How many different types of Fire Alarm Cable are available?
There are five basic types of Fire Alarm Cable that are identifiable by the areas where they are approved for use by the National Electric Code.
- FPL— Power Limited for general purposes. This designation indicates that this fire alarm cable is non-plenum rated, and may not be installed in risers, ducts, plenums, or other spaces used for environmental air unless first installed in conduit. Although FPL cables resist the spread of fire, they are not typically as fire-resistant as plenum and riser-rated cables.
- FPLR— Power Limited Suitable for the floor to floor, or "riser-rated." Risers are the spaces that run vertically from floor to floor in a building. The National Electric Code requires FPLR cable to be fire-resistant to prevent fires from spreading through multiple floors of a building.
- FPLP— Power Limited Suitable for use in ducts, plenums, and other spaces dedicated to air circulation because of the extra safety features incorporated into its design. This Cable is plenum-rated, fire-resistant, and produces little smoke in the case of a fire.
- NPLF— Non-Power Limited for general purpose.
- NPLFP— Non-Power Limited Suitable for use in ducts, plenums, and other spaces.
What's the difference between Power Limited Cables and Non-Power Limited Cables?
The main difference between power limited cables and non-power limited cables is which sections of NEC they comply with. The non-power limited cable is a fire alarm circuit powered by a source that complies with NEC sections 760-21 and 760-23. Power limited cable is a fire alarm circuit powered by a source that complies with section 760-41.
How do I know what kind of Fire Alarm Cable I need?
Fire alarm cables are placed into three broad categories: plenum, non-plenum, and riser. Each of these corresponds to another standardized category, and these terms reflect where the fire alarm cable can be installed safely.
- Plenum cable, to be used in ducts or other enclosed air spaces, is called FPLP.
- Non-plenum cable, to be used in applications such as surface wiring, is FPL.
- Riser cable, which can be used in applications that go vertically from floor to floor, is FPLR.
Which standards should I consider when choosing a Fire Alarm or Security Cable?
In the US, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) plays an important role in standards because it publishes the National Electrical Code (NEC). This document regulates the installation of electric wiring and equipment and should definitely be considered before starting a project.
ASTM International and Underwriters Laboratories (UL) also design tests and standards for a wide variety of wire and cable, including those used for fire alarm and security applications. In Canada, CSA International does similar work and can help assure compliance with the Canadian Electrical Code.
What are some important safety precautions to consider when choosing a Fire Alarm Cable?
Any sort of required resistances should be considered when purchasing any type of wire and cable. However, there are some notable fire-related safety precautions to consider as well.
First is the fire resistance of the cable – will it burn and for how long? Another is smoke propagation, or how much smoke it will emit if it comes into contact with fire. These considerations should be made when choosing any type of electrical cable, but they are especially important in the case of fire alarm cable which must function in emergency situations and under extreme conditions.
Most safety concerns (including these fire-related ones) are regulated by the UL, NEC, and other standards organizations and guidelines. The NEC outlines acceptable limits for burning and smoke emissions, while the UL, and other organizations, are responsible for the development of various flame tests cables must pass in order to be considered safe for use.