Wireless vs. Wired Fire Alarms: Pros and Cons
Most of us tend not to think too much about crises like fires in our homes or workplace. As much as it’s good not to dwell on the negative, a fire can have catastrophic consequences. Lives, property, vehicles, sensitive material, and other valuables are all potentially endangered by a careless spark or electrical short.
A fire warning and detection system is essential to avoid the worst-case scenario. Thankfully, there are plenty of great fire alarm solutions on the market, including wireless alarm systems. Wireless alarm systems rely on modern technology, but does that make them better than wired fire alarms? Our experts here at MCFP have put together this comprehensive guide on their key differences and similarities.
To help you understand the pros and cons of wired and wireless fire alarms, we’ve provided a concise comparison. Read on to find out and make the best decision for your homes safety.
Core Difference Between Wired Fire Alarms And Wireless Fire Alarm Systems
Wired fire alarms are comprised of a network of detection devices set around the property. They are interconnected by wiring and act together as an early warning system.
Wireless fire alarm systems function the same way, except without physical wires. The sensors and detectors are linked via wireless radio technology.
A professional fire alarm system installation should begin with a comprehensive site survey of the building. This assessment will help select the most suitable alarm for the property. Large premises with a complicated footprint would need a wireless survey to ensure adequate wireless coverage throughout.
Let’s compare the installation processes.
Wired Fire Alarm Systems: Installing a hardwired system involves running wiring through the building’s structures (e.g. walls and ceilings). The installation is relatively time-consuming, complex, and potentially disruptive.
Wireless Systems: Wireless fire alarms are generally easier to install. There is no need to intrude into the building’s architecture. The control panel system and detectors can be mounted neatly on walls or ceilings.
The wired fire alarm system is a traditional, trusted fire prevention system. As such, it is usually more affordable than newer, tech-enabled wireless systems. It’s important to note that the cost of installing a wired fire alarm is invariably higher due to cabling, equipment, and labour costs.
If the alarm becomes faulty and must be re-installed, costs can potentially increase further.
A wireless fire alarm system relies on more modern technology and is typically more expensive. However, the cost of installing wireless fire alarms is negligible in comparison to the wired option. Repairing a faulty wireless system is also less intrusive.
On the other hand, a wireless fire alarm system has more batteries that need to be replaced over time.
These are all factors to consider when you weigh the cost of wired against wireless alarm systems.
All fire alarm systems require two independent power sources – primary and backup.
As its primary source, a wired alarm is connected directly to the building’s electrical system. Provided there is reliable power, a stable network, and ongoing maintenance, your wired alarm should remain in good health. A backup battery will keep it operating in the event of a power outage.
We have all experienced the frustration of losing our mobile phone signal. Similarly, signal interference or disruptions negatively affect the reliability of a wireless fire alarm system. To partially address this issue, a dedicated frequency band is allocated to the fire and security industry to reduce widespread signal interference.
The initial wireless survey should confirm that signal coverage is fit for purpose. Measures such as range extenders can enhance and amplify a building’s wireless signal coverage.
Wireless fire alarm systems are battery-powered and backed up by reserve batteries.
Regular maintenance checks should be conducted on fire alarms – as they should with any crucial infrastructure. According to the BS 5839 fire safety standard, fire alarms should be inspected by a qualified professional at least every six months. This applies to both wired and wireless fire alarm systems.
Wireless fire alarm systems are battery-operated, and batteries must be replaced periodically. Fortunately, modern batteries have a decent life expectancy. A fire alarm system’s batteries can last for three years; even longer, with modern lithium products.
It’s fair to say that hardwired fire alarms lack flexibility compared to wireless systems. Moving the main control panel and linked devices to change the configuration is a challenge; going back into the guts of the building and rewiring the project may be unavoidable.
Wireless fire alarms offer more flexibility in terms of placement. As long as the signal coverage is robust, they can be moved around with no negative effects. Wireless alarms don’t need to be fitted close to electrical outlets and wiring. This makes it easier to reorder wireless fire alarm systems.
Hardwired alarm systems are often less aesthetically pleasing due to the wiring involved. It might not be possible to hide all the connections.
Generally, new buildings are more compatible with hardwired systems as the cabling can be incorporated practically and hidden within walls and ceilings.
Older properties, especially historical and Grade 2 listed buildings, may benefit from the cleaner wireless connectivity.
Both fire alarm systems deliver safe and secure fire detection solutions. This, of course, assumes that every fire alarm – wireless or wired system – is provided and fitted by qualified professionals.
It’s important to ensure that your alarm service provider and alarm engineer are professional and certified. MC Fire and Security is audited by BNI and all our fire alarm engineers are BAFE registered. Our clients have access to the highest quality fire alarm projects certified to the latest British standards and requirements.
How many batteries are required for a wireless fire alarm network of ten smoke detectors?
A wireless alarm system with ten smoke detectors will typically require a minimum of 20 batteries.
How often should a company check its fire alarms?
Fire alarms should be tested weekly in commercial properties. A designated fire officer should do a routine spot check to ensure devices are in working order.
How often should fire extinguishers be serviced?
Fire extinguishers should be serviced at least once a year by a qualified service professional.
Conclusion – Wireless Fire Alarm or Wired Fire Alarm?
Wireless networks and wired systems are both reputable fire-detection options. The right fire alarm system for you depends on your property, personal requirements, security concerns and resources.
A wireless alarm is typically more expensive, but the installation cost and disruption are reduced. It’s a clean option for older buildings but less suited to areas where radio signals are compromised. In larger buildings, many batteries will need to be replaced every few years.
If aesthetics are not your primary concern, a wired alarm system may be the answer. Our professional fire alarm engineers work with you to install your alarm; keeping installation costs and hassle to a minimum, whether you choose wired or wireless.
If you’re looking to install a new, state of the art fire alarm system feel free to contact our experts here at MCFP.