Ill., agreed that wireless “becomes an important component” both from a cost and installation standpoint.

But the ease of installation with wireless also needs to be measured against “the issues of supervision,” Hauder said. There is a lot of wireless going into homes these days, he noted, so it’s critical to make sure wireless fire isn’t competing for radio frequency.

Wells Sampson, vice president at American Alarm & Communications in Massachusetts, said the company has tried wireless solutions in the past, but has been disappointed. “Wireless (products) don’t meet our quality standards,” Sampson said. “We don’t install wireless because the service issues are too great; it’s just too costly to maintain.”