Thinking Outside the Box About CO & Smoke Detectors
Fire and life safety codes determine critical CO and smoke detector functionality — and that’s a good thing. But products can be even better when manufacturers think beyond code requirements.
The use of smoke and CO detectors in customer installations is driven, in large part, by fire protection and life safety codes, which also drive the specifications for the detectors that manufacturers build. But sometimes manufacturers introduce product innovations that provide benefits beyond simply meeting code requirements. Here are some recent examples:
Longer-Life CO Detectors
More often today authorities are requiring CO detectors, which are designed to detect dangerous levels of carbon monoxide generated by heating systems or other sources.
Traditionally, the downside of CO detectors was their lifespan. As Tony Moore, national trainer for St. Louis-based manufacturer Potter Electric Signal, explains, these devices typically have what is commonly called a “water tank” as part of the design. The water tank doesn’t really contain water, but rather electrolyte — and over time, the electrolyte is consumed.
Potter’s new offering uses humidity in the air in place of the water tank, which means detector life is now based on the lifespan of the catalyst that it also contains — an approach that extends detector life, Moore explains.
Stand-Alone CO Detectors
Because codes typically require both CO detectors and smoke detectors, manufacturers often offer combination units that include both functions. Recently, however, some manufacturers have been rethinking that approach because they have been getting pushback from clientele who don’t want to have to replace the entire smoke and CO detection unit when the CO detector reaches its maximum lifespan.
In response, Potter and some other manufacturers are introducing stand-alone addressable CO detectors as an alternative to combination units, Moore notes.
Aspirating System Advances
When customers must protect rooms used for critical or high-revenue activities such as magnetic resonance imaging or other costly medical tests, fire and CO code requirements can be a financial burden, as they may require shut-down of those facilities for the required annual smoke detector test, explains Richard Taylor, director of product marketing for Advanced Detection for Honeywell Advanced Detection of Melbourne, Australia.
He notes, however, that Honeywell now offers an aspirating smoke detector that enables annual tests to be conducted without the need to vacate the protected area. The aspirating smoke detector uses 40 tubes that go to rooms in a protected location, explains Taylor. The system collects air samples and generates an alert when samples fall outside of approved levels.
In comparison with some traditional smoke detectors, this approach also can help detect fires earlier, Taylor observes. That means the system should appeal to customers who are interested in protecting assets, not just meeting codes, he observes.
Some customers also may be interested in the offering as a means of avoiding vandalism, says Sue Sadler, vice president and general manager for Honeywell Xtralis of Atlanta, as the detectors can be completely concealed.
More Reliable Beam Systems
Manufacturers also are working on improving the performance of beam-style smoke detection systems designed for use in large areas, observes Taylor.
As of a few years ago, “beams were becoming extinct because of frustrations [with nuisance alarms],” says Sadler. More recently, manufacturers such as Honeywell have added intelligence to their beam offerings with the goal of minimizing nuisance alarms. As a result, beam systems are now seeing faster sales growth than traditional smoke alarm detectors that use photoelectric or ionization technology, Sadler notes. Aspirating detectors also are seeing above-average growth, according to Sadler.
Outside the Box
When dealers install CO and smoke detectors, meeting codes is likely top of mind. But dealers also should keep other factors in mind in planning their installations, including potential added benefits they can offer customers by using technology based on outside-the-box thinking.
For more on smoke and CO detection, visit SDM’s website where you’ll find the following articles:
“State of the Market: Fire Alarms”
“Was Smoke Alarm Packaging Misleading?”
“UL Opens Lab, Research Leads to Smarter Smoke Detectors, New Standards”
“See What’s New in Smoke and CO Detection Technology”