Smoke Detectors vs. Duct Detectors

Duct detectors have been around for my entire 22-year career.  These devices are expensive to install, test, maintain, and replace. The payoff for these devices does not seem to warrant their cost, in my opinion.

Many times, depending on the jurisdiction, adopted codes and AHJ, smoke detectors are not required throughout every premise. Often, the difference in requirement is based on classified building type and occupancy load.

To all life safety legislators, I recommend requiring smoke detectors in ALL buildings in minimal key locations. This would need to change at the highest level of code legislations and adoption before it would be mandatory.

With the monies saved by not requiring duct detectors in these building types, cheaper, more cost-effective smoke detectors could be required at key locations.

Some examples of minimal key smoke detectors locations include, but are not limited to:

  • Above all head end fire alarm control, NAC power supplies, and DACTS
  • Above each air handler unit that is physically inside the building – add smoke detectors as needed per coverage radius.
  • Inside each stairwell – add smoke detectors as needed per coverage radius.
  • Before each stairwell – add smoke detectors as needed per coverage radius.
  • ALL exit doors should be properly covered by a smoke detector (emergency and non- emergency) – add smoke detectors as needed per coverage radius.
  • ALL areas proven prone to fires based on historical NFPA fire cause resources (i.e. kitchen’s, laundry rooms, etc.) – add smoke detectors as needed per coverage radius. Use alternate detectors if the areas may cause a smoke detector to false alarm.
  • Inside and outside of all areas considered refuge areas – add smoke detectors as needed per coverage radius.

The air handling units could still be kicked off in the event of a fire condition to help reduce smoke spread. Linear heat detection could also be required for all un-sprinkled attics.

Smoke detectors are faster at detecting fire, easier to maintain, cheaper to test and cheaper to replace – by far! Smoke detectors are already required in all new homes, so why not all new buildings? Smoke detector technology has been getting better and better – we can now detect smoke with fewer false alarms, and this number continues to decrease as time and technology progress.

The ESCO team encourages all public facilities to keep smoke detectors up to date and in optimal working condition by ensuring the system is installed properly, and is subject to regular inspection, testing and maintenance procedures. While duct detectors cause problems, smoke detectors save lives.

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