FOCUS | FIRE BY WAYNE D. MOORE
RESIDENTIAL HOME FIRE ALARM PROTECTION METHODS can be broken down into two
distinct applications: stand-alone detection devices, known as smoke alarms or carbon monoxide (CO) alarms,
and combination fire alarm and detection systems that employ smoke detectors and CO detectors connected
to a residential fire alarm system control unit.
Most spec home builders will only want the minimal code-required
smoke and CO alarms. These individual devices are not systems and simply
exist as an interconnection of devices powered by alternating current (AC)
with an integrated detection component and an alarm component; they
provide minimum life safety protection for the occupants with only a local
alarm within the home. They do not possess the ability to send a signal to
a remote supervising station, nor are they monitored for integrity. If the
owner chooses to remove them or disconnect the power sources, no one
outside the home will know.
As a contractor providing these devices, you need to have a copy of
NFPA 72 2013, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, and NFPA 720
2012, Standard for the Installation of Carbon Monoxide (CO) Detection
and Warning Equipment, to ensure that you correctly install a sufficient
number of these devices to comply with the code requirements.
Typically, the code requires you to install smoke alarms and CO alarms
outside of each separate dwelling-unit sleeping area in the immediate
vicinity of the bedrooms and on every occupiable level of a dwelling unit,
including basements but excluding attics and crawl spaces.
Some of these devices are combination units, making compliance with the
code requirements relatively easy. The location of the combination devices
does not generally depend on mounting height for effective performance. CO
and air at room temperature have similar densities that generally mix readily.
However, ceiling mounting is the preferable location.
The code requires installers to interconnect these devices, especially
where a dwelling has separated sleeping areas. To ensure the occupants
can hear the alarm from one device, all of the alarm appliances within the
other devices must actuate.
Sophisticated builders and homeowners who build the larger, more
expensive homes will want more than the minimum code requirements.
They will usually choose to install combination smoke and CO system
detectors connected to a listed residential fire alarm system control unit.
In fact, they will generally want a monitored security system as well as
a more sophisticated fire alarm and CO system.
This presents an opportunity to design and install these systems, upsell
the type and amount of security and fire protection, and integrate other systems that will meet the homeowner’s safety and comfort goals. In developing